DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

In search of a multicultural map

Written by: on January 31, 2019

In two weeks, I will be speaking at a retreat for a multicultural congregation where I will be a minority. The theme for the weekend is “Caring for self and others in the way of Jesus.” As I discussed the content with the planning team, I mentioned Brené Brown’s content around shame and vulnerability. A little later, one of the retreat facilitators let me know that it would be important for me to define what I mean by shame as many will have a different cultural concept of the term and may miss my meaning altogether if not explained. “Oh, good to know,” I said. For a moment I considered not using the term so I would not confuse the hearers. After thinking it over further I realized I need not shy away but rather, if the content calls for it, do exactly what the facilitator mentioned. Help people understand by saying out loud exactly what I mean, acknowledging how the term varies by context and culture.

As I prepare for the upcoming retreat, which includes facilitating a panel of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds as my final session, I am acutely aware of the reality that I am doing cross-cultural work and need to posture myself as a learner. Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map is a right-on-time guide as I navigate this upcoming experience as well as my long-term focus of empowering women, particularly women of color.

While reading The Culture Map I thought of friends and cohort members who live abroad and the experiences over the last two years in South Africa and Hong Kong. More than anything, I think back to my first cross-cultural experiences in Mexico and Ethiopia and the blunders I made, considering myself, as a US citizen as more intelligent and wealthier than the people I encountered. I think of my own pride and the charity I offered. Since that time, I have learned that my perceptions, cognitions, and actions were askew. My Western cultural assumptions were often on the opposite end of the scale as those I encountered.

In Meyer’s text the reader will find an eight-scale model outlined throughout eight chapters including communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling to help people from all cultures to navigate work and relationships well. Part of me wishes I would have read this text before I ever traveled. And yet, attempting to live with no regrets, I take it all as education for the journey and valuable information for future encounters.

Meyer is clear about what she expects the learner to gain from The Culture Map. “Cultural patterns of behavior and belief frequently impact our perceptions (what we see), cognitions (what we think), and actions (what we do). The goal of this book is to help you improve your ability to decode these three facets of culture and to enhance your effectiveness in dealing with them.”[1]

While there were many times I recognized the US perception right away, I was more interested in understanding what to do when multiple cultures come together. What do we do when more than two cultures are represented? Who do we defer to? How do we communicate in ways that are effective for all people in the space? In particular, I am considering the growing diversity of the US. This is one of the main reasons why I chose the Leadership and Global Perspectives program. While I love traveling and understanding other cultures, I recognize that the US is home for me and is growing ever more diverse. How do I relate both locally and globally to people who are culturally and ethnically different from me?

I was glad to see that toward the end of a few chapters Meyer addressed how to handle a mixed group of people. For each of the eight scales of the model Meyer presents, she has unique answers to guide not only cross-cultural engagement but also multicultural practice. For instance, in the first chapter on communication she remarks, “What matters is not so much the absolute positioning of a person’s culture on a particular scale, but rather their relative positioning in comparison to you.”[2] Meyer does not comment on multi-cultural engagement in every chapter but she does make a particular note at the end of the chapter on leadership that monocultural verses multicultural engagement should be considered carefully. There are many obstacles that present themselves in a multicultural setting. She cautions, “think carefully about your larger objectives before you mix cultures up. If your goal is innovation or creativity, the more cultural diversity the better, as long as the process is managed carefully. But if your goal is simple speed and efficiency, then monocultural is probably better than multicultural.”[3]

In my research with the church, I am finding churches are growing to highly value being multicultural. In some ways, it is becoming trendy and I wonder how deeply rooted is their ecclesiology. But in many more ways, diversity is the way of the kingdom of God and is modeled throughout Scripture, particularly in Paul’s church planting practices throughout the New Testament. With regard to Meyer’s statement of caution, one question that has struck me is, are churches who value diversity of cultures also churches who value innovation and creativity? Do the two go together? It seems that they must but it would be worth researching more. As I study equity and belonging of women and women of color, I wonder again, do churches need to be more open to creativity and different ways of being and doing than are typical?

From the experiences I am having with planning retreats and beginning to work on a doctoral project that directly engages people who are of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, I see my own ways of doing things are being challenged and I am innovating to accommodate voices not always heard. For example, I just purchased the book Hermanas: Deepening Our Identity and Growing our Influence by Natalia Kohn, Noemi Vega Quińones and Kristy Garza Robinson. Each chapter highlights one biblical woman alongside the stories of Latina women, encouraging them to lead from within their culture. The Hermanas are opening my eyes to a Latina reading and application of Scripture.

As a final thought on cross-cultural engagement, I received a handout by Pauline Fong, a program director of the Murdock Charitable Trust, to help people easily and appropriately engage other cultures. I have included Fong’s handout here.

[1] Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map: Breaking through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business. New York: Public Affairs, 2014, 16.

[2] Meyer, 36.

[3] Meyer, 82.

About the Author

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

20 responses to “In search of a multicultural map”

  1. Greg says:

    First off Trish. Great handout at the end. Those should be normal and engaging questions…I will say that it hurts my heart a little to know that one has to make a “don’t say this things” list. Loved the emphasis on multiculturalism. I remember my dad 25 years ago saying, “missions have home to America.” I do believe we are seeing and should recognize the kingdom and all of its glory (diversity). “…. but rather their relative positioning in comparison to you.” I have thought a lot about this quote when I read it. Maybe taking it a step farther. Have I have judged, compared and strived to develop leaders to be like me (like I a comfortable with)? I hope not but that’s is what I was challenged with reading your journey to help create a meaning cross cultural and multicultural event.

