Hangout On Air: Multiculturalism in Youth Ministry

Jacob Eckeberger
November 16th, 2016

Last year’s National Youth Workers Convention YS Explores sessions on Multiculturalism in the Church set off a series of conversations about what diversity and integration should look like in our churches. Thankfully we’re surrounded by incredible youth workers like Jared Sorber and Dante Sheppard who serve in diverse ministries and who can help others along the long arc of a multicultural approach to ministry.

If you don’t have time to watch the full hangout on air, here are a few nuggets of wisdom I took from the conversation with Jared and Dante:

The church should be the place where bridges are built between cultures.

Dante shared a powerful reminder that opportunities to engage in racial and cultural diversity are growing every day. But unfortunately we still find ways to separate ourselves into our own churches, groups, even schools. As the church, we should be actively working to build bridges across the divides, and our students can help us lead the way.

So when you think about your own youth ministry, how do you think your students are already positioned to help your church build bridges in your community?

Jesus’ desire and prayer was for unity.

Jared described how we’ve seen this push for diversity even in the early days of the Christian faith through the story in revelation of a unified church. Taking that thought a step further, the debate over circumcision between the Jews and Gentiles in the early church represents our continual need to be looking for those who fall outside of the lines we’ve drawn around ourselves.

When you think about the community that your church is in, are there people who don’t belong in your congregation? Why do they feel that way and what can we do to change that?

How does Bridgeway pursue a multicultural approach?

Back when Jared was first hired on at Bridgeway, they described what they called a 2020 vision. This vision was projecting that by the year 2020, the Hispanic population would surpass the African American population as being the leading minority in their area. That actually happened in 2008, 12-years sooner than they thought. Now, by 2040 there’s not going to be a single racial majority of the population in urban, suburban, and even rural areas. This reality is something that Bridgeway values and they reflect in the voices they seek to place into leadership, the people they put on stage or in the pulpit, and even the greeters that welcome people at the doors. Intentionally creating a visual representation of who their church wants to serve by year 2040, is a way that they can project their impact on the community long into the future.

How does your church’s leadership, even those on the greeting team, reflect the community you’re trying to reach? Do your volunteer teams intentionally incorporate and reflect the diversity you’re wanting to see in the congregation?

Multicultural ministries require the compromise of preferences.

During our conversation, I was struck by the simple idea that a multicultural approach to ministry means that I also have to be prepared to compromise the things I’ve come to prefer about my church. It might be a compromise in the music, in the style of gathering, in the artistic expressions, in the teaching method, in the look of the worship space or even the time. Any ministry that intentionally includes a diversity of cultures has to compromise in most, if not all of these areas.

This is the difference between integrating cultures into our ministries and forcing people to assimilate into our ministries. Integrating involves a mixing of cultural expressions, while assimilation requires an individual to acquire the cultural expressions that already exist within the group.

In what ways is your ministry requiring people to assimilate into your own cultural expressions? In what ways are you working to integrate new cultural expressions?


The tools and resources below are to help you continue today’s conversation with your ministry teams, adult leaders, and students. We’ve made all of our YS Explores videos and seminars that were a part of a focus on multiculturalism in the Church at the NATIONAL YOUTH WORKERS CONVENTION available to you for FREE. Just click the links below to start the download, and you can hear thought leaders from all across the spectrum of ministry share their experiences and how they practically took steps toward racial reconciliation.

Suggestions for continued reading.  

Jared and Dante wanted to add a few of their “must-read” recommendations to our growing list of books and resources we recommend for conversations on diversity in the church and racial reconciliation. Here’s that list with Jared and Dante’s added recommendations:


This year, we’re offering a unique pilot experience as an intentional cross-racial track threading throughout the NATIONAL YOUTH WORKERS CONVENTION. Youth leaders who have a desire to help the church and their students engage in racial reconciliation efforts are encouraged to apply for this pilot interactive experience.

This Experience includes:

  • A NYWC Intensive Seminar on Thursday November 17 where participants will learn not only about race and justice issues, but also explore their own role as reconcilers for their students, churches, and communities.
  • A city excursion to the NATIONAL UNDERGROUND RAILROAD FREEDOM CENTER in Cincinnati.
  • 1-2 hour guided group discussions each day during NYWC.
  • A final celebration gathering on Sunday morning.


We are constantly working to include helpful voices and perspectives from across the spectrum of youth ministry, especially those willing to engage in difficult topics like this. Here are two ways you can be involved:

  • Comment below with your thoughts and resources to share.
  • EMAIL ME directly to write a blog post about your experiences.

jacob-eckeberger_200_200JACOB ECKEBERGER is the Content Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.