If churches want to stay relevant, they need to analyze the demographic makeup of their youth ministry to see if it resembles the diversity of their communities, says a Florida-based youth pastor.
Tom Bolling of Belvedere Baptist Church in West Palm Beach has over 30 years of experience working with youths in church and advises church leaders that they should reevaluate their vision in order to develop a multicultural young adult ministry.
"With the dramatic increase of immigration and the globalization of our society, ministering to a multicultural society is no longer an option. Many of our churches are sounding an alarm and seeking answers as to how to minister to communities of ethnic and economic diversity," Bolling said in a recent article in The Florida Baptist Witness.
In his article, Bolling shares pointers on how youth pastors can begin to incorporate multiculturalism within their youth ministry, beginning with establishing a vision and communicating it with the senior pastor. He also notes that the leadership team needs to reflect the diversity they are aiming to reach.
In addition, Bolling writes that churches' calendar of activities and ministries need to reflect a broad range of musical, educational, and program diversity.
"Doing mainstream contemporary praise and worship as part of our midweek gathering wasn't enough. We needed to add hip hop, reggae, gospel and Latin elements to the mix. In addition to events that had a strong appeal to one of the segments of our youth group, we had to be sure to have plenty of low cost activities to appeal to other youth," writes Bolling.
Mark DeYmaz, founding pastor of Mosaic Church in central Arkansas and leader of a multi-ethnic church movement, agrees and tells The Christian Post that churches should also understand the difference between accommodation and assimilation in pursuing unity and diversity for the sake of the Gospel.
"Assimilation welcomes 'the other' as long as he or she 'likes it the way we do things.' Essentially, assimilation requires 'the other' to check his or her culture at the door and embrace the majority culture of a particular church in terms of form and structure," said DeYmaz.
He adds, "Accommodation is the exact opposite. Through accommodation, the majority culture of a church adapts and shifts in form and structure to welcome and embrace 'the other,' and many more like him or her once systemic shifts are made."
Beyond this, DeYmaz also says youth pastors should take intentional steps to "dismantle systemic inequities from the board room to the pulpit to the nursery and at every stop in-between."
"An increasingly diverse and cynical society no longer finds credible a message of God's love for all people as it has proclaimed from segregated pulpits and pews," said DeYmaz. "… Systemic segregation of the local church unintentionally undermines the very Gospel we proclaim. It's not only the church then that is disadvantaged, but our own credibility in proclaiming Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace, the hope of the world."
While Bolling shares the same sentiment and emphasizes the need to include diversity within programs of the church, he also urges leaders to build relationships with like-minded individuals in order to find encouragement, wisdom, and accountability during the process.
"The time has come for all of us as youth leaders to 'face the music' of the 21st century and ask God to use us as His messengers," Bolling writes. "We need to lead our youth and church in developing a strong and vibrant ministry reaching cross ethnic and economic lines. If we are going to reach this changing generation for Christ, it's time for us to paint that biblical picture of the Kingdom of God for the world to see."