I had a wonderful time the last 2 days presenting on diversity to leaders from 10 Christian college campuses at Cedarville University.
I taught them my philosophy which I call “Asset Based Diversity Development.” While in Seminary I came across a wonderful book entitled Building Communities from the Inside Out. It serves as a guidebook for those interested in urban community development.
Typically urban areas are automatically deemed inherently deficient. This book turns that assumption on its head and espouses a development plan that focuses not on the needs and deficiencies of a community, but rather its capacities and resources of both the community and the people who live within it.
The authors claim this is a more effective philosphy to developing an urban community. I agree and when I planted River of Life 12 years ago utilized their theory with great success.
In both my stints as Pastor of River of Life, Director of Ethnic Ministries at Cincinnati Christian University, and my present position with the EFCA I have imagined “what does an asset based philosophy look like when developing diversity within Christian organizations?”
The task is for the Christian organization to focus on their organizational capacity and the gifts of its people instead of its deficiencies and needs in the area of diversity. I think in order for this to happen there must be 4 basic leadership paradigm shifts.
SHIFTS TOWARD LEVERAGING DIFFERENCE
From Secular to Spiritual - Theories of secular diversity are helpful and informative. However they should never serve as the foundation for Christian integration efforts. What I am getting at concerning this shift is motive.
Oftentimes multiethnicity based on secularized notions of diversity lead to little spiritual impact because their foundation is humanitarianism, not Scripture, and our number one asset is the Bible. Social analysis is needed for understanding, but our efforts must have the foundation of being Spirit led and Word based.
The endgame of our journey of building multiethnic institutions is not ethnic diversity; that is a by-product. The goal is for our staffs, boards, faculty, congregants, students, etc. to experience deep theological reflection and practical spiritual application in order for them to grow in their faith. It is a corporate act of reconciliation with both God and our broken world.
From Colorblind to Colorized - When I consult with ministry leaders who have failed in integration efforts there are a variety of reasons. Yet regardless of whatever else may have occurred there is always one universal error present among all failures – the embracing of “colorblindness.”
Because of racialization we can’t be colorblind. We need to intentionally acknowledge both our personal and organizational ethnic biographies. The asset is to understand the differences and act on the commonalities.
From Tweaking to Transformative Leadership – Concerning becoming multiethnic when the leadership loves it and pursues it, the people start to get it and embrace it. What we are talking about is leading a change process, and people need to be led there boldly. Getting to multiethnicity is not something where you can “tweak” a few things and move on. The asset is transformation.
To quote from my colleague Tim Addington tweaking is “fear based change.” We are so afraid to rock the boat significantly that we hope we can tweak our way out of our predicament. It never works.
Moving towards multiethnicity requires new leadership paradigms in how we think and new ways of delivering on our mission. Furthermore, talking change but making tweaks tells the whole staff that leadership is not truly committed to change so they continue to do what they have always done.
From Accidental to Alignment - Our constituents need to be pointed in the right direction and given lanes to run in. To do so requires we intentionally provide our organizations with four basic things:
- Tying multiethncity into our mission identity and being willing to die on that hill
- Deciding what our core commitments are going to be in order to meet our goals
- Figuring out what we are going to do day in and day out to make progress
- Striving to create the right environment for our multiethnic goals to succeed.
These 4 things create the asset of clarity, implementing the unified effort that we all desire. Shameless plug alert: This will all be in a book that is due out next Spring. Would love to hear feedback on what you think.