Leadership Requirements for the Multi-Cultural Congregation
By Dan Sheffield
Congregations that exist in culturally diverse communities have two options before them. They can interact with the community as mono-cultural organizations serving in a multi-ethnic context or they can embrace the basic convictions of multi-culturalism.1 The multi-cultural Christian community enacts respect for the validity of cultural difference and accepts the need for both dominant and minority cultures to be open to adjustment through dynamic interaction. In addition, such communities recognize the need for ethnic minorities to maintain a sense of cultural identity as a means of validating their voice in inter-cultural dialogue. These multi-cultural congregations desire to be a place where the vision of an inclusive God can be lived out in practical reality to the best of their God-given understanding and ability.
Christian congregations, functioning in multi-ethnic environments, embrace the diversity of cultures in the spirit of an inclusive God thereby becoming multi-cultural congregations. But what are the requirements for leadership in such faith communities? What self-awareness concerning multi-cultural interaction is necessary in such leaders?
This article reviews leadership models presented in business and educational literature. Also discussed are models of leadership in the unique environment of the Christian faith community. In particular, Christian leadership models suggested by multi-cultural practitioners are examined. These perspectives aid in building a profile of multi-cultural leaders by outlining the cognitive processes, attitudes, skills, and practices necessary for the development and on-going maintenance of multi-cultural congregations.
The term "leaders" refers to those persons who have oversight of the policies and practices that develop and sustain the vision and goals of a local congregation. The terms includes both ordained pastoral leaders and the elected and informal leaders who take on this responsibility. It is my assertion that leaders in multi-cultural congregations need to reflect an awareness of their role that is rooted in a view of God as one who welcomes all persons, regardless of their cultural frameworks. This perspective is developed through personal inter-cultural experience and intentional skill acquisition.
A typical definition of leadership suggests leaders to be people with "the capacity to influence the thoughts, behaviours and/or feelings of others" (Gardner in Foster 1997, 116). "Capacity" can refer to an ability to influence, but it also implies the notion of substance or volume as in a collection of attitudes, abilities, and skills. In this article I will use this collective sense when discussing a leaders capacity to influence. Influencing can involve both direct means (e.g. teaching, group skills) as well as indirect means (e.g. attitudes, personal relations). Both direct and indirect means are necessary to stimulate leaders, at all levels of their being (cognitive, affective, physical), to achieve developmental goals.
Several leadership approaches will be discussed in this article and a variety of terms are employed that reflect both direct and indirect means of influencing people. Envisioning refers to the leaders ability to see a clear picture of a possible future. Embedding refers to the means by which leaders firmly fix the values and practices that they perceive are appropriate to the organizations goals. Embodying refers to the ability of leaders to personally live out the values and practices that they espouse. Enabling refers to the leaders ability to create an environment in which employees or members feel able to take the steps necessary to act upon the values and practices of the organization. Empowering refers to the leaders ability to make resources available to employees or members and to encourage them to make autonomous decisions on the basis of those resources. Embracing is understood in the manner articulated by Miroslav Volf and expanded upon by Charles Foster, as that movement of different peoples who desire "to be close to others without losing the integrity of their own identities" (Foster 1997, 1).
II. Leadership Theory
A. Leaders Embed and Manage Organizational Culture
The first leadership model is that of Edgar Schein, as presented in Organizational Culture and Leadership (1985).2 Schein describes organizational culture as that grouping of values and practices that shape the character of an organization, and explains this model by citing examples from business firms that he has studied. He outlines the processes by which culture is initiated and developed, and the role of leaders in embedding, or fixing culture, and managing culture-change.3
On the basis of extensive research into American and multi-national business organizations, Schein discusses the role of the leader, first, in starting companies, and subsequently in embedding values and practices into the operative culture of an organization by means of various mechanisms. Some of these embedding mechanisms are conscious, deliberate actions, while others are unconscious and may be unintended (Schein, 1985, 223). On the basis of his research, Schein outlines five "culture-embedding" mechanisms that shape an organization:
what leaders pay attention to and control;
how leaders react to critical incidents and crises;
deliberate role modelling and coaching;
criteria for allocation of rewards and status;
criteria for leadership selection and recruitment (Schein, 1985, 224-225).
