SOCIO-ECONOMICS & Research shows churches have grown weakest in communities that need them most: poor & working-class

Commentary by Professor B. In my books I advocate that growing and healthy churches will participate in the “3Rs of reconciliation” as put forth by John Perkins:

  • R-1 Reconciliation both spiritual and physical,
  • R-2 Relocation and as Robert Putnam points out in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,”
  • R-3 Redistribution of wealth should be on the agenda of healthy churches.

See my chapters/articles/interviews on this:

Still, I have grown tired and cynical at watching churches spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new sound and lighting systems to approximate a rock concert and “attract” a crowd when similar churches just a few miles away are struggling to stay open in lower social economic communities.

This article from The Washington Post highlights the research by Robert Putman which should be a warning to growing and healthy churches that Jesus admonition still holds today: “Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much…” Luke 12:48.

Why so many empty church pews? Here’s what money, sex, divorce and TV are doing to American religion

By W. Bradford Wilcox, The Washington Post, 3/26/15.

One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.

The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.

Courtesy of Robert Putnam, "Our Kids."
Courtesy of Robert Putnam, “Our Kids.”

In “Our Kids,” Putnam assigns much of the blame for the unraveling of America’s religious, communal and familial fabric to shift from an industrial to an information economy. The 1970s saw declines in employment for less-educated men, divergent incomes for college-educated and less-educated men, and a “breathtaking increase in inequality” — all of which left college-educated families and their communities with more financial resources, and poor and working-class communities with fewer resources. The figure below, taken from Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay on men’s employment, shows that work dropped precipitously for men in the 1970s.

wilcox1.png&w=480
(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor)

A key reason that working-class men are now less likely to attend church is that they cannot access the kind of stable, good-paying jobs that sustain a “decent” lifestyle and stable, married family life — two key ingredients associated with churchgoing in America.

Read more at … https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/03/26/why-so-many-empty-church-pews-heres-what-money-sex-divorce-and-tv-are-doing-to-american-religion

BLACK BONHOEFFER & How the Black Church in America helped convert Bonhoeffer from his racist roots

Commentary by Prof. B:  The following is an powerful excerpt from Reggie Williams’ powerful book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus (Baylor Univ. Press., 2014). I hosted Dr. Williams when he visited IWU and was still conducting research on Bonheoffer.  He found prior to the time Bonhoeffer spent in NYC among the Black community, that he considered himself a theologian … but in hindsight not converted (in a similar fashion as did John Wesley).

The following excerpts (quoted at the bottom of the first page and top of the second) show how villainous Nazi ideology had crept into Bonhoeffer’s thinking prior to his experiences in African American churches. Soon after, Bonhoeffer would be converted in a Harlem, African American church. The African American community impacted this theologian so deeply (my students are encouraged to read the book to understand more) that Bonhoeffer became a brilliant and sensitive theologian who gave us among others, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . To better understand how Christians can reconcile in a polarized world, read Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus and then Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . You will find the call to reconciliation is difficult, but a cost Bonhoeffer reminds us that maturing Christians are prepared to bear.

Black Bonheoffer 1

Black Bonheoffer 2.jpg

Black Bonheoffer 3.jpgRead more at … Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

MULTIETHNIC & “It’s… impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first”

“(Bob) Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

‘Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,’ he said. ‘We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change’.”

From “Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it” by Emily Snell, United Methodist Interpreter Magazine (n.d.), retrieved from http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/move-to-multiethnicity-is-not-easy-but-worth-it

MULTIETHNIC & Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it #UMCIntrepreterMagazine

“Three congregations share learnings”
By Emily Snell

“If heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the church?”The work of Mark DeYmaz inspired the Rev. In-Yong Lee to challenge her congregants to think about this question.Lee is pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her church has been striving to become a more multiethnic congregation.

In the early stages of its renewed emphasis on diversity, Lee said Cokesbury hosted small groups, which intentionally met outside of the church building, to discuss The Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer (Mosaix) by DeYmaz, who is a pastor, author and leader on multiethnic ministry.

This was important in “challenging our preconceived notions about race and pushing us to the higher level of cross-cultural competence,” Lee said.

Change consultants often cite Garfield Memorial United Methodist Church in Cleveland as an example of a successful multicultural body. The Rev. Chip Freed said the church views its multiethnicity as “a faithful commitment to the great commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, not just some nations.

