NEWCOMERS & To reach newcomers think of the Sunday service not as a worship “event” but rather as a “community” experience. Newcomers want to connect with the “community” & then through that community God.

GUESTS & Questions to ask your greeters to find out if they have the “gift of hospitality” (Rom. 12:9-14).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Dr. Mark Collins is a missional coach candidate and a leader in Canada who oversees church renewal and consulting for his denomination. As a “missional coach” candidate, he and other leaders follow me each year at their own expense to learn my consulting practices.

This year Mark shared (and gave me permission to share here) a training exercise for greeters.  It can help them (and you) ascertain if they have the gift of hospitality (1 Peter 4:9, Rom. 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Heb. 13:1-2) and the chapter on spiritual gifts in my book Spiritual Waypoints (an overview can be found here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/spiritual-gifts-list-how-to-help-others-discover-their-ministry-calling-spiritualwaypointsbook/)

Give your greeters, ushers and/or hosts the following questionnaire.  Answers are in bold in the following questionnaire.

“Welcome to Our Church”

A Training for Greeters. Ushers. Hosts.

A person coming into our church for the first time will feel: _________, or _________ or _________ or _________ or _________.

It’s our Job to let them know they are _________and _________.

Creating the Wow Factor

  • _________ the door open
  • _________ with coats and kids
  • _________ materials & gifts to give
  • _________ them with care
  • _________ them

How to identify first time guests:

  • Watch the _________
  • Watch for _________
  • Ask “____________________________________?” or more to the point “____________________________________?

How to greet guests:

  • Welcome, ___________________________. 
  • Ask open ended __________________
  • Connect them to the right _________
  • _________ them for coming, _________ them to ask any questions
  • _________ don’t _________

Navigating Your Guests through Classic Church Culture 

  • Kids Check In and Kids Ministry Orientation in General
  • Locating Bathrooms
  • The Calm Before the Storm (Pre-Service)
  • Foreign Moments in the Service (singing, kids dismissal, sacraments, prayer moments, altar time, offering, greeting time, dismissal
  • The end of the service
  • Lobby Time / Coffee Time

The End of the Service is Crucial

  • _________ the first time guest in any activity that is planned.  ___________________________” “___________________________ 
  • Enquire about their experience. “So … __________________?  or “___________________________?
  • Empathize with their experience.  __________________” or “___________________________ 
  • Invite them to take the next step by ..
    • _________ what the steps are
    • _________ the information you need
  • _________ there is follow-up. 

Some Reminders …. 

  • Don’t _________ they don’t want to talk to you.  Err on the side of friendliness
  • Always _________ people to other people.  Never try and fly solo. 
  • This is your _________ and you want to make sure they have a good time. 
  • People will come for the _________ but stay for the _________ 
  • _________ with your whole face. 
  • _________ words they don’t understand. 
  • You are there __________________ not for you.  They are the most important people in the room.
  • The __________________ moves in the lobby too. 
  • If you can’t be _________, find another _________
  • _________ your welcome and questions. 
  • No one __________________ 
  • Engage but don’t _________. 
  • Retaining visitors is _________ to the health of a church. 

Everybody is looking for 2 things.  To be _________ and to be _________.  If we can provide those things, we’ll have a welcoming church.  


“Welcome to Our Church”

A Training for Greeters. Ushers. Hosts

A person coming into our church for the first time will feel: nervous, or scared or unsure or tentative or mad.

It’s our Job to let them know they are expected and welcome.

Creating the Wow Factor

  • Hold the door open
  • Help with coats and kids
  • Have materials & gifts to give
  • Handle them with care
  • Honor them

How to identify first time guests:

  • Watch the eyes
  • Watch for mannerisms
  • Ask “How long have you been coming here?” or more to the point “Is this your first time?

How to greet guests:

  • Welcome, I’m glad you’re here.
  • Ask open ended questions and listen
  • Connect them to the right people
  • Thank them for coming, invite them to ask any questions
  • Walk don’t point

Navigating Your Guests through Classic Church Culture

  • Kids Check In and Kids Ministry Orientation in General
  • Locating Bathrooms
  • The Calm Before the Storm (Pre-Service)
  • Foreign Moments in the Service (singing, kids dismissal, sacraments, prayer moments, altar time, offering, greeting time, dismissal
  • The end of the service
  • Lobby Time / Coffee Time

The End of the Service is Crucial

  • Engage the first time guest in any activity that is planned.  Would you like to join me?” “Can I get you a coffee?
  • Enquire about their experience. “So … what did you think?  or “What was something you didn’t expect today
  • Empathize with their experience.  I remember my first time” or “sometimes this church can be overwhelming
  • Invite them to take the next step by ..
    • Outlining what the steps are
    • Getting the information you need
  • Ensure there is follow-up.

