MULTICULTURAL & Multiethnic: Are They The Same Thing? Yes & No

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/11/15

A student once asked “Is multicultural and multigenerational the same thing?” Well in some ways they are, but in other important ways they are not.  Let me explain.

Multicultural is a broad term that can be an over-arching description for organizations with many varieties of culture within it (for more on this click here).

For instance, both multiethnic and multigenerational are sub-sets of a multicultural organization.  Thus …

  • An ethnicity can be a culture, but
    • Though an ethnicity also has many cultures within it.
    • Because ethnicity is usually tied to your historical geographic area, some ethnicities if they come from a small area can be cultures but those that come from large geographic areas are usually not cultures.
      • So a tribal group in Papua New Guinea might have a unique culture tied to their small geographic area from which they came.
      • But it is often not accurate to say there is any such thing as a Chinese culture.  Here is how I stated this in The Healthy Church: “For instance, China has 50+ recognized ethnic groups but they all originate from the same country.[iv] While all are Chinese, so too are all 50+ different cultures.[v] Since ethnicity is so imprecise, culture is usually preferred.”
  • A generation can be a culture, but
    • A generation can have many cultures within it too.
      • You can call my generation the Boomer Generation and we have some generally common characteristics, e.g. we were born to parents that had endured two World Wars and a world-wide economic depression. That gave us generally and world-wide some similar cultural traits.
      • Within the Boomer culture you have cultures, such as
        • Yuppies, now the 2 percenters,
        • Eternal Hippies
        • Jesus Freaks (now Evangelicals)
        • Nostalgia “Old Guys Rule” Clan
        • Still-think-they-are-30 grandparents, etc.
    • Thus using the term “multicultural” can be a meta-term that creates a general picture but tries not to offend by becoming too specific.  (For ideas for when to use multicultural or another term, keep reading below).
  • And, an organization could even be multicultural and not be multigenerational.

The key is to describe as accurately as possible type of culture you are addressing.

To understand what a culture is and the differences see:

  • Cultures & A Cumulative List of Cultures from My Books, excerpted from my books with page numbers and footnotes.
  • And here are Exercises for Cultural Diversity from my book The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to strengthen a Church’s Heart, Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013.
  • Plus you will find a list of the variety of cultures just in No. America in “The No. American Cultural Mix” in Preparing for Change Reaction (2007, pp. 50-60).

So, let me give some examples of when to say multigenerational and multiethnic.

So, if your organization needs to be multigenerational, then use multigenerational terminology when writing/discussing your organization.

But, maybe your church (or for instance a church in a denominational district) might need to reach out to a growing Hispanic community. Then that church might need to become a multi-ethnic organization.

One student might refer to their denominational district as “becoming multicultural” because some churches are becoming multi-ethnic and others are becoming multi-generational.

But another student might refer to his ministry as becoming more multi-generational, because it needs to create a partnership between several generations

Thus, one student might use “multicultural” in their discussion (and title of a paper) if they were dealing with an organization of several different cultures, and another student might use “multigenerational” in their discussion (and title of a paper) because they are focusing on reaching out to one specific new culture.  Now, every church is made up of multiple cultures, so don’t try to get too specific.

Capture how your organization will reach out to another culture. Thus, use the terms that most precisely describe what you are doing to expand the evangelistic footprint of your ministry.

MULTICULTURAL & 5 Models of Multicultural/Multiethnic Churches: A New Paradigm Evaluated & Differentiated

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D.

Published by The Great Commission Research Journal (La Mirada, Calif: Talbot School of Theology, Biola University), vol. 6, issue 1, 2014, pp. 22-35.


This article puts forth a comprehensive and reconciliation-based paradigm through which to view multicultural congregations as one of five models or types. It updates the historical categories of Sanchez, adds contemporary models and then evaluates each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation. The five models are: 1) the asset sharing Multicultural Alliance, 2) the collaborative Multicultural Partnership, 3) the asymmetrical Mother-Daughter model, 4) the popular Blended approach and 5) the Cultural Assimilation model. The result is a comprehensive five-model paradigm that includes an assessment of each model’s potential for spiritual and intercultural reconciliation.