In summarizing his thoughts on culture-embedding, Schein notes that "a dynamic analysis of organizational culture makes it clear that leadership is intertwined with culture formation, evolution, transformation, and destruction" (Schein 1985, 316).
Second, in discussing the management of culture-change, Schein suggests that "the unique and essential function of leadership is the manipulation of culture" (Schein 1985, 317). By manipulation Schein understands the means, both direct and indirect, by which a leader embeds particular values and practices in an organization. Leaders need to be able to externalize their own assumptions and values in a clear manner and "to embed them gradually and consistently into the mission, goals, structures and working procedures of the group" (Schein 1985, 317). With regard to managing change in organizational culture, Schein speaks of "cognitive redefinition" (Schein 1985, 324). If an existing organization requires significant change to continue to meet its present mission, or to move towards a new raison dÍtre, leaders must possess the ability to induce this redefinition by articulating and winning support for new visions and concepts. It is not just the formal leadership, however, that will take change forward. Schein draws upon his own research in process consultation and group dynamics to conclude that leaders "must recognize that in the end, cognitive redefinition must occur inside the heads of many members of the organization and that will happen only if they are actively involved in the process" (Schein 1985, 325).
In conclusion, Schein wonders about the leadership development process:
If leadership is culture management, do we develop in our leaders the emotional strength, depth of vision and capacity for self-insight and objectivity that are necessary for culture to be managed? (Schein 1985, 326)
Scheins points in regard to embedding culture are of particular interest for leaders in multi-cultural congregations. The vision of a multi-cultural faith community goes against the conventional wisdom of many evangelical denominations. The "church-growth," homogeneous model has been accepted for so long that other ways of conceiving the church have become almost heretical. Leaders need to be confident about the "rightness" of their approach, as well as having the ability to clearly articulate both theory and practice so as to "embed," through practical mechanisms, a multi-cultural culture: a new way of seeing, being and doing church.
Managing culture-change, as Schein has outlined, is a significant skill since many leaders are faced with the need to move toward the multi-cultural model just to survive. As urban areas learn to deal with the reality of changing population demographics, so existing mono-cultural congregations inevitably become multi-ethnic or must eventually close their doors. Existing congregations have to go through a redefinition of their identity, vision, and goals to begin to function multi-culturally. Wise leader will manage this "culture-change" through a group consultation process so as to bring as many people into the new configuration as possible.
Scheins concluding question about leadership development is equally valid for the multi-cultural congregation. Are we developing leaders with emotional and spiritual strength who have a clearly articulated theology and vision, the capacity for reflection and a willingness to work communally? These are the necessary attributes of leaders who want to develop multi-cultural faith communities.
B. Leaders Envision and Embody the Stories of their Communities
Articulating a second model, Howard Gardners Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership (1995a) suggests that leaders relate the stories integral to a communitys understanding of its life and mission.4 Gardner says: "I construe leadership as a transaction that occurs within (and between) the minds of leaders and followers" (Gardner 1995b, 34). Crucial to the telling of a particular story is whether the leader "embodies" the story, "whether the leaders own actions and way of life reinforce the themes of a story that he or she relates" (Gardner 1995b, 34).
From his research, Gardner outlines several constant features of leadership:
the ability to construct and convincingly communicate a persuasive story;
the capacity to embody the story in ones own life;
an understanding of the nature of ones audience;
a willingness to invest energy in the building and maintenance of a supportive organization;
the skill to make use of increasingly technical expertise the leader does not need to be an expert on all the details (Gardner 1995b, 35).
Gardner identifies three kinds of leaders who function within the parameters of these constants: visionary, ordinary, and innovative. Each of these leadership types has a place in the ongoing development of a community or organization. Visionary leaders are rare, only occasionally making their mark on a community. They are distinguished by their capacity to envision bold new possibilities for communities. Gardner identifies figures such as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., as visionary leaders. More common, however, are the ordinary leaders who simply relate the traditional story of their group as effectively as possible. These leaders do not really challenge the status quo of their community, but empower members through communicating the identity, values, and institutional goals in such a way that forward movement continues. Innovative leaders, in contrast to ordinary leaders, take a story that has been latent in the community and give it new attention or a fresh twist. These leaders identify stories and themes in a communitys heritage that have been neglected and bring them to the foreground as a resource for the renewal and transformation of the communitys life together (Gardner 1995a, 9-11).
