By: Christa Meland
Are you wondering how your church can reach people who speak a different language or come from a different culture? Are you noticing that your church doesn’t reflect the diversity of the world around you? Are you struggling to find ways to bridge political, theological, or economic divides?
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then intercultural competency training through the Minnesota Conference bears consideration for your church.
The Minnesota Conference is undergoing an intentional learning process to develop competent leadership for a changing, diverse world; the process started when Common Table, a group of Minnesota Conference staff and volunteer leaders, asked the Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR) to help the conference develop intercultural competence.
For the last two years, the Minnesota Conference has been partnering with the Kaleidoscope Institute, a spiritually centered organization that provides inclusiveness and diversity skills training and coaching to churches and church leaders. Conference leaders and six congregations within the conference have already gone through the training, and additional congregations are being invited to participate in the second round of training, which will begin this fall.
To participate in the upcoming round of training, congregations would need to commit to engaging in an 18-month process led by trained facilitators that would ground them in key skills and practices, help them develop individual and congregation action plans for reaching new and diverse people and embodying a more multicultural way of life, and provide coaching to implement the congregation’s action plan. A team comprised of the pastor and three to five lay leaders from each church would participate in six learning sessions taking place between November of this year and April of next year.
“We are looking for churches who want to make a difference in their communities by realizing the need for building leadership in a diverse world through the understanding of culture and what we bring as individuals to the community,” says Rev. Bescye Burnett, who is leading the conference’s intercultural competence programs and who serves as pastor of both Janesville United Methodist Church and Elysian United Methodist Church. “It doesn’t matter the size, culture background, or the theological perspective of the congregation. Our goal is to build a community base on our understanding of what Christ gave us about love.”
Last year, the conference received a $20,000 grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) to develop intercultural competence. Earlier this year, the conference applied for another $20,000 grant that would be used to further its progress in this arena, and it will find out in September whether it will receive the second grant. Burnett says the second round of intercultural competency training will take place whether or not the grant is awarded.
So far, three congregations have indicated interest in the upcoming training—although Burnett hopes to have at least 10 churches participate. Cost for participation ranges from $250 to $500 based on the size of each congregation.
Interested congregations should e-mail a letter of interest to Rev. Bescye Burnett and Rev. Marj Evans-de-Carpio, a consultant who’s working alongside Burnett, by September 9. They will then receive an orientation packet, which provides additional details and asks for participant information, and a covenant agreement, which asks for a commitment to the training, both of which would need to be turned in by October 4.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church