This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of different multicultural[1] church models. Daniel Sanchez offered some of the earliest depictions of such models,[2] but 35 years later they beg to be updated. And despite the proliferation of books on the topic, no significant updating or additions to Sanchez’s categories have been offered other than the Sider et. al. partnership model.[3]

In addition, there is a vibrant discussion today regarding how John Perkins’ intercultural goals of redistribution, relocation and reconciliation are being addressed by churches.[4] Therefore, it can be helpful to assess how well different models of multicultural congregations are addressing each of Perkins’ intercultural reconciliation goals.

The following five models of multicultural congregations suggest a new and contemporized paradigm. I will analyze each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation…

Download the full article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – GCRJ-Published Multicultural MODELS

[1] Though the term multiethnic church is often used today, I will use the broader term multicultural, since culture is a more accurate way to describe people who share similar behaviors, ideas, fashion, literature, music, etc. [c.f. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1976), p. 25]. Ethnicity is a type of culture often based on biological connections to a geographic area of origin, such as Sri Lankans (from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka), Yemenis (from the Republic of Yemen) or Chinese (from the People’s Republic of China). But the term ethnicity is very imprecise, because there may be dozens of different ethnic groups that hail from the same area of origin. Since ethnicity is so imprecise, culture will be utilized in this article.

[2] Daniel Sanchez, “Viable Models for Churches in Communities Experiencing Ethnic Transition.” (paper, Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1976).

[3] Ronald J. Sider, John M. Perkins, Wayne L. Gordon, and F. Albert Tizon, Linking Arms, Linking Lives: How Urban-Suburban Partnerships Can Transform Communities, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008).

[4] John M. Perkins, A Quiet Revolution: The Christian Response to Human Need, a Strategy for Today (Pasadena, CA: Urban Family Publications, 1976), p. 220.

This article is excerpted and reedited from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013).

WORSHIP SERVICES & How Many Worship Services Should You Offer & When?

by Bob Whitesel, 2/4/15.

Often when considering a multiplication strategy, leaders wonder how many worship services a church should attempt.  Most leaders understand the strategic advantages of offering as many celebration options and styles as feasible.

But how many is too many, and how many are too few?  6 Answers…

The question of type, time, and format of worship celebrations is a very delicate issue.  And, without a complete understanding of each reader’s scenario I would be remiss to state here definitively. But, I can give you some general guidelines.

1.  Have your services on the weekends if at all possible.  These always prove to be better attended (for all generations: builder to organic) than weeknights.  And, in my personal survey of client congregations:

  • Saturday evenings only have 20% of the attendance you can expect on Sunday mornings.
  • 10:30 am on Sunday seems to be the optimum time (for my clients at least) to draw people in.
  • Therefore, try to have as many services at 10:30 am on Sunday.  This might therefore mean multiple venues, sites, etc. for maximum connection with non-churchgoers.

2.  Do not let an occasional teenage service suffice for your adding an emerging/organic church worship celebration.  Emerging/organic ministries are more college-level and 30-something in target and draw.  Keep high school and college-aged gatherings separate from one another.

3.  Analyze your community (I show how to do this in my book “A House Divided,” and to even a greater extent in “CURE for the Common Church”).  It is from your community that you will find unreached age and/or people groups and thus whom the worship celebration should be reaching out to.

4.  Try to offer as many options as you can, given your person power.  In “A House Divided” (Abingdon Press, 2000) I explain how to start a new service:

  • By getting a committed core of (a minimum) 50 individuals who will commit one year to this new celebration and then replace themselves.
  • If you are offering a modern service and it is 80% full, I would reduplicate that.  Or if you have the person power to reduplicate it (even though you are not 80% full) I would duplicate it to reach more people.
  • The more options you offer, proportionally more of the community you will attract to the Good News. 
  • However, if your modern service is less than 80% full and you have another generational or sub-cultural group in the area, you could start a new expression aimed at this new sub-cultural group.  In most communities today, a church should offer a traditional celebration, a modern celebration, and an organic/emergent celebration.  Then reduplicate these as needed.  Times for each should be ascertained from people of these age groups “outside” of the church.