Some Reminders ….

  • Don’t assume they don’t want to talk to you.  Err on the side of friendliness
  • Always connect people to other people.  Never try and fly solo.
  • This is your party and you want to make sure they have a good time.
  • People will come for the show but stay for the connection
  • Smile with your whole face.
  • Avoid words they don’t understand.
  • You are there for them not for you.  They are the most important people in the room.
  • The Holy Spirit moves in the lobby too.
  • If you can’t be friendly, find another ministry
  • Practice your welcome and questions.
  • No one stands alone.
  • Engage but don’t pressure.
  • Retaining visitors is key to the health of a church.

Everybody is looking for 2 things.  To be loved and to be needed.  If we can provide those things, we’ll have a welcoming church.

#StMarksTX

EVALUATION & What to look for when visiting a church @CharlesArn

Commentary by Prof. B: Our “Newcomer Integration Course” is designed by Dr. Charles Arn and includes the following guidelines for analyzing a church’s Sunday celebrations.  Used by permission, these guidelines can help you evaluate your Sunday experience.  It is best used on a church other than the one in which you serve.  If you desire to evaluate your own service, then ask a colleague to undertake this exercise for you (and perhaps offer to return the favor for their congregation).

“Visit a Church” by Charles Arn, Ed.D, n.d.

One of the best ways to understand how a person feels when visiting a church for the first time…is to be one! This assignment involves visiting a church in your area that you have never previously attended, and then writing a report on your experiences. As a result of this assignment, you will hopefully be more sensitized to the experiences that visitors have when they attend your church.

When should your visit occur? Plan to visit a church in your community on the first, second, or third Sunday of this course.

What kind of church should you visit? Try to visit a church that is approximately the same size as yours…but a different denomination and liturgical style. DO NOT visit a church of your own denomination.

What are the instructions for your visit? You may attend with a friend, spouse, or family member. In fact, if you bring someone with you, you can debrief and compare notes, which will give you a more comprehensive evaluation of the overall experience. You do not need to attend the educational hour, unless you desire to do so.

Arrive at least ten minutes before the service begins. Do not tell anyone that you are there because of an assignment for a seminary class. Simply indicate that you wanted to visit a church that morning (or some similar response that isn’t exactly a lie, but also doesn’t “blow your cover”…). Play the role of a visitor. If you have children, bring them along as a further way to evaluate the “church visit” experience. If the church has a “coffee hour,” attend that, as well.

What are the contents of the paper? While your paper should be personalized to reflect your own experience and writing style, make an effort to address the seven topics below. A few “starter” questions are included under each topic. (You don’t need to answer every question.)

  1. INTRODUCTION. At the beginning of your paper, include the following:
  • Name of the church you visited
  • Denomination
  • City and state
  • Approximate number of people in the service the day of your visit
  • Your own church’s name, denomination, and average worship attendance

After this, your paper/report should include the following categories:

  1. BEFORE Your VISIT. Check out the church the week before your visit in the same manner that a visitor might do so. Include drive-by impressions of the church building and facilities. Does the church have any yellow pages or newspaper advertising? If so, what are your impressions? Does the church have a website? What impressions do you have of the church based on its website?

Call the church office during the week before your visit and ask for more information about the service; adult and children’s classes, service time, style, dress, and other information of interest to a visitor. What impressions of the church did you get from the phone call?

  1. Before The service. What were your impressions driving into the parking lot or walking onto campus? Was the parking adequate? Was there parking for visitors? Handicapped? What did the outer appearance say to you about the church? Did you have any formal or informal contact with anyone before entering the building? Were there greeters before you entered the building? Were your initial impressions of the church confirmed or contradicted by your subsequent experience?

Once you were inside, what happened? Did anyone speak to you? Was there any indication that the church was expecting visitors/guests? Was there a Guest Center? If you had (or would have had) children, would you know where to take them? Would you feel comfortable leaving your children? Does the church appear to have considered children’s safety? What were your impressions of the Nursery (facilities and staff)? Restrooms? Signage? Classrooms? What priority does the church seem to place on their children’s ministry, and why do you think so?

When you entered the sanctuary, what first impressions did you have, and why? What about the seats? Lighting? Sound? Visibility?