With specific regard to the role of story-telling, Gardner notes the difference between addressing a story to a circumscribed, homogeneous group bound by common knowledge and values, and addressing a diverse, heterogeneous group such as a multi-cultural community. The heterogeneous group requires a rather simple (not simplistic) story defining sharp contrasts with which all participants can identify. Over time, as the story begins to be established, the leaders can flesh out a more sophisticated, multi-dimensional version (Gardner 1995b, 35).
Leaders of multi-cultural faith communities will draw from all three leadership patterns that Gardner describes. Leaders maintain the validity of the life of Jesus Christ as the foundation for the community called the church. There must be a recognition that modern leaders are only building on the visionary work of Christ. They are visionary in the sense that they maintain the biblical vision of Christs intention for the ekklesia. For the most part, Christian leaders are ordinary, in the sense that the stories of the Christian tradition are regularly communicated as a means of maintaining the vision, values, and goals of the founder. Leaders in multi-cultural congregations will also need to be innovative. There is a need to revive the stories of the Old and New Testaments that depict a God who seeks after all the nations, albeit from within the context of one particular culture. There is a need to tell an old, perhaps latent, story of a God who embraces the diversity of the entire creation. And, as in Scheins model, this story must be lived out in the personal relationships of the leaders, not just communicated in a cognitive, disconnected manner. Leaders must embody the Christian story.
III. Leaders in the Christian Context
A. Leaders Empower Multiple Ministers
In the evangelical stream of the North American church there has been great emphasis on the "church growth" model of leadership style. According to this approach, leaders of growing churches are often seen as more project- than people-oriented, more goal- than relationship-oriented, more authoritarian than team-oriented. This is referred to as the "guru" style of management. However, in describing a third leadership model, Christian Schwarzs Natural Church Development (1996) suggests there may be confusion between the descriptions of "large" and "growing" in this model.5 According to Schwarz, the fact that large churches in particular work well with the "guru" model does not necessarily mean that growth is taking place (Schwarz 1996, 22).
In addition, Schwarz raises a concern about focusing on quantity rather than quality. Focus on quantity may mean that aspects of the communal life of the congregation suffer in the name of growth. On the basis of extensive research surveying an international range of churches that were experiencing either growth or decline, Schwarz concludes that churches that maintain a healthy corporate life are more "effective" in new conversion growth than are churches that give all their attention to "growth strategies" (Schwarz 1996, 23). In essence, an internally healthy church is more attractive than one that devotes a disproportionate amount of its energy, time, and resources to outward orientation.
From his research, Schwarz found that quantitative-oriented and qualitative-oriented leaders conduct themselves and their ministries in more or less similar terms with regards to goal-orientation and people-orientation. Where there was the most significant difference in ministry practice was in the qualitative leaders concern for "empowerment;" i.e., "the leader assists Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them" (Schwarz 1996, 22). Whereas the quantitative leaders tend to use lay workers to help the pastor or the institution achieve their goals, the qualitative leaders "equip, support, motivate, and mentor individuals, enabling them to be all that God wants them to be" (Schwarz 1996, 22).
Schwarz concludes that this empowerment model of leadership requires a spiritual self-organization: leaders must recognize their place in a system that acknowledges God as the energy behind the community, rather than human effort and pressure. Leaders realize their own empowerment as they empower others through discipleship and delegation they no longer have to handle the weight of church responsibilities on their own (Schwarz 1996, 23). Empowering leadership also implies giving up the role of "expert" in the faith community, with its attendant power and status. This can be a frightening, but ultimately redemptive, act in itself. In empowering others, responsibility and power is distributed more equitably.
The multi-cultural congregation, in particular, requires that power be de-centralized, so that all those sitting around the table are recognized as having a valid voice, equal in value and worth to the community as a whole. This empowering model, in a sense, gives away power from the "expert" or "core group" to multiple leaders, through the equipping and discipling process. Every person has a role to play in maintaining the health of the diverse community. Ultimately the multi-cultural congregation will rise or fall based upon the sense of belonging and ownership that each participant experiences. In general, such ownership is achieved through empowered involvement.
