Different Cultures, Or Just Different

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This past Sunday at our church we had a "cross-cultural" worship service, where the members of our Hispanic sister congregation joined with our already somewhat multicultural congregation for one huge event.

Having had the privilege of spending 10 years on the pastoral team of Immanuel's Church, a large multicultural ministry in the Washington, DC area, I was able to bring some insight into the planning and execution of the service.

Three things were determined beforehand, that made for a smooth melding of two distinct ministries:
  • Leave room for Time - Having had a bit of experience with an interpreter (five different languages - not all at the same time though!), I understand that when delivering a message or teaching in another language, it will take more than twice as long. It is more than just translation: There are inflection, idioms, and illustrations that require a little more focus, which require a little more time. We prepared for that, and sought to keep the message short and simple.
  • Leave room for Style - One of my tasks was organizing the music and worship for the service. We combined our English-speaking team with the Spanish-speaking team. It was one thing to choose songs that we both knew, alternating the verses between English and Spanish. But there were many other variables: what key each team was accustomed to playing in, how introductions and endings were done, etc. Even though we worked all of this out in rehearsal, during the service the Spanish team repeated a chorus that we hadn't planned on, because that was the style they were used to.
  • Leave room for Culture - This is one of those intangibles that one can't always plan for, but should be prepared for. Americanized people are different than non-Americanized people. Worship is different, prayer is different, response is different. Americans put their babies in childcare. Hispanics bring their babies with them into worship. American culture is tied to a clock when running a rehearsal. Other cultures, well, you get my drift.
In the end, our combined worship service was a taste of heaven on earth. But more than that, the principles we used in the planning and execution of the service apply to every area where more than one person is involved, because all of us are different.

Question: What have you found to be helpful in dealing with multiple cultures, or even just other people? Share your thoughts below in comments.

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