5.  Go slow.  As you will learn in my book “Staying Power” (Abingdon Press, 2002) or “Preparing for Change Reaction” (Abingdon Press, 2006, chapter 8) research indicates that if you move too fast with new ideas (such as launching a new worship celebration), then you will not get all of your reticent members on board.  Feeling left out, or at least circumvented, the reticent members will coalesce into a sub-group someday and you will have two factions.  So remember, though you are enthusiastic about offering more worship options after reading this chapter, go slow and get reticent members on board to ensure success.

6.  Finally, there is a very good book that goes into this and is one of your recommended readings for this course.  It is “How to Start a New Service” by Charles (Chip) Arn.  Professor Arn goes into great detail, and to ensure success if you are planning on starting a new celebration, you should get this book.  And, Chip Arn is also a faculty for our  Wesley Seminary at IWU M.Div. program, teaching for us full time as Professor of Christian Ministry and Outreach.

MULTIPLICATION & The multisite model survives.

The Modern Megachurch Can’t Really Die: That’s because it’s not just one church.

By Ruth Graham, Slate Magazine, 1/22/15.

Mars Hill churchThe former Mars Hill church in Seattle, and the multisite afterlife.

But there’s a twist ending to this story, and it’s one that tells a surprising shift in the evolution of American evangelicalism: Most of Mars Hill’s church locations live on. That’s because despite having at least 15,000 weekly attendees at its peak, Mars Hill was not a “megachurch” in the old-fashioned sense: one stadium-size building with a pastor visible from the balconies as a speck on stage (and looming on a Jumbotron). Instead, it had embraced the “multisite model” of church growth, which has been ascendant in evangelicalism since around the turn of the millennium and is changing the way successful churches operate—and survive.

With the multisite model, a growing church doesn’t keep expanding indefinitely in one location. Instead, it plants satellites that operate with varying degrees of independence; often, a senior pastor will preach at the main campus and the sermon is broadcast onto screens in the other locations. A report last year found that almost 1 in 10 American Protestants now attends a multisite church. There are 8,000 such churches in the country, up from 5,000 in 2010. (That figure also includes churches that hold more than one service in the same location, a more traditional way of making a gigantic church feel more intimate.) Multisite churches in the largest category, with more than 15,000 weekly attendees, had an average of more than eight campuses each…

Read more at …

MULTIPLICATION CASE STUDY & 12Stone to open five new campuses Sunday

by Keith Farner, Gwinnett Daily Post, Wednesday, January 7, 2015.

LAWRENCEVILLE — In the days leading up to Sunday, Kevin Myers has the same kind of feeling he had 27 years ago when the 12Stone ministry began.

The senior pastor at 12Stone church said Wednesday he feels “all kinds of excitement” and “great expectations” because the church is about to do something not done in its history, and only sparingly seen in churches across the country.

12Stone on Sunday will launch five new campuses across Gwinnett and Barrow counties that will more than double its destinations for worship. The church, which averages about 16,000 people each Sunday, will open the new campuses at schools where they expect to welcome about 300 people each.

The expansion brings 12Stone’s total worship offering to 27 opportunities across nine campuses…

The locations will be called Bethlehem at Yargo Elementary in Winder, Braselton at Duncan Creek Elementary in Hoschton, Buford at Lanier High, Grayson at Covenant Christian Academy in Loganville and Pharr Elementary in Snellville.

It’s existing campuses are in Lawrenceville, Hamilton Mill, Flowery Branch and Duluth.

It’s not the first time 12Stone has partnered with schools. Before it opened the Sugarloaf campus in Duluth, it held services for two years at Peachtree Ridge High.

Each campus will have a full-time campus pastor, full-time worship leader/youth pastor, part-time administrative assistant and part-time children’s ministry director. The church also plans to add three to five positions to its central support staff because of the expansion. Plans for the expansion began about 20 months ago, Myers said.