B. Leaders Enable the Christian Alternative Community
The Christian community has a particular story of Gods redemptive activity through Christ on behalf of fallen humanity. God has chosen to bring about his continuing purposes through the church that particular group of people who acknowledge the truth of the Christian revelation. Following a fourth model, authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon6 suggest in their book Resident Aliens (1989) that "one cannot discuss pastors [leaders] and what they do until one has first discussed the church which needs these creatures called pastors [leaders]" (Hauerwas 1989, 112). Hauerwas and Willimon express their concern about the role of the church in the modern world. Rather than seeking to make the world "more Christian," they suggest the most effective thing the church can do for the world "is the actual creation of a living, breathing, visible community of faith" (Hauerwas 1989, 47). They envisage a dynamic community, living out Gods intention, that becomes attractive to the world, rather than the church accommodating to the shifting whims of what the world "might like" about us today (Hauerwas 1989, 47).
In this context, Hauerwas and Willimon comment that the pastors job description is "not the sustenance of a service club within a generally Christian culture, but the survival of a colony within an alien society" (Hauerwas 1989, 115). The authors assert that all Christians are "ordained through baptism," and that there is therefore no "specialness" about pastors. All leaders in a local congregation have the responsibility of building up the congregation. In a society that "corrupts and co-opts Christians" the unique role of the pastor is to help the congregation gather the resources necessary to be the colony of Gods righteousness (Hauerwas 1989, 139).
Hauerwas and Willimon suggest that leaders in local congregations "have significance only to the degree that their leadership is appropriate to the needs and goals of the group they lead"(Hauerwas 1989, 113). They reflect Gardners view regarding the need to communicate the story of the organization when they say that "in our worship, we retell and are held accountable to Gods story, the adventure story about what God is doing with us in Christ" (Hauerwas 1989, 138-39). In their view, the role of the leader is to understand the story of the community and to faithfully communicate that story, with its inherent values and goals, so as to bring about the formation of both individual and corporate identity in a manner that increasingly reflects the character and purposes of God.
Leaders in multi-cultural congregations often feel a sense of "going against the flow." Not only are these congregations going against the natural human tendency to "tribalize" and function as mono-cultural communities, thus struggling consciously with inter-cultural dialogue, they are also going against the conventional wisdom of the Christian "church growth" industry. Leaders feel isolated within their own denominations where the multi-cultural congregation is often a minority voice. When congregations intentionally choose an alternative to homogeneity, they need their leaders to articulate the communal story, theology, vision and values on a regular basis. Leaders must find or develop the forms that enable this kind of community to exist. On the other hand, a church with some degree of success as an intentionally multi-cultural congregation may have a greater sense of being Gods alien people and thereby be more clearly representative of the divine vision of Revelation 7:9 ("a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb"), than is the average suburban, mono-cultural congregation.
IV. Multi-Cultural Leaders in a Christian Context
A. Leaders Embrace Diversity
In his book, Embracing Diversity: Leadership in Multi-Cultural Congregations (1997), Charles Foster reflects on his research with three multi-cultural congregations in Atlanta, Georgia.7 In this fifth model, Foster suggests that leadership in such congregations must be transformative, anticipatory, and relational. These adjectives describe the manner in which the vision of a different kind of faith community is worked out by its leaders.
Regarding transformative leadership, Foster says that leaders must nurture change because maintenance is not an option. He comments that in the congregations he studied, transition to a multi-cultural congregation began with the arrival of a new pastor with an ability to reinterpret congregational values and focus on previously latent biblical images. However, a new pastor with a new vision is not enough. An eschatological vision of acceptance and equality has to be translated into the practical redistribution of power in a more inclusive manner (Foster 1997, 118). This new vision only takes root as people begin to hear and respond to new possibilities for their congregation in the stories that their leaders articulate for them. Transformation occurs when hesitant lay people catch the pastors vision and stay with the congregation "through the struggle to re-envision itself" (Foster 1997, 118). The new vision must be powerful enough "to sustain the congregation through the fears experienced in the midst of often radical changes" (Foster 1997, 118). This ability "to embrace the fear of change is a major feature in the pastoral and lay leadership of multi-cultural congregations" (Foster 1997, 118).