  1. DURING The service. What were your impressions of the service, and why? Did the church seem to be expecting visitors in the service? Did you feel comfortable or uncomfortable as a visitor? Why?

How would you evaluate the following elements of the service:

    • Opening                                               • Bulletin/program
    • Visitor welcome                                  • Announcements
    • Music                                                   • Flow
    • Theme                                                 • In-house language
    • Bulletin/program                                  • Sermon
    • Announcements                                  • Closing
  1. After the service. Did anyone speak to you in the sanctuary/worship center after the service? In the lobby? Did what happened after the service affect or change your opinion of the church? Was there a time of fellowship or refreshments after the service?       Were you personally invited to have refreshments? Did you go? Did anyone ask or invite you to return the following week? If you were an actual church shopper, would you be inclined to return for a second visit? Why or why not?
  2. After the visit. Were you contacted in any way the week after your visit? By whom? When?   If you received a follow-up contact and you would have been an actual church shopper, did the contact affect your inclination to return?
  3. CONCLUSION. Summarize your visit and experience. Identify any particular experiences which impressed you (positively or negatively) and from which your church might learn. List any experiences or ideas that might be helpful to include in your own church’s welcome. Note any suggested changes in this assignment that might make the experience more beneficial for future classes/students.

 

(adapted from Dr. Arn’s course on “Newcomer Integration” which can be taken online for 3 credits at WesleySeminary.com)

NEWCOMERS & 17 Ideas How to Reach Them More Effectively

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Create a clear pipeline of discipleship from first visit to core group.
    • Make sure you have a volunteer “First Impressions” or “Guest Services” team
      that is easily identified and easily accessible
    • Highlight/announce a connection card to be filled out by guest and taken to guest
      services/dropped in offering basket. Consider giving a nice gift (shirt, mug, coffee
      cup, Chick-Fil-a coupon, etc.) out at Guest Central.
    • The best way to be able to follow up with new guest is to get their information!
    • Create a strategic timeline to follow up with new guests, including those
      who dropped off in children’s ministry.
    • Deploy a volunteer team to write hand written note cards and mail out to new
      guest each week. (provide the cards/envelopes, stamps).
    • Email at about week 4 to follow up with new guest inviting them to “Next Steps” in
      order to get connected- especially a specific class or outreach event.
    • Fusion (Nelson Searcy)- This book lays out a very clear assimilation process that
      you can contextualize for your church with sample communication pieces
  • Institute Small Group Events.
    • One per semester or twice annually to start new groups or get connected to
      existing groups. (September and February are great start times for these events)
    • Train potential small group leaders/hosts at a time convenient for them, and
      equip them with a guide and contact information if they need help.
    • Create a “signup” event- whether during/after services or on another night for
      congregants to view potential groups, meet the leaders/hosts, and sign up for
      one in their area or that fits their schedule.
    • A great model of this is Northpoint Church’s “GroupLink” event.
  • Meet the Pastor Dinner
    • Once per month, host a dinner and invite other pastors/staff there to highlight
      ministries, connection points, and inviting to a Membership/ownership class.
    • Divide people into small groups and have 3-5 questions at the tables for icebreakers
      (Provide name tags, pens, etc).
    • Share vision, mission, “Next Steps”, etc with guests. Allow for Q/A time.
  • 7 Touches Research
    • Research shows that new guests need to be contacted 7x to help them to better
    • Some options include: Parking Lot/Sidewalk greeters, Guest Services for adults
      and at Kids check-in, Auditorium Greeters/ushers, Connect Card/Guest Services
      Gift, Letter/Call from pastor on Monday, Email from Assimilation/Guest Services
    • Team with next steps opportunities coming up, Personal handwritten note card
      mailed out a week later, One month follow up.

 

C3 Intl. Inc., Church Change Consulting Inc. © Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & MissionalCoaches.com #PowellChurch

MULTICULTURAL & Yamamori’s 6 Models

HOW TO REACH ETHNICS
By Tetsunao Yamamori, The Church Growth Handbook, ed. Win Arn (Pasadena, CA: The Institute for Church Growth, 1979), pp. 171-181.

Almost half the population of America identifies with some ethnic culture or community. Yet, despite hundreds of years of immigration, the American Protestant church is predominantly an Anglo Protestant church.

American society has traditionally prescribed the response to the influx of “foreigners” into the U.S. as being assimilation into the dominant society. This assimilationist ideology has overshadowed the growth of pluralism among many groups in American society that have retained their cultural and ethnic identity. Various stratification levels have developed with patterns of majority-minority group relations which are defined around White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) cultural norms.