“We’re really serious about reaching non-church people. Non-church people live in diverse environments. It’s only church people who live in segregated environments.”

For Freed, the church’s multiethnic identity is about “presenting a credible witness to the gospel.”

“If we want to be relevant, if we want to connect with a growing new generation of people, we need to commit to this, or people will write us off as irrelevant,” he said.

In 2011, the Rev. DeAndre Johnson began serving as pastor of music and worship at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston — another congregation focused on reaching diverse people.

As Westbury saw its neighborhood demographics change, Johnson said, the congregation began asking, “How do we let our multicultural identity shape everything about us?”

The church envisioned being “a church for all people with more than enough love to go around.”

“We are committed to maintaining and living out what it means to come from different places but have a common vision and life together,” Johnson said.

The church’s first core value is “multicultural inclusivity.”

Ministry for reconciliation

The Rev. Bob Whitesel, author, professor and national church change consultant, said multiethnic ministry is about reconciliation.

“We are given the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is more than just reconciliation to God. That’s the most important, but it also means reconciliation of people from different cultures,” he said.

In his latest book, re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press), written with DeYmaz, Whitesel said multicultural identity is a crucial aspect of the church’s mission on earth.

“We’re never going to reconcile people unless we get the established church today to embrace this, to embrace a church of living color,” he said.

Moving toward multiculturalism, Cokesbury decided that listening sessions would allow groups within the church to learn.

“We’ve realized, not only in different ethnic groups but across the economic divide, there are so many classes and groups that are divided from one another,” Lee said. “They all act out of preconceived notions, assumptions, prejudices. So we are intentionally breaking those barriers between us by reaching out and listening to one another.”

Cheryl LaTanya Walker, director of African-American ministries at Discipleship Ministries, said her goal is to “demystify” differences and break down “assumptions based on race or class.”

“We can worship together, be vital together if we break down the assumptions on what we see with the physical eye but look to God’s spirit,” she said. “We will see that we are more the same than we are different.”

To that end, Walker suggests that historically black churches begin by “doing pulpit exchanges” with congregations that seem different.

“Take your congregation, confirmation class and other ministry groups to churches that have different worship styles and persons who are outside of the African descent family,” she said. “Tour the facilities. Observe what is on their bulletin boards. Listen to the announcements. What are they doing in the community? Listen and observe what they are doing that may be the same or different.”

Start with leadership

At Garfield Memorial, “empowering diverse leaders was a very important strategy,” Freed said. “We don’t want the people on stage to be all one race. We try to represent diversity from top to bottom in our staff.”

Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

“Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,” he said. “We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change.”

Walker observes, “Bishops are assigning black pastors to historically Anglo churches that were in downtown with a specific mission of moving that pretty much Anglo congregation with some black members, to a more diverse, more multiethnic congregation,” she said.

Renovate worship, outreach

Westbury shifted from a “traditional, middle class, Anglo worship service” to something “in the language and style of peoples worldwide.”

“We started singing in languages other than English — some represented in our congregation and some not,” Johnson said. “We did this to nurture this sense of multicultural inclusivity within us and to challenge us to go further.”

Another key for all of the churches was a renewed vision for ministry in the community.

Walker pushes congregations to be creative in their outreach.

“What mission things are you doing for the neighborhood?” she asks. “What is your piece to get them in the congregation? Once they’re in the congregation, you begin the disciple process and inviting them to be involved.”

That involvement is not limited to Bible study or even to something in the church building, she adds.

“Particularly for our young folks, they are the ‘do’ generation. Sitting in a service for two to three hours doesn’t make a lot of sense to them, unless they see some output from doing that,” she said, “but they will go volunteer.”

In July, Garfield Memorial hosted “freedom week,” similar to vacation Bible school, at its South Euclid campus.

“It’s focused around teaching some of the Civil Rights movement,” Freed said. “As part of that, we have police officers come in and talk to the youth. They played a whiffle ball game.”

Partner with schools

Cokesbury and other churches are working to “do even more for the school” in their neighborhood. “Every time we meet and talk, we sense that it is not we who are doing this, but God is guiding us,” Lee said.

Garfield Memorial hosts an annual back-to-school event to assist low-income families by providing health screenings, haircuts, backpacks and supplies. “We’re trying to meet a need,” Freed said. “We’re bringing joy to the city. We want to make Cleveland a better place.”

