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

Working in multicultural teams is messy

Written by: on September 15, 2019

Meyer, The Culture Map


The Culture Map is a very precise book that I have ever read on culture. Even though it’s base on an anthropological approach to the business world, the book has many applicable insides that are very helpful for those working on a multicultural environment.

First of all, when I was a missionary for eight years with the Baka people in Cameroon Africa. I was trained to think cross-cultural, and that experience became very handy during our time as lead pastors of our churches. Recently, I was responsible for two campuses with four congregations in each site. Our model of ministry was that of a “one church multiple locations” two of the congregations are English speaking and two Spanish speakings.

They all share a very diverse community. For example, the English congregations have parishioners from Iran, African American, Africans, Koreans Americans, Nepal, China, Philippines, Euro Americans, Europeans from France, second, third and fourth-generation Latin American from South, Centro, and North America. Our Hispanics congregations are also diverse by far. They have parishioners from almost all over Latino America.

As a second-generation Latino, I am also bridging the first-generation Latino that conserves their culture and have a hard time assimilating and integrating and the Anglo American that also has a hard time with been insensitivity of other.

At church, we also have a leadership challenge, and that’s where we spend a lot of time cultivating unity and focusing a great deal of time in the things that we have a common. We eat together because food brings us together. But the Lord brings us closer in unity. One Lord, one baptism, one salvation, one body in Christ (the church)…

As a leader I have to pay attention to the communication.  That brings me back to the reading, and I wanted to affirm some observations from Mayer concerning communication in the contexts of criticism. “People from all cultures believe in “constructive criticism.” Yet what is considered constructive in one culture may be viewed as destructive in another”.

Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map (INTL ED) (p. 62). Public Affairs. Kindle Edition.

When I have to address criticism to the Korean leader, I have to do it with so much respect so that I don’t make him feel that he is losing face. Nevertheless, it is true that criticism changes from every culture. Most of our third and ford and generations Anglo American leaders will say what is on their minds and on a direct way whit out beating around the bushes too much.

I am constantly reminded of is to be careful not to create a feeling that will make them feel defensive towards me. One thing to remember is that intercultural communication is essential, and it takes skills to maneuver it.

I am very intrigue about the author observation on feedback. When I am with my Latino leaders, and I ask for feedback, and they don’t respond as I wish. It is not that they don’t have feedback, but what it is that they prefer to show it on their paperwork or around a chill moment of connectivity.

Remember that some stiles of feedback could be verbal, or non-verbal, and in some cases, both it depends on the educational level or cultural upspring. In North American culture, we practice feedback. But don’t bee surprised if you can’t get feedback from me on a Zoom meeting or classroom setting. We may talk about it during mealtime.

I encourage feedback to all of my leaders regardless because it allows for the opportunity to make good judgments about the communication. I usually ask, “how would this… play out in your culture,” and that gets everyone talking. “Feedback the continental European cultures to the left or middle often experience Americans as strikingly indirect, while Latin Americans perceive the same Americans as blunt and brutally frank in their criticism style.”

Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map (INTL ED) (p. 70). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

“Your leadership style, you find that the atmosphere slowly improves, and so do the bottom-line results. These are an example of how we use the eight scales and the culture mapping process to effect genuine, powerful changes within organizations, to the benefit of everyone involved”.

Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map (INTL ED) (p. 18). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

These are the most challenging aspect of our organization because, in addition to a multicultural team, we have multigenerational and social-economic differences. Navigating over all those differences is always like walking over eggshells. One can assume that because we are believers and share Christ as a comment grand that we work together, but that’s not always true.

First of all, the enemy is busy trying to divide us, and he comes on with the race card of misunderstandings amount other things. When I was a missionary working with a multicultural team, we had all kinds of tension and resistance. In part, it was because it was hard to understand each other. At church, we have less stress, but we confront many challenges like language.