America’s ethnic realities more and more betray the assimilationist ideology. Ethnic bonds have always existed among communities of people maintaining their identity through race, religion, and/or national origin. Exclusion of an ethnic group by the dominant society generally heightens that group’s ethnic consciousness. Many white and nonwhite cultural groups have maintained their ethnic solidarity and, particularly during the last two decades, have reasserted themselves.

Anglo churches attempting to reach their ethnic neighbors may find it beneficial to consider the following models of cross-cultural outreach. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses. But they can provide guidelines for investing time and energy into the challenge of reaching out to a group unlike their own. In general terms, there are two approaches: the Assimilationist approach and the IDENTIFICATIONAL approach…

ASSIMILATIONIST Approach

1. WASP Assimilationist Churches receive members almost entirely from people with a low intensity of “ethnic consciousness” (see the Ethnic Consciousness Scale on page 7). Those in an ethnic group who are socio-economically upward in mobility tend to associate with Anglo churches and are comfortable in them. For example, African Americans approximating Anglo standards are racially black but culturally white, and are often happy in Anglo churches.

Assimilationist churches attract certain people in an ethnic group, but will repel certain others.

IDENTIFICATIONAL Approaches

To reach cultural populations that either do not want to become assimilated into WASP churches, or are not able to do so, a variety of other approaches are available.

2. Monoethnic House Churches. In this model, the Anglo church extends its ministry by creating house churches, Bible study groups, prayer cells, and Sunday school units among its ethnic neighbors. Several house churches may group together to form their own church. The newly formed ethnic church may hold services in the parenting Anglo church or may build a separate building. Rev. Robert Hymers, Superintendent of the Open Door Community Churches, has a goal of establishing 1,000 house churches of approximately 35 members, each with different cultural definitions. Six years ago, he began establishing house churches in southern California. Today, there are 9 house churches and 11 congregations which grew from house churches. Open Door churches include a Jewish church, a Hispanic church, a Chinese church, and several ex-homosexual house churches. Hymers’ method of church planting is through establishing house churches along similar ethnic and cultural groupings of people.

3. Monoethnic Churches within Anglo Churches. This model refers to an Anglo Church starting an ethnic service within its own building. A viable mono-ethnic church emerges through reaching unchurched individuals of a particular ethnic group within the locality of the church. This model differs from the assimilationist model through its emphasis on the development of a separate mono-ethnic congregation within an Anglo church.

4. Ethnically Changing Churches. Churches in ethnically changing communities often undergo spiritual, psychological, and financial difficulties due to decreasing membership, reduced budgets, broken friendships, and fear. Some members transfer to churches in a different location. Other members stay. Faced with a community change, the church eventually must make a choice from at least four alternatives: (a) stay in the community, (b) relocate to another location, (c) merge with another church in the area to pool its resources, (d) disband the church.

Merger or disbandment are generally not the best solutions. If a church decides to stay in a community, an important question should be raised: “Are the people in the church committed to serving the local residents and supporting the church’s new ministry mission?”

An Anglo church in San Francisco found itself surrounded by an influx of Filipinos. The community is made up of older whites, Filipinos, Latinos, and some Chinese. As the older white residents die or move, their houses are purchased by Filipinos. In this changing community, there are several signs of hope for this church that has decided to stay and serve its new neighbors effectively:

First, the Anglo pastor has a passionate desire to serve and reach the Filipino community.

Second, among the newer members who have joined the church, there are some Anglos who are married to Filipinos. These people are being recruited to serve as “beachheads” for home Bible study groups.

Third, an Anglo church member who was once stationed in the Philippines, and is still fluent in one of the dialects, is an insurance agent in the community and active member of the church. He has good rapport with his Filipino clients and is an enthusiastic Christian who is heading up the task force for Filipino outreach.

This church is intending to develop a reputation in the community as wanting to serve the new residents. It is intending to be known as a “pro-Filipino” church by inviting residents to sponsored events on Filipino national holidays. The church is determined to serve and reach its new neighbors, and eventually see the congregation and its leadership become indigenous Filipino.

5. Multiethnic Mutually Autonomous Churches. This is the process of autonomous ethnic churches cohabiting a single church building. The ethnic churches, including an Anglo congregation, all contribute to the “umbrella church” in finance, ministry, and governance. Each church has its own congregation, pastor, and lay leaders. Periodically, all the components of the umbrella church worship and engage in common ministries. Temple Baptist Church in Los Angeles approximates this model with Anglo, Korean, and Spanish congregations, as does Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene, which includes Anglo, Filipino, Korean, and Spanish.