In the course of this transformative process, leaders must have the ability to facilitate "mutual critique" (Foster 1997, Welch 1991). In Fosters words, mutual critique "requires that members of each racial and cultural group grant the others sufficient respect to listen, and trust enough to challenge and critique" one another (Foster 1997, 47). In emerging multi-cultural congregations it is often a long process to move beyond being preoccupied with hurting each others feelings, to a reciprocal candour about expectations and responsibilities, in order to discuss moral and theological strengths and blind spots (Foster 1997, 69). As Foster indicates:
Mutual critique involves more than a rational intellectual assessment and prioritizing of anothers ideas, practices, and moral perspectives to ensure fairness, equity, and justice in congregational life. It culminates in the intensification of the spiritual ties binding one person to another, one group to another (Foster 1997, 70).
Each individual and each cultural community must come to recognize itself in the loving critique of the other as well as give and receive forgiveness where hurt and misunderstanding has occurred.
In Fosters view, anticipatory leadership is proactive in regard to questions, issues and problems that naturally arise in the multi-cultural congregation. Leaders must reflect and prepare for possible responses. Situations or events must be seen from a future perspective the point of destination. Awareness of the communitys future vision has priority over the memory of its history. For leaders in multi-cultural congregations there are few precedents to guide their efforts. There are few details on how to achieve their goals and few have any experience of building multi-cultural communities. It is the possibility of a new reality that carries them forward (Foster 1997, 119-120).
When Foster talks about relational leadership he highlights the need for inter-cultural dialogue. Feminist ethicist Sharon Welch challenges the notion of multi-cultural harmony when she says "the idea that there is a common interest, shared by all, reached by transcending our special interests, is fundamentally ideological" (Welch 1991, 89). This is an important critique of the multi-cultural vision because ideology is often divisive. Whose view of multi-culturalism do we take? The white/privileged view, or the coloured/disempowered view? Therefore inter-cultural dialogue must take precedence over a "multi-cultural ideology," so that an authentic process takes place. Existing institutional structures, including the church, "perpetuate oppressive, paternalistic patterns of relating," therefore people-oriented, relational, "open-minded engagement with structures and power realities" is necessary (Foster 1997, 121).
Further, Foster suggests that in inter-cultural dialogue "empathy" (as traditionally understood) is almost impossible. Can one group or individual really understand or share the perceptions, thoughts or feelings of the different other? Can men really understand the impact of childbirth upon women? Can the rich really understand the poor? The differences in background and perceptions are too deep and profound to be shared. Therefore congregational members must engage in what Foster refers to as "a suspension of expectations"8 in which cultural assumptions and perspectives are suspended, entering into the others world of assumptions, beliefs, and values, and temporarily taking them as their own (Foster 1997, 122). They must see, value, and feel as the other sees, values, and feels. Relational leaders facilitate processes where this suspension can occur.
Fosters comments on transformative leadership resonate with the issues raised by Gardner and Hauerwas and Willimon regarding the leaders ability to articulate a fresh or renewed vision of future possibilities. Fosters comments, along with Welchs insights on relational leadership, highlight the unique component of inter-cultural dialogue in the multi-cultural congregation, which is so dependent upon interpersonal capacity both the desire and the ability to relate inter-culturally.
B. Leaders Enable Multi-Cultural Dialogue
In his book, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multi-Cultural Community (1993), Eric Law deals like Foster with the issue of multi-cultural dialogue.9 Law, however, takes a more skill-oriented approach and a deeper look at culture and power than does Foster.
To speak of leadership as if there are a set of transcendent skills and approaches valid in all cultures, says Law, is deceptive. He feels that "the definition of a leader is not the same in different cultures because how a person is expected to manage a group is dependent on the group members perceptions of their own power" (Law 1993, 30). On one hand, Law describes groups that have a high sense of individual power, where everyone believes she or he is equal to everyone else. In this kind of cultural grouping, the leader enables the group to accomplish its goals through consensus, volunteerism, and self-direction. On the other hand, groups with a low sense of individual power will not challenge a leader who is perceived to be an authority figure. In this cultural grouping, the leader is expected to know the gifts, interests and abilities of each member and invite them to take certain responsibilities that will enable the group to achieve its objectives (Law 1993, 31-32).