  2. mm M Webb says:

    Trisha,
    Great opening and focus on shame as a culturally and contextually sensitive topic to discuss at your upcoming retreat. I’m sure you will do a good job sharing your ideas and connecting with your audience.
    Speaking to multiple cultures at one time is challenging, but I encourage you to think of Peter and Pentecost. I have seen that sharing in and around the Gospel seems to transcend most culture gaps.
    Thanks for the C-C Tips. Good guidance when making new relationships for sure.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Mike, thanks for your encouragement. The retreat went well and I did stay pretty central to the gospel message with regard to caring for self in light of the two greatest commandments. Really, the attendees may have blessed me more than I did them by revealing the kingdom of God in a powerful multicultural way.

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Trish!

    I am so interested in your work for leaders in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition. I trust that your leadership grants are going well!?

    How do you decide who you give to, and what do they have to do to apply? (No, I am not applying for a grant, I am genuinely interested in the criteria). Is there a place I go that shows me what people do to apply, and what they must tell you? Is this it?

    https://lillyendowment.org/our-work/religion/pastoral-leadership/initiatives/thriving-ministry-initiative/

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jay, I realize you asked me some of these questions on Zoom last week and I hope I answered them well with regard to the grants. Feel free to reach out any time. Happy to support your good work. I’m on a plane to Indy right now for our Pastors Thriving grant.

  4. Great post, Trisha!

    It’s interesting that they wanted you to delve into the concept of shame more deeply. I can only imagine the crowd and their interpretation. Some might consider shame from a communal view, others individually and others from a familial standpoint. Are the panelists those of varied races who were born in the USA or those who have migrated from other countries?

    Do you find that differences amongst those who have adapted to North American expectation? Have some of their culture been eradicated by American standards of group conformity?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Colleen, we just finished the retreat and it was amazing! The panelists were all from different ethnic and socioeconomic places. I think all but one of the people on the panel were born in the US though multiple others in the room were born internationally. I was so humbled by them and the depth with which they shared.
      Yes and yes to your questions. I notice some people who are very American by culture but they are also able to adapt to their home culture when around others who are from the same background.

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Trisha,

    I think you are correct in recognizing that in the U.S. church multiculturalism is becoming a little trendy. This concerns me too because I fear that some are using it as the latest and greatest gimmick to be better than the church down the road.

    I do want the church to be more diverse, especially in leadership as I believe that will naturally drive the church to become more multi-ethnic and inclusive. How do you think that can be facilitated without the gimmicks?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Dan, after having been with the group at the retreat and as I see more and more multicultural leaders arise, I think we have to put them in the same positions (or even elevated positions) as those currently in leadership. They need a voice and platform given them by the current respected authority. And they have to have an equal voice in the leadership, vision and outcomes. To me this will change the dynamics from tokenism to real multiethnic space. Also, have you listened to Malcom Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast? He has one that highlights what I’m talking about called “the hug heard around the world.” It’s amazing…sad…and true.

  6. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Trisha! I wish I could be a part of your retreat. It sounds awesome! You raise a great question – is it trendy now to be a multicultural congregation? I think the answer is yes, but I’m not sure (like you questioned) if churches are doing the necessary work to truly be culturally competent. What do you see as the missteps churches are making in their transitions to being multicultural?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jean, if you would have been there I would have had you share- you would have loved it! The short answer to your question for me is look at my response to Dan. 🙂

  7. Shawn Hart says:

    Trisha, your post made me remember something I realized on my last trip to Jamaica. The churches I interacted with were all started as a result of missionaries that had gone there from the states back in the 80s. As a result, I heard many of the same sermons, doctrines, and perspectives that I was raised on. Sadly, those were very stubborn times for the churches of Christ, with very little room for grace, and even less room for expanded understanding of Scripture. The very nature was a “better safe than sorry” type of doctrine. Though I can see merit in that type of teaching, I also saw a lot of reluctance to learning more than what you had already been taught. Jamaica is now like that in many ways when it came to studying the Bible. However, I realized that I did not need to stop trying to teach them something new; but I did need to first meet them where they were.

    When the Gospel Meeting I was teaching finally began later in my visit, the topic was “Being Thankful to God for Grace.” By this point however, I had managed to discusses the differences between how they approached scripture and how I approached it…even though we viewed much the same. Following the very first lesson, the local preacher said, “My congregation were very pleased at realizing how little they actually understood about grace.” By overcoming the barriers first, I did not have to change my lesson at all; I just had to make sure that they were able to understand it.

    I agreed with your perspective on not needing to change the content, but rather just help the audience better understand our perspective more adequately.

    Great job

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Thanks Shawn! I’m glad for your willingness to sit with and listen to those who have differing perspectives from your own. Thanks for your sharing too!

  8. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Trisha,
    Great post, I appreciate your sharing with us the journey you are on in helping multiple cultures come together in one church. I wonder what do you find to be the hardest bridge to gap in between multiple cultures in the same retreat?

    Jason

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jason, with regard to the retreat, which just ended yesterday, I think language and varied cultural experience are two gaps. The one that I became most aware of though was my place of privilege among the people I spoke to and the authority they gave me though they don’t know me well. I have much more education and wealth than some and I stuck close to the text to be able to offer love and wisdom without getting too far from their own experience.

  9. Dave Watermulder says:

    Trisha,
    Very strong post, thank you for this! I especially enjoyed the handout at the end, and may have to borrow and adapt it for my own use :). It sounds like you are really doing this work, even as you study/learn about it. I appreciated not only your insights, but also your self-reflection on how you engage with people in cross-cultural settings. I imagine you would do a great job with this. Kudos.

  10. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Trish, thanks for sharing. Your highlighing of the book Hermana’s was especially fascinating to me. I just shared that resource with our new childrens pastor who is a latina. 🙂

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