6. Single/Multiple-Sponsored Monoethnic Churches. A local ethnic church may be sponsored and supported in its early stage by a single church or group of area churches. Rev. Yoji Sato, a Japanese pastor associated with the American Baptist Church, came to America in March 1984 to serve the southern California Japanese churches by filling various pulpits. He became aware of the fact that there were no Japanese churches in the eastern part of Los Angeles County, and felt called to start a Japanese church in Covina, California. The pastor and members of the First

Baptist Church in Covina offered their facilities for the place of worship, and thus was born the Japanese Community Church of Covina.

GUIDELINES FOR ETHNIC OUTREACH

Here are some guidelines which churches can use to be more effective in outreach to surrounding “people groups” of a different culture or ethnic group:

1. Abandon the notion that the assimilationist approach is the only right way.
2. Focus on evangelizing—not Americanizing—the unreached people in these groups.
3. Acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of persons, even within one ethnic group. Just as the Anglo culture has many socio-economic, linguistic, generational, and geographic differences, so does every ethnic community.
4. Recruit and train indigenous full-time and part-time lay ministers to mobilize laity for cross-cultural outreach.
5. Utilize the strong ethnic communal ties (friendship and kinship] in the mission of spreading the gospel.
6. Connect with para-church organizations dedicated to ethnic outreach (i.e., missionary organizations working within the U.S. that have the specific purpose of reaching unchurched cultures and ethnic groups in the U.S.).
7. Start numerous ethnic churches, Sunday school classes, and evangelistic home Bible study fellowships.
8. Use the indigenous (heart) language of the ethnic people.
9. Hire a qualified church staff person from the ethnic/cultural group.
10. Conduct research to identify the responsive, as well as the resistant, areas within your target ethnic group and sub-groups.
11. Encourage short-term and long-range goals for cross-cultural outreach at judicatory and denominational levels.
12. Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower your church to realize the lostness of every person without Christ and to act decisively for cross-cultural outreach and evangelism.

WHICH APPROACH IS BEST?

Given America’s ethnic realities, what can churches do to reach people who are in their geographical community but in a different cultural culture? As noted earlier, there are two basic strategies. One is the assimilationist approach. This is the traditional method of Anglo churches attempting to integrate ethnic minorities into their membership.

The other approach to cross-cultural outreach is the identificational approach. It affirms the development of distinct mono-ethnic churches and missions. This approach is becoming increasingly popular and effective.The assimilationist approach is most effective with people who have a low degree of ethnic consciousness, and is least effective among people with a high degree of ethnic consciousness.

The various identificational models, on the other hand, are most effective among people groups with a moderate to high ethnic consciousness level. “Ethnic consciousness” is the intensity of awareness of one’s distinct people-hood based on race, religion, and/or national origin.

To help identify the relative intensity of ethnic consciousness among a particular cultural group, and therefore establish the approach that will be most successful, consider each of the indices on the “Ethnic Consciousness Scale” on the following page. Determine a point on the continuums that most accurately reflects each characteristic of the ethnic group in your ministry area. If the general trend of the responses is toward the left end of the scales, the assimilationist approach to reaching this ethnic group will generally be more productive.

If, however, the majority of characteristics trend toward the center or right end of the scales, one or a combination of the identificational approaches to reaching this ethnic group will be more successful. Use this typology as a “snapshot” of the particular target group you are trying to reach as you begin planning strategy for effective outreach and church growth.

ETHNIC CONSCIOUSNESS SCALE

figure-yamamori-ethnic-counsciousness-scale

Tetsunao Yamamori, The Church Growth Handbook, ed. Win Arn (Pasadena, CA: Church Growth Press, 1979), p. 184.

ACCULTURATION & How It Can Make Out-group Members Feel Included

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/2/15.

Out-group members are people who are members of your church or organization, but feel like they are not being included in decision-making or being heard.  Northouse states in Strategy Four “Help Out-group Members Feel Included” that because “their members are on the sidelines and peripheral to the action” we must help them feel included (2012, p. 160).  But, there are two major (and widely divergent) ways to go about it.  This is because we must be careful to respect their differences (i.e. the things that make out-group members unique).

Let me give you an illustration.  If a new and young family feels like out-group members in an aging church, we will want to make them feel included. But, we could go about this in two very different ways.