The new locations were chosen because Myers said that’s where the church has the most people and most influence. In a preliminary list, the church looked into other cities such as Gainesville, Jefferson and Athens, and Myers said the church could still reach those areas or eventually add a location there.

“So part of what this does is actually opens up the door to future opportunities as well,” he said…

All of the new locations will have services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays, and Buford and Braselton will also have 1 p.m. services.

“The convenience factor is significant, but so is the connection, which is the most important thing,” Myers said. “People are connected in communities. If we’re going to see people come to faith and find God’s better life, we’ve got to be closer to their community. Community and connection are really important to us and why we would even bother to bring the church into another community…”

Read more at …

MULTICULTURAL & Churches are best social melting pots in modern Britain

Churches and sporting events as the last bastions of neighbourliness and integration in Britain By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor, The UK Telegraph Newspaper, 07 Dec 2014

Churches and sporting events as the last bastions of neighbourliness and integration in Britain (Picture: Alamy)

Places of worship and sporting events lead the way as places modern Britons are most likely to mix with people of other races, classes and generations

They teach that people should love their neighbour but a major new study shows that churches are one of the few places most modern Britons might even meet them.

Ground-breaking new analysis of the friendship networks of almost 4,300 people aged from 13 to 80 has identified churches and sporting events as the last bastions of neighbourliness and integration in Britain.

Overall, it found that churches and other places of worship are more successful than any other social setting at bringing people of different backgrounds together, well ahead of gatherings such as parties, meetings, weddings or venues such as pubs and clubs.

But while places of worship proved most potent at mixing people from different social classes and races, spectator sports events were the most successful at bringing people of different ages together.

The conclusions emerge from new findings, seen by the Sunday Telegraph, from the Social Integration Commission, a unique social experiment which has attempted to map thousands of people’s social networks to determine how closely people of different classes and generations mix in modern Britain.

Initial findings published earlier this year analysed how closely different groups of people mixed.

They raised questions about whether decades of efforts to promote multiculturalism have gone into reverse, by showing teenagers are no more likely to meet people from other racial backgrounds in a social setting than those 40 years older suggests.

The study also suggested that class could be a more enduring source of division than race in the UK.

The latest findings analyse how or where people of different backgrounds meet.

Matthew Taylor, Chair of the Social Integration Commission, said:

“Institutions play a huge role in determining how and with whom we interact. Our research shows that, perhaps contrary to perceived wisdom, activities such as attending a place of worship or a sporting event can bring people from all sorts of backgrounds together.

“These institutions could play a leading role in promoting social integration. Sporting and religious bodies should explore what more they can do to help build a better integrated society.”

Using a technique developed by experimental psychologists at Oxford University, statisticians analysed information provided by a sample of 4,269 people about their own social lives.

Each person was interviewed by Ipsos MORI and asked to describe recent social gatherings they had attended and give detail about who else was there and how they knew them to build up a subjective picture of their friendship circles.

Statisticians then analysed the lists and compared them with the profile of the area in which they lived based on findings from the census to give each person a notional score, depending on how closely their networks matched the profile of their neighbourhood. The same process was then applied to different types of gatherings people attended.

The different settings were most successful at bringing people of different generations together. Sporting events led the way with an integration score of 59 per cent on this measure, just ahead of places of worship on 57 per cent. The other settings scored around 46 per cent for bringing generations together.

On ethnic lines, churches were given an integration score of 25 per cent – twice the average level and far ahead of sporting events which averaged just over seven per cent on the racial mixing measure.

Similarly on social background, churches led the way with a score of 27 per cent, well ahead of the average of 18 per cent.

A spokesman for the Church of England said: “There are no bars of entry into the family of faith.

“This heartening research reflects the reality of church life across the nation with people from all ages, races and backgrounds united by their faith into a wider welcoming family.”

Read more at …

MULTIETHNIC & As a Major U.S. Problem, Race Relations Sharply Rises #GallupPoll

By Justin McCarthy, Gallup Research, 12/23/14.

