Thursday, February 27, 2014

Diversity for the Majority

I keep an eye on my friend Justin Lathrop’s blog. In a post last week that he titled How to Grow A Multi-Cultural Church, he made the following great point: “If your church is not very diverse, work to diversify your leadership team.”

Justin is absolutely right. Furthermore, diversity in the leadership team isn’t only important in growing a multi-cultural church; it is important in attracting majority-culture people too. Here’s a story.

I had an opportunity in 2012 to serve a team at Microsoft for several months. They were responsible for the marketing and operations to bring billions of dollars of server and tools products to the US market; I was responsible to resource them with business management services (I did a lot of Excel and PowerPoint). I’m confident that I earned my keep… but in those six months I learned a ton; the experience was more valuable to me than I was to them (yet they paid me… it was great). 
One of my tasks was to help resource their monthly business review meetings, a half-day meeting that put every aspect of the business under the microscope. During one of these meetings I counted 24 people around the table, each with significant responsibility for the business. They were all highly capable; each one had been promoted to their position from other roles in the company. They were climbing the ladder, and being around that table was evidence of their success and expertise. At one point during the meeting it occurred to me that there were very few people like me around the table… that is, there were only three white men born in the US (12.5%). The majority were women (including the General Manager, the team leader). Countries of origin included those from Europe, Asia, India, Africa, and South America.
This didn’t have much in common with the last leadership team I served in a local Christian organization. In that case it was an executive team of eight. Now we did have one foreign born member, and one Asian, and one woman… but that, of course was all wrapped up in the same person; the rest of us seven were white guys born in the US (87.5%... the opposite of the Microsoft team).
And then it dawned on me… it is no wonder that the churches and Christian organizations I serve seem so irrelevant, out of touch, and even backward to these people. And, of course, these people (and tens of thousands more like them) are precisely the people I am devoted to reach and serve through our church. It isn’t just minority cultures who are turned off by the typically-white-and-male leaders in our churches and Christian organizations, majority culture finds it troublesome too.
So, again, Justin is certainly right, we need multi-cultural leadership teams… but it more than merely a matter of being relevant to multi-cultural populations. It is simply a matter of being relevant. Period.

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