Tactic 1 could be to try to teach them about all of the church’s history and get them to become friends with all of the aging church leaders, in hopes of getting them to become one of our in-group (this process is called “assimilation” – but more about that in a minute).

Tactic 2 could be to have long-standing leaders teach them about the church’s history in a small group setting with other newcomers.  There they would learn about our church culture, meeting long-standing leaders … but could stay part of their culture which might be younger and with small children (such a process is called “acculturation”).

In the field of missional leadership, it is important to understand the difference between “assimilation” and “acculturation.”  While there is some authors who use the terms interchangeably, classic research by Teske and Nelson ( 1974: pp. 351-367) found that assimilation and acculturation are widely divergent.  They found that most scholars were consistent in saying that “assimilation” forces others to leave their culture and become like the dominant culture.  And they found that “acculturation” allows out-group members to adapt parts of their culture with the in-group culture and form a new hybrid culture.

Let me explain what Teske and Nelson found.

Assimilation

  • Is unidirectional. Change only happens within one culture and this culture becomes a clone of the dominant culture.
  • The out-group members have to change their values and embrace the values of the dominant in-group. Out-group members must now value the things the dominant in-group values. While this may be necessary with theology, it does not respect their culture when they are forced to adopt the dominant culture’s methodology too.
  • Out-group members must accept the dominant culture as superior.

Acculturation

  • Is “two-way, that is, may occur in both directions” (p. 365). In other words, the dominant culture may change too by its interaction with the out-group. The out-group may bring some new and/or outside perspective that helps expand the awareness of the in-group.  For example, new young people coming into our churches can help the choir or the traditional order of worship employ a contemporary chorus (but the choir may rewrite the chorus to make it more consistent with their musical genre).  The idea is that in acculturation both sides influence one other for good (and hopefully not for bad).
  • Does not require change in what the out-group values.  Out-group members can value the same things as before, where these values do not conflict with the values God wishes for His offspring.
  • Out-group and in-group members see both cultures as having value. Reconciliation between cultures occurs.

Now, acculturation does not mean accepting all elements of a culture. For some elements of every culture run counter to God’s Good News.  Here is how I have stated, this (Spiritual Waypoints, 2010, p. 74):

When elements of a culture run counter to the Good News, and others are in agreement with it, what should be done? Eddie Gibbs has provided a helpful metaphor in the image of cultural “sifting” (Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, 1981, p. 120). Sifting separates out unwanted elements from wanted elements, most notably in cooking where a mesh strainer such as a colander will sift out impurities. The task of explaining the Good News to wayfarers at Waypoint 13, also carries the requirement that we sift between elements of a culture that go against Christ’s news and those that do not.  To not fully explain God’s expectations is to misinform and ill prepare the traveler.  Some Christians avoid the task of doing this, perhaps because championing God’s requirements is awkward in comparison to lauding His rewards.  But both must be undertaken.  A leader who is not ready to sift elements of a culture and tactfully explain what can be retained and what must be abandoned, is not ready to travel forward with the wayfarer.

As you can see, the term “acculturation” is technically the better term, for what we often refer to in our churches as “assimilation.”  Now, while most people in out-groups (e.g. visitors, displaced volunteers, ignored leaders, etc.) will never know the difference between these two terms; it will be important for you as up-and-coming leaders to understand (and be able to articulate among each other) the difference.

Thus, we should use the more correct “acculturation” in lieu of “assimilation” for it reminds us that getting out-group and in-group members together will usually mean preserving both cultures, while also allowing God to transform each with His Good News.

Gibbs, E. (1981). I believe in church growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Teske, R. H.C. & Nelson, B. H. (1974). Acculturation and assimilation: A clarification. American Ethnologist, Vol 1, No. 2. pp. 351-367.
Whitesel, B. (2010). Spiritual waypoints: Helping others navigate the journey. Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House.

ASSIMILATION & What Young People Are Saying About Its Negative Connotation

by Bob Whitesel, 5/21/15.

In a recent post I discussed how the word “assimilation” can mean something positive to older generations but also something negative to younger generations. This, it is often confusing when churches use it to denote their newcomer ministries.

To younger generation assimilation carries a negative connotation of giving up your personal cultural tastes and preferences. But to older generations it is a term which connotes positive characteristics of “blending in” with a dominant culture.

Subsequently, because assimilation can be misconstrued by people of different ages it is best not to use to describe our newcomer ministry.

In hopes of discovering an alternative term, I asked my students for suggestions. Here are two interesting postings from students about the term assimilation.