Westbury also created the Fondren Apartment Ministry (FAM), a ministry at a nearby apartment complex, which houses many refugee families.

The ministry has led the congregation to be “tremendously blessed” as people from all over the world join in Westbury’s worship services.

“Many of these dear friends of ours have also become part of our worship life,” Johnson said, adding that they “faithfully participate” in worship despite some language struggles. “You can watch them begin to feel comfortable in the space and to take ownership of their own place here.”

“A person who doesn’t know the love of Christ, they’re our VIPs,” Freed said. The mentality is, “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll set aside my personal preferences to reach those who are unchurched. When you do that, diversity will walk through your door.”

As churches embrace new cultures, Whitesel said, it’s important to create short-term wins. “Demonstrate to the congregation that this is going to work, that this is a worthwhile way to go.”

Humility, courage, vulnerability

DeYmaz emphasizes that, if a congregation tries to grow into a multiethnic church, “there is a 100 percent chance to offend each other.”

“Humility is the only way to approach one another,” Lee said. “We will offend the others without meaning to, because we don’t know them well, but we will be willing to approach each other. If offense happens, (we apologize), and mutually we will learn better together.”

Moving toward diversity requires pastors to take risks — and not worry about themselves.

“When you venture out to something new, there is a big possibility of failure,” Lee said. “Only when you are ready for failure can you do something.

“Those of us, when we are trying to grow in diversity, we need patience, persistence and perseverance. It’ll turn out to be a blessing to your local church, to your community and to yourself, so do some-thing!”

Emily Snell is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes frequently for Interpreter and other publications.

Read more at … http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/move-to-multiethnicity-is-not-easy-but-worth-it

DIVERSITY & A video introduction to LEAD 545 assignments on diversity & unity

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/22/17.

This is my video introduction to the assignments on how to create both diversity and unity in LEAD 545: Strategic Leadership and Management.  Be sure to read the syllabus and weekly instructions before watching my additional video introduction.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

DIVERSITY & 3 Steps to Start Designing a Bias-Free Organization

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Subtle practices in language, hiring, promotion and programming in an organization can unintentionally lead to unintended and unexpected biases. Read this seminal interview with Iris Bohnet, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, cochair of the Behavioral Insights Group and author of the book, What Works, about how researchers have discovered how to foster a more bias-free organization.

Designing a Bias-Free Organization

by Gardiner Moorse, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2016.

Iris Bohnet thinks firms are wasting their money on diversity training. The problem is, most programs just don’t work. Rather than run more workshops or try to eradicate the biases that cause discrimination, she says, companies need to redesign their processes to prevent biased choices in the first place.

Bohnet directs the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School and cochairs its Behavioral Insights Group. Her new book, What Works, describes how simple changes—from eliminating the practice of sharing self-evaluations to rewarding office volunteerism—can reduce the biased behaviors that undermine organizational performance. In this edited interview with HBR senior editor Gardiner Morse, Bohnet describes how behavioral design can neutralize our biases and unleash untapped talent…

HBR: Organizations put a huge amount of effort into improving diversity and equality but are still falling short. Are they doing the wrong things, not trying hard enough, or both?

Bohnet: There is some of each going on. Frankly, right now I am most concerned with companies that want to do the right thing but don’t know how to get there, or worse, throw money at the problem without its making much of a difference. Many U.S. corporations, for example, conduct diversity training programs without ever measuring whether they work. My colleague Frank Dobbin at Harvard and many others have done excellent research on the effectiveness of these programs, and unfortunately it looks like they largely don’t change attitudes, let alone behavior. (See “Why Diversity Programs Fail” by Frank Dobbin.)

I encourage anyone who thinks they have a program that works to actually evaluate and document its impact. This would be a huge service. I’m a bit on a mission to convince corporations, NGOs, and government agencies to bring the same rigor they apply to their financial decision making and marketing strategies to their people management. Marketers have been running A/B tests for a long time, measuring what works and what doesn’t. HR departments should be doing the same.

What does behavioral science tell us about what to do, aside from measuring success?