When groups continue to function from their own perceptions of leadership and group processes, Law calls this "ethnocentrism." As one example, white groups may believe that by inviting a person of colour into a committee or study group, they are being inclusive, but they deceive themselves. Law suggests that people of colour often have a low sense of individual power and place high value on collective action. Those who place a high value on collective action tend to feel isolated and disempowered when functioning in a predominantly white environment because their strength, typically, is in the group, not the individual. Law suggests, therefore, that leaders need to function in an "ethno-relative" manner. An environment needs to be created "that allows people to interact with equal power and therefore redistributes power evenly" (Law 1993, 35). This can be realized, in Laws view, by allowing people with low individual power to caucus regularly, thereby collectively affirming and empowering their voice. Law indicates that leaders need to be trained to be more culturally sensitive and to do this kind of power analysis based upon an increased cultural sensitivity (Law 1993, 36).
Law draws a connection between the skill of power discernment and the need for a deeper understanding of the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ. Those who have a sense of their personal power must come to a place of disempowerment before the cross, where we also meet our fellow of another culture. There is no place for a power imbalance at the foot of the cross. Likewise those who lack a sense of personal power must recognize their empowerment in Christ in light of the resurrection. Law states that "the gospel commands the powerful to give up power and the powerless to endure and be faithful. Furthermore, the Gospel story empowers the powerless to take up the power to do the mighty work of God" (Law 1993, 42-43). Multi-cultural leaders need to act out of a spirituality rooted in the Gospel story. In a sense the Gospel story is a resource in a leaders empowerment toolbox.
Law focuses on the nature of inter-cultural dialogue and the need to acquire skill and practices that enable the creation of an environment where all participants experience a sense of equality and the ability to express themselves wholly. The exercise of these inclusive, interpersonal skills flows from a spirituality rooted in the character of an inclusive, accepting God. Together these skills and inclusive spirituality provide personal empowerment within the leader ministering in a multi-ethnic environment
V. Defining the Multi-Cultural Leader
The multi-cultural congregation is a unique community in a world that constantly chooses the easiest, least vulnerable path through inter-cultural, interpersonal relations. To have a role in the leadership of a community that takes the hard way requires a particular set of attitudes, values, and skills. Volf speaks of "the catholic personality," a kind of first fruit of the eschatological new creation, the new community that Christ ushered into the realm of human existence (Volf 1995, 51). People with this broad, inclusive outlook are fundamental to the growth and development of multi-cultural congregations. In this article a number of models of leadership practice have been discussed and will inform the profile presented below.
At the outset I suggested that leaders are people with the capacity to influence the thoughts, values, behaviours, and/or feelings of others. The capacity to influence can refer to a collection of attitudes, abilities, and skills, rather than to a single ability. In building the Multi-Cultural Leader Profile below, I have drawn from the various sources cited above that are rooted in the best practice of a whole body of leadership approaches and have sought to integrate these insights into a useful assessment tool.
From Schein we have borrowed the notions of "culture-embedding" and "cognitive redefinition." From Gardner we have borrowed the importance of articulating a particular story that motivates a community, and the necessity of "embodying" that story in the life of the community. Schwarz alerts us to the importance of "empowering" leaders and building "ownership" amongst the congregation. Hauerwas and Willimon confirm the importance of communicating a visionary story rooted in the counter-cultural nature of the Christian message, a story that "enables" the alternative faith community to grow and flourish. Foster raises concerns for authentic dialogue, for mutual critique, and for the need to move forward through the fear and disappointment of change and transition, in order to "embrace" difference. Law emphasizes the importance of inter-cultural dialogue as well, but suggests the need for particular skills in "ethno-relativism" and "power analysis." Law also raises the concern for a spirituality that reflects the incarnational nature of Christs life, death, and resurrection, one in which we follow Christs example of voluntarily giving up power and privilege for the sake of Gods kingdom.
Taken together, we can apply these leadership approaches to the development of multi-cultural leaders. I suggest that these attributes in particular define the multi-cultural capacities required of leaders in multi-ethnic congregations. The characteristics that follow are really collective categories with numerous implications for practice. At the same time the characteristics are specific enough that assessment processes that would be precise and measurable could be developed from them.
A Profile of Effective Leadership for the Multi-Cultural Congregation
Leaders in multi-cultural congregations will:
Envision the eschatological reality of the multi-cultural congregation.