Student A: “Being 26 years old, I am kind of between generations. Plus I do youth ministry, so a lot of times I still get to feel like I’m a kid. When I hear assimilation, I feel that same uneasiness. From a church standpoint, when I think of assimilated drones, I think of legalism. I think of those in the church who have become cronies of the “rules and regulations” of the church, but have completely lost touch with the relationships. Much like the Pharisees, and much like the Borg, they all work with one mindset, and it just happens to be incorrect. I hate Star Trek, but I remember the episode where they tried to turn Patrick Steward into a Borg, and his struggle to escape. Having grown up in this culture, I am totally cool with being connected and in relationship, but pleeeaaasssee dont’ assimilate me!”

And then Student B said (Church name is a pseudonym) :

“Thank you, thank you!  I have been saying the same thing since the mid-90s.  In fact, I first heard the term ‘assimilation’ in this context while I was helping plant a church … while I was in my undergraduate program.  The executive pastor, Chuck, spent a great deal of time developing a program for assimilation, and it always had an ominous sound to me because of my fondness for Star Trek.

In fact, I took a downloaded portrait of a borg, cropped Chuck’s face onto the borg’s body (complete with facial hardware!) and put the following caption underneath it:  ‘We are Greenhill Church.  Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.’ Of course, I never showed that to anyone except another intern…’ 🙂 ”

Now, what comes to mind when you hear the term assimilation? And have you ever thought about how it is perceived by others? Now that you know about these dual and opposite meanings, what will you do?

ASSIMILATION & Maybe Christians Should Use an Alternative Term?

by Bob Whitesel, 5/21/15.

I believe it is critically and spiritually important to connect newcomers with our congregations. When discussing this topic with students the word “assimilation” sometimes comes up. This is, in fact, a word I have used for years to refer to the process of helping newcomers fit into our life of a fellowship and to embark upon their discipleship journey.

However a recent student noted that to young people today “assimilation” has a negative connotation. Here is her quote: “I’m a Star Trek fan and all I can think of when I hear that is the Borg insisting that every other life form they meet be forcefully altered into another drone for their collective, not even able to think on their own anymore but forced to do whatever the Borg wanted.”

That is almost exactly what a interviewee in a Phoenix focus group of young Gen-Xers said to me. Thus, I have been utilizing the word “connection” or “connecting.” It has a techie feel to it, and may be the Millennial generation equivalent of the Boomer “networking.”

The student who was the Star Trek fan even attached a picture of the Borg with her posting (I guess to scare Boomers). I downloaded the picture and tried to post it, but it assimilated, I mean connected, to my PC … but my Macintosh is doing fine :-)>

Here is what the student was talking about 😉
Click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyenRCJ_4Ww

CHURCH HEALTH & A Review of “The Healthy Church” book from @WPHbooks

Book: The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, Author: Bob Whitesel (2013) reviewed by John (Jack) PladdysHealthy Church Cover sm, 4/14/15.

What section of the book (pages and/or chapter) impacted you the most and why?

Chapter 4: The Church as a Mosaic provided a great look into how a congregation moves from segregation to diversity. I believe most congregations want to be culturally diverse, but they do not know what that means or how to carry out the idea of diversity. I struggled to understand this concept before learning about the difference between diversity and tolerance – assimilation and acculturalizaton – and I am someone with a high CQ. Whitesel’s description of the Creator Complex shows how well-meaning people do the wrong thing when it comes to diversity.

Whitesel gives a good reason as to why diversity is important. We shouldn’t be diverse for the sake of diversity. Whitesel says, “To bring about both spiritual and cultural reconciliation, we need churches where people of differing cultures are not only reconnecting with their heavenly Father, but also who are reconnecting with one another” (Kindle Locations 813-815). All attempts at being a diverse congregation should be a result of wanting to connect people to God and each other.

Of the five types of multicultural congregations, I am most drawn to the Multicultural Alliance Church model. I believe this is the most ideal model of the five Whitesel presents. It may not be the easiest to accomplish, but easy should not be our concern when we are attempting to diversify.

What were the two most helpful tools, insights or practices that you gained and why?

  1. “The primary purpose of worship is for us to communicate with God, not communicate with each other” (Kindle Location 1418). Worship is not the place to reconcile cultures together. This truth is resounding in our time of trying to blend worship styles together in order to make everyone happy. This is also a powerful reason as to why congregations need to start new worship gatherings of different styles if they are going to reach different people.
  2. Whitesel updated definition of conversion was extremely helpful. (Although, I’m not sure this is as much of an updated version as it is the actually version that we lost throughout the years.) When trying to describe the necessity of salvation to others, many times we give them the simplest answer in order to not scare them away. This could be why congregations are not doing a very good job of reaching people outside of their cultural group. People are not being transformed when we include them in our congregations.