“After barely registering with Americans as the top problem for two decades, race relations now matches the economy in Americans’ mentions of the country’s top problem, and is just slightly behind government (15 percent).”

  • At 13%, “racism” is at its highest since Rodney King trial in 1992
  • “Government” holds thin edge as current most important problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The percentage of Americans naming “race relations” or “racism” as the most important problem in the U.S. has climbed dramatically to 13%, the highest figure Gallup has recorded since a finding of 15% in 1992, in the midst of the Rodney King verdict. In November, race relations/racism was cited by 1% of the public as the most important problem.

Trend for Race Relations/Racism as Most Important Problem in U.S.

Read more at …

CHANGE & 6 Tests for If a Change Should be Implemented #TomPeters #MatrixOrganizations #McKinseyQuarterly

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Management author Tom Peters points out that an infatuation with newness often gets organizations going in too many directions. While creatively diversifying (labeled a matrix organization) is important for organizational survival, Peters points to six criteria for evaluating if a change should be implemented. Here they are in paraphrased form, followed by highlights from Peter’s seminal article:

There are perhaps six critical tests of the possible (change) thrust:

  • Internal achievability. Can a ‘tradition-oriented’ organization begin to turn itself into a ‘innovation-orientated’ organization in a reasonable span of time, e.g. four to six years?
  • Political feasibility. Can the top team be persuaded to support the innovation thrust?
  • Soundness in competitive or regulatory terms. Is money spent on marketing (1. need-analysis, 2. program creation, 3. advertising, 4. evaluation) a sound investment, e.g. is there a growing or a shrinking market?
  • Freshness. Will it be perceived as a new direction?
  • Early wins. Will it be possible to show some results in the first few months, even though full-scale implementation may take years?
  • Excitement. Can most of the committed people in the organization eventually become enthusiastic about it?

For more insights check out this watershed article by Peters…

Beyond the matrix organization by Tom Peters, McKinsey Quarterly, 9/79
In this Quarterly archive article, Tom Peters examines the flaws of the matrix-organization design and explores several more effective approaches to implement no more than one or two essential corporate thrusts at a time.


“Our historical cost advantage is lost; the only way we can stay in the ball game is to optimize our production facilities worldwide.”

“But you can’t close the Livorno plant! The moment you do that, they’ll hit us with special tax regulations.”

“I’m sick and tired of that ‘every country is different’ routine. We’ve got to have a uniform worldwide product image, and that means . . .”

Insoluble conflict? The chief executive of a consumer-goods company decided a few years ago that he saw a way to resolve such differences between managers. He had just read about matrix organizations and concluded that a matrix structure would, in effect, leave managers no option but to interact effectively with each other—not only “vertically” with their line superiors and subordinates, but also “horizontally” with their peers along major financial, geographic, product and/or segment dimensions. Everyone would have to talk to everyone else. The ideal solution, he decided, after much thought. So he took the plunge.

Three years later, however, the company was losing momentum faster than before. Major issues were taking longer to resolve, and the CEO was constantly called in to referee disputes between product-line, geographic, and functional chiefs. Too often, what tardily emerged from the decision process was a lowest-common-denominator political compromise. Top managers were spending more time than ever before in meetings or in airplanes taking them to and from meetings. Gamesmanship and political jockeying were widespread. The volume of detailed analysis, by the CEO’s own careful assessment, had nearly doubled; much of it seemed to be aimed at “nailing” the other guy on trivial points. Buck-passing had become a fine art; the product managers blamed the production people, and vice versa. It was tougher than ever to get products to market; new product opportunities were slipping by time and again because engineering would never let go.

In short, the CEO had never been so frustrated, so aware of managing a bureaucracy. He could no longer pin responsibility for results on anyone, and nobody but him seemed to be worrying about the big picture.