Through personal experience in inter-cultural settings and through study of Scripture, leaders in multi-cultural congregations reflect theologically on the manner in which the diversity of cultures impacts the nature and life of the church, thus developing a theology of diversity. Multi-cultural leaders come to see the multi-cultural congregation as an embryonic form of the heavenly kingdom. These leaders are able to construct a story of the multi-cultural congregation that conveys the multi-dimensional, relational character of God, and that redefines the conventional Western image of the mono-cultural Christian congregation.
Embed a multi-cultural vision.
Leaders in multi-cultural congregations must be able to communicate this story/vision in a manner that draws others into the process through a redefinition of group identity and dynamics and an equitable distribution of power that allows all to have a sense of ownership. This communication and redefinition will serve to embed the vision in both a cognitive and a relational manner.
Embody the multi-cultural vision.
Leaders in multi-cultural congregations must give up their leadership "power" and their "expert status" in order to develop a spirituality rooted in servanthood. Genuine, authentic, relational dialogue across cultures, as a way of life, is required to embed the multi-cultural vision in an experiential, affective manner in the heart and soul of the congregation. The manner in which leaders conduct themselves inter-culturally will have a direct correspondence to congregational life.
Embrace cultural diversity.
Leaders in multi-cultural congregations know that they continually need to understand more about inter-cultural dialogue. They know they need to move from "ethno-centrism" in their worldview to "ethno-relativism" to hear the other fully without passing judgement. They know they need to develop a body of knowledge regarding how different ethnic groups think, act, and feel in different contexts. They know they need to understand and assess power dynamics in various groups. They know they need to develop skill in "mutual critique" hearing and giving constructive criticism about culturally determined values and practices. They need to develop the ability to negotiate shared or mutual meanings. This growing sensitivity demonstrates respect and acceptance in the multi-cultural congregation.
Enable inter-cultural empowerment.
Leaders in multi-cultural congregations intentionally seek out skills that will enable and empower the multi-cultural vision to take root in an increasingly practical manner. They know that creating an environment in which everyone is able to interact with equal standing, assured that they are being heard, requires specific skills in inter-cultural group dynamics. They need to find or develop their own forms of interaction that will enable the alternative community to come into being forms that suspend cultural expectations long enough for meaningful understanding to emerge. They need to develop skills in group dialogue processes whereby individuals can undergo "a readjustment in identity" in order to draw closer to Christ and to one another, rather than to a particular cultural perspective. This toolbox of inter-cultural skills will be used on a regular basis and is necessary to the free dialogue required by the multi-cultural community.
Along with other multi-cultural practitioners, both Foster and Law attach great importance to the need for leaders to develop skill in inter-cultural dialogue to develop multi-cultural capacity. At the same time, the more cognitive approaches of Schein and Gardner serve as the foundation upon which the ministry practices are built. What ties the two orientations together, as reflected particularly in Law and Hauerwas and Willimon, is a spirituality rooted in the cross and the resurrection the incarnational life and ministry of Jesus Christ and a personal disposition to listen and accept the one who is different.
If the dividing wall of culture and difference has been broken down by the sacrifice of Christ (Eph 2:14-16), then the notion of the multi-cultural congregation must be possible. However, this newly reconciled humanity requires a new kind of congregational leadership: one which envisions the heavenly reality as already present and possible, embeds that possibility into the beliefs and values of congregational life, embodies the new humanity in their interpersonal, inter-cultural relationships, wholeheartedly embraces the "different-ness" of cultural diversity, and enables all voices to be heard through intentional policies and practices.
Foster, Charles. Embracing Diversity: Leadership in Multi-Cultural Congregations. Washington, D.C.: The Alban Institute, 1997.
Gardner, Howard. Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership. New York: Basic Books, 1995a.
Gardner, Howard. "A Cognitive View of Leadership." Education Week. Vol.15:2 (9/13 1995b). Pp. 34-35.
Hauerwas, S. and Willimon, W. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Nashville: Abingdon, 1989.
Law, Eric H. F. The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in A Multi-Cultural Community. St. Louis: Chalice, 1993.
Schein, Edgar H. Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985.
Schwarz, Christian. Natural Church Development. Winfield, BC: International Centre for Leadership Development and Evangelism, 1996.
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.
Welch, Sharon. "An Ethic of Solidarity and Difference." In Postmodernism, Feminism, and Cultural Politics: Redrawing Education Boundaries, (ed.) Henry A. Giroux. Albany: State University of New York, 1991.