What will you change about yourself and your tactics as a result of this reading?

I am starting to insist that unity is holding back congregations from moving forward. For the sake of unity, congregations are not able to be cultural diverse. We try to build in unity in everything we do, and that is only making everything we do mediocre. I think we need to start celebrating our diversity and invite others into the celebration. Worship gatherings should be a place where God communicates to us through our heart language. I should not force someone to connect with God in my heart language. If we start thinking harmony instead of unity, I believe we will be the diverse church God calls us to be.

CULTURE & The Important Difference Between Assimilation & Acculturation

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D.

In the field of missional leadership, it is important to understand the difference between “assimilation” and “acculturation.”  While there is some authors who use the terms interchangeably, classic research by Teske and Nelson ( 1974: pp. 351-367) found that assimilation and acculturation are widely divergent.

They found that most scholars were consistent in saying that “assimilation” forces others to leave their culture and become like the dominant culture.  And they found that “acculturation” allows out-group members to adapt parts of their culture with the in-group culture and form a new hybrid culture.

Let me explain what Teske and Nelson found.

Assimilation

  • Is unidirectional. Change only happens within one culture and this culture becomes a clone of the dominant culture.
  • The out-group members have to change their values and embrace the values of the dominant in-group. Out-group members must now value the things the dominant in-group values. While this may be necessary with theology, it does not respect their culture when they are forced to adopt the dominant culture’s methodology too.
  • Out-group members must accept the dominant culture as superior.

Acculturation

  • Is “two-way, that is, may occur in both directions” (p. 365). In other words, the dominant culture may change too by its interaction with the out-group. The out-group may bring some new and/or outside perspective that helps expand the awareness of the in-group.  For example, new young people coming into our churches can help the choir or the traditional order of worship employ a contemporary chorus (but the choir may rewrite the chorus to make it more consistent with their musical genre).  The idea is that in acculturation both sides influence one other for good (and hopefully not for bad).
  • Does not require change in what the out-group values.  Out-group members can value the same things as before, where these values do not conflict with the values God wishes for His offspring.
  • Out-group and in-group members see both cultures as having value. Reconciliation between cultures occurs.

Now, acculturation does not mean accepting all elements of a culture. For some elements of every culture run counter to God’s Good News.  Here is how I have stated, this (Spiritual Waypoints, 2010, p. 74):

When elements of a culture run counter to the Good News, and others are in agreement with it, what should be done? Eddie Gibbs has provided a helpful metaphor in the image of cultural “sifting” (Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, 1981, p. 120). Sifting separates out unwanted elements from wanted elements, most notably in cooking where a mesh strainer such as a colander will sift out impurities. The task of explaining the Good News to wayfarers at Waypoint 13, also carries the requirement that we sift between elements of a culture that go against Christ’s news and those that do not.  To not fully explain God’s expectations is to misinform and ill prepare the traveler.  Some Christians avoid the task of doing this, perhaps because championing God’s requirements is awkward in comparison to lauding His rewards.  But both must be undertaken.  A leader who is not ready to sift elements of a culture and tactfully explain what can be retained and what must be abandoned, is not ready to travel forward with the wayfarer.

As you can see, the term “acculturation” is technically the better term, for what we often refer to in our churches as “assimilation.”

Now, while most people in out-groups (e.g. visitors, displaced volunteers, ignored leaders, etc.) will never know the difference between these two terms; it will be important for up-and-coming missional leaders to understand (and be able to articulate) the difference.

Footnotes:
Gibbs, E. (1981). I believe in church growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Teske, R. H.C. & Nelson, B. H. (1974). Acculturation and assimilation: A clarification. American Ethnologist, Vol 1, No. 2. pp. 351-367.
Whitesel, B. (2010). Spiritual waypoints: Helping others navigate the journey. Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House.

HOSPITALITY & Lessons From Walt Disney: Perfecting the Customer Experience #IncMagazine

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Over the past three months I’ve spoken three times at conferences in Orlando. Each time I was impressed by people associated with the Disney organization and their enthusiasm about meeting customer needs. To understand why the Disney organization has been so successful, and to learn lessons regarding how Christian ministries can focus more on those they serve, read this helpful article from Inc. Magazine.”

Read more at … http://www.inc.com/disneyinstitute/james/leadership-lessons-from-walt-customer-exp.html