The organizational evolution

Much the same story has been enacted in many large corporations in the past few years. Up through the early 1950s, most companies were functionally organized. The postwar boom and subsequent economic growth led to mushrooming product lines and organizational complexity. During the late 1950s and 1960s, many companies sought to regain control and achieve “product-line rationality” by shedding their traditional functional organizations for a divisional structure based on the model initiated by General Motors and DuPont in the 1920s. For most the move proved successful; strategies became more coherent and divisional managers could be held broadly accountable for their operations.

In the mid-1960s, however, longer-range, more elaborate capital-investment projects called for a partial recentralization of corporate decision making. As a result, neither staff (planning) nor line (division management) could be held clearly responsible for medium- or longer-term performance.

New threats to divisional autonomy had appeared in the 1970s, as requirements imposed by foreign governments hampered businessmen’s efforts to maintain the integrity of their product lines worldwide. At home, proliferating regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other governmental agencies demanded centralized corporate response. Problems arising from product-line growth and attendant shorter life cycles called for more attention by headquarters to various engineering and manufacturing issues.

Typically, business’s response went through three phases. In Phase 1, inspired perhaps by the spectacular success of project management in the Polaris missile program and the even greater triumph of NASA’s moon-shot project, companies first set up “project teams” as a means of securing a coordinated functional, geographic, and divisional response to various current threats. Teams and task forces multiplied, often doubling or tripling in number in the space of a few years. As the teams proliferated, the sense of urgency that had attended their creation began to evaporate, established channels of responsibility and authority began to be blocked or bypassed, and teams began to get in each other’s way. Clearly, something had to be done to regularize matters again.

In Phase 2, matrix was embraced by an influential minority of large and sophisticated companies as the only organizational answer. For some, however, the honeymoon promised by matrix never materialized, as the examples in the exhibit indicate. For others, the honeymoon was quickly succeeded by the disillusionment of Phase 3, the situation described at the beginning of this article. Some CEOs reacted to Phase 3 by calling in behavioral scientists. “Team building” and “conflict management” became the order of the day. But the objectives of these efforts were unclear, and the headaches only got worse. In other companies—mostly giant corporations boasting “advanced” matrix organizations—open conflict was replaced by a silent battle of memos and “economic models.” Organizational Maginot Lines were built. Bureaucracy burgeoned and corporate performance continued to deteriorate.

… The overdetermined matrix

The last point provides an important clue to alternative strategies. Although many forces have chipped away at decentralized product-group autonomy, the divisional structure in some form (GE’s new “sector” organization, for example) remains a reasonably effective vehicle for many organizations because of its underlying efficiencies of information flow…

An emerging consensus

A different and promising approach to what managers have customarily thought of as structural problems is beginning to emerge from current research into the dynamics of large organizations. There emerged a common theme from our interviews: “Stop worrying about permanent structures; concentrate on temporary systems to achieve a limited agenda.”

…There are perhaps six critical tests of the possible thrust:

  • Internal achievability. Can a “cost-oriented” company begin to turn itself into a “product-innovation” leader in three to five years?
  • Political feasibility. Can the top team be persuaded to support the thrust?
  • Soundness in competitive or regulatory terms. Is a marketing thrust a good choice for a high-cost producer in a shrinking market?
  • Freshness. Will it be perceived as a new direction?
  • Early wins. Will it be possible to show some results in the first few months, even though full-scale implementation may take years?
  • Excitement. Can most people from middle management on up eventually become enthusiastic about it?

Once the thrust has been selected, it must be identified and announced. Political scientist Edward Banfield describes one approach: picking out, at the appropriate moment, the best of what is going on in the institution and labeling it as the cornerstone of the chief executive’s program. This may sound like a cheap shot, but frequently the top team can give a theme life and credibility merely by touching on it. Pointing out and praising some aspect of an inconspicuous but significant program is frequently a wise opening move. A study of senior executives by John Kotter and Paul Lawrence unearthed a similar routine: Successful new executives spent a year or so sorting out programs, building constituencies, and seeding new actions; only at the end of that time did they act to “label” their own thrust. Less successful men latched on to the first program they ran into, publicly touted it as their bellwether, and then lost credibility if it failed.

Read more at …