Start by accepting that our minds are stubborn beasts. It’s very hard to eliminate our biases, but we can design organizations to make it easier for our biased minds to get things right. HBR readers may know the story about how orchestras began using blind auditions in the 1970s. It’s a great example of behavioral design that makes it easier to do the unbiased thing. The issue was that fewer than 10% of players in major U.S. orchestras were women. Why was that? Not because women are worse musicians than men but because they were perceived that way by auditioners. So orchestras started having musicians audition behind a curtain, making gender invisible. My Harvard colleague Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse of Princeton showed that this simple change played an important role in increasing the fraction of women in orchestras to almost 40% today. Note that this didn’t result from changing mindsets. In fact, some of the most famous orchestra directors at the time were convinced that they didn’t need curtains because they, of all people, certainly focused on the quality of the music and not whether somebody looked the part. The evidence told a different story…

What are examples of good behavioral design in organizations?

Well, let’s look at recruitment and talent management, where biases are rampant. You can’t easily put job candidates behind a curtain, but you can do a version of that with software. I am a big fan of tools such as Applied, GapJumpers, and Unitive that allow employers to blind themselves to applicants’ demographic characteristics. The software allows hiring managers to strip age, gender, educational and socioeconomic background, and other information out of résumés so they can focus on talent only.

There’s also a robust literature on how to take bias out of the interview process, which boils down to this: Stop going with your gut. Those unstructured interviews where managers think they’re getting a feel for a candidate’s fit or potential are basically a waste of time. Use structured interviews where every candidate gets the same questions in the same order, and score their answers in order in real time.

You should also be thinking about how your recruitment approach can skew who even applies. For instance, you should scrutinize your job ads for language that unconsciously discourages either men or women from applying. A school interested in attracting the best teachers, for instance, should avoid characterizing the ideal candidate as “nurturing” or “supportive” in the ad copy, because research shows that can discourage men from applying. Likewise, a firm that wants to attract men and women equally should avoid describing the preferred candidate as “competitive” or “assertive,” as research finds that those characterizations can discourage female applicants. The point is that if you want to attract the best candidates and access 100% of the talent pool, start by being conscious about the recruitment language you use.

What about once you’ve hired someone? How do you design around managers’ biases then

The same principle applies: Do whatever you can to take instinct out of consideration and rely on hard data. That means, for instance, basing promotions on someone’s objectively measured performance rather than the boss’s feeling about them. That seems obvious, but it’s still surprisingly rare…

How can firms get started?

Begin by collecting data. When I was academic dean at the Harvard Kennedy School, one day I came to the office to find a group of students camped out in front of my door. They were concerned about the lack of women on the faculty. Or so I thought. Much to my surprise, I realized that it was not primarily the number of female faculty that concerned them but the lack of role models for female students. They wanted to see more female leaders—in the classroom, on panels, behind the podium, teaching, researching, and advising. It turns out we had never paid attention to—or measured—the gender breakdown of the people visiting the Kennedy School.

So we did. And our findings resembled those of most organizations that collect such data for the first time: The numbers weren’t pretty.

Here’s the good news. Once you collect and study the data, you can make changes and measure progress…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2016/07/designing-a-bias-free-organization

DIVERSITY & The most / least racially diverse U.S. religious groups #PewResearch

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “The 2014 Religious Landscape Study reveals that Pentecostals and charismatics are only slightly less ethnically siloed than most other evangelical denominations. In my new book with Mark DeYmaz we offer a proven plan to change this. Check out your denomination’s integration level with this chart from Pew Research.”

The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups

by MICHAEL LIPKA, Pew Research Fact Tank, 7/27/15.

The nation’s population is growing more racially and ethnically diverse – and so are many of its religious groups, both at the congregational level and among broader Christian traditions. But a new analysis of data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study also finds that these levels of diversity vary widely within U.S. religious groups.

We looked at 29 groups – including Protestant denominations, other religious groups and three subsets of people who are religiously unaffiliated – based on a methodology used in our 2014 Pew Research Center report on global religious diversity. This analysis includes five racial and ethnic groups: Hispanics, as well as non-Hispanic whites, blacks, Asians and an umbrella category of other races and mixed-race Americans.

How Racially Diverse are U.S. Religious Groups?

If a religious group had exactly equal shares of each of the five racial and ethnic groups (20% each), it would get a 10.0 on the index; a religious group made up entirely of one racial group would get a 0.0. By comparison, U.S. adults overall rate at 6.6 on the scale. And indeed, the purpose of this scale is to compare groups to each other, not to point to any ideal standard of diversity…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/27/the-most-and-least-racially-diverse-u-s-religious-groups/