Tuesday, April 20, 2010
How Important is Multiculturalism in Kids' Church?
I play in a band that plays music from Central America: Duranguense, Salsa, Cumbia, Ranchera, etc. That in itself is a ton of fun since I didn't grow up playing these styles, and I'm always eager to play something new/challenging. Well, last Saturday the band invited my wife, Annie, and I to a local dance. We were there for both business and pleasure; we wanted to scope out the competition and see what songs others bands are playing. We also danced and had fun listening.
A few things I will remember forever about that night.
1) We're people who value getting to be alongside people groups that are different from the ones we grew up in. Well, I'm pretty sure we were the only white people there, so mission accomplished.
2) As my wife pointed out to me, how rare is it that two middle class white folks get to be the minority anywhere in America (much less a predominantly white town of around 40,000 people)? Surely there are places, but my experience has been that many white folks stay in mostly white locales. Sort of a "birds flock together" approach to social living. So, getting to be a minority culture, if only for a night, was so meaningful to us.
I spent the first few years of my life in Honey Creek, WI, a town of about 750 people. When I was 6, my parents moved the family to Houston, a city of around 2 million (almost 6 if you count the adjoining suburbs and towns). They said a big part of that decision was they wanted to provide all of us kids with more opportunities: vocationally, relationally, socially, etc. And I really like all of the upshots of that decision. For example, I don't recall any strange or unwelcome feelings regarding other cultural traditions around me, probably because I was immersed in other cultural traditions (food, clothing, music, architecture, etc.) at such a young age. Quite the opposite, actually... I loved, and still love, being around people who think, speak, and believe different things than me. It's taught me to demand a variety of perspectives before I make up my mind about how I think, speak, and believe.
I was also a highly sensitive kid, more of an observer than an athlete. One day in 4th grade during recess, a group of kids made fun of me for having a girlfriend. Turns out the "leader" in this group of friends was the girlfriend's older brother. They circled around me, shoved me, called me names, etc. Oh yeah, and they were of another ethnicity than myself. Being more of the sensitive type, I actually had to work through some of that pain in later years. If I could put it this way, I find it very interesting indeed that multiculturalism is an area of my life where I've uniquely experienced more simultaneous (bear with my churchy words here) blessing and wounding than perhaps any other area.
I'm sure many of you have stories of your own. But rather than trade stories, I'm more interested in hearing your take on all of this multicultural stuff, especially as it relates to faith settings. The Bible often paints lush images of church as a place where people from many different traditions should come together to worship, as if many cultures doing faith together somehow give us a fuller picture of who God is. Does this ring true for you? And especially in children's ministry, should this be a picture of who we are and how we do ministry? Anything you've done successfully (or unsuccessfully) in this direction you'd care to share with us? Inquiring minds want to know :-).
Posted by Peter at 1:31 PM