We know that language is a barrier but not just in the word that comes out of our mouth but the body language as well. Like when I preach, sometimes it gets messy when I say inappropriate things. With the leadership, I always have to be sensitive to our the cultural differences,

How I make decision affects, directly and indirectly, in any process we are involved with as a church. My priorities, values, and the way I lead play a big roll in the process. Even my style of preaching and the tone of my voice can sound too much for some people. So, in conclusion, global leadership in the context of a multicultural church in Southern California requires a learning spirit, hambones, be willing to take indirect offense, do your homework, be diplomatic for some and authoritarian for others.  Tailor an excellent and clear road map of your multicultural ministry setting

About the Author


Joe Castillo

14 responses to “Working in multicultural teams is messy”

  1. nusa penida says:

    I just like the helpful info you supply in your articles.

  2. mm Steve Wingate says:

    I appreciated your insights on how feedback is best sought. Maybe we ought to ask our direct reports or the person at the table how they like to have feedback. Is it active? Is it they need time to process?

  3. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Joe, I live near Portland, OR, where there is very little diversity. There’s even less diversity in the suburb where I actually reside. In my systems class last year we discussed how difficult it was to have churches that are inter-racial/cultural. It was noted how when too much diversity exists, people begin feeling like they don’t belong or fit in. This often leads to people leaving and finding more homogeneous communities of faith. Has that been the case in your context? How do you maintain the balance of belonging with so much diversity? I look forward to learning more from you in the years to come as you share your experiences in such a richly diverse ministry context. Your wisdom and insight will be much appreciated.

    • mm Joe Castillo says:

      But when we learn to live in diversity is like preparing for what heaven is going to look like. I experience people leaving back into a more monoculture and other returning into the multicultural setting. Our vision is to reflect the community that we live in. If your community is predominated of a particular culture that’s what you’re going to get but not limited to just the dominated culture we must reach out to all people regardless or else we have lost what the gospel is about.

  4. mm Dylan Branson says:

    There’s a beauty in living and working with multicultural congregations, but there are definitely challenges that come with it. I respect your humility and learning approach to balancing all of the different nationalities and cultures you work with in your current context. We all carry certain expectations with us – whether conscious or not – when we interact people. One of my mentors always uses the phrase, “Conflict is the gap between expectations” to describe cultural tensions (and conflict as a whole). We come into conflict with other cultures when we expect one thing and someone does the opposite or something different. Learning to navigate the gap is important to understanding those around us.

  5. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Joe, you possess such a rich and varied background in cross-cultural ministry. What different approaches have you seen in the hiring of multi-ethnic leaders in hopes of giving different groups a voice “at the top”? Our organization is having a challenging time moving form a PWI to multi-ethnic.

    • mm Joe Castillo says:

      Very slow process. We build relationships before we hire anyone and that takes time. Depending on the situation consider a second-generation person knowledgeable of both cultures that will be the bridge, the middle man that will look for the best interest of both parties.

  6. mm Greg Reich says:

    Joe I am a bit envious! I seek out culturally diverse relationships. I truly don’t feel I can experience the fulness of the body of Christ without fellowshipping with other believers outside of my church and my culture. Does the diversity of you congregation change the way you preach? Does it affect how you approach counseling your people?

  7. mm John McLarty says:

    I share your desire for diversity and greater understanding, but I’m still learning how to be more aware of my own default settings and how they are different than someone else’s default setting. I lead a small team of people, but we’re blessed with a little bit of cultural diversity. I have to remember that my distinctly white, Texan, male perspective is not the only point of view in the room and be open to what I can learn from others.

  8. Nancy Blackman says:

    “When I have to address criticism to the Korean leader, I have to do it with so much respect so that I don’t make him feel that he is losing face.” I chuckled because not only is this true, but it goes deeper than just business or ministry.

    You brought up language barriers within the many cultures in the church. Were you able to connect any dots when reading the section on linguistics in “Being Wrong”?

    “Remember that some stiles of feedback could be verbal, or non-verbal, and in some cases, both it depends on the educational level or cultural upspring.” When I led retreats for Russian leaders I found that I had to be very careful of my non-verbal messages. It is so important to understand the culture that one is ministering to before actually hitting the ground. I recognize that, on one level we are all children of God and race should not be an issue, but we do come together in our own cultural context. Even a Norwegian might have difficulties when communing with a German. Do you think it boils down to only race or does personality play a role?


  9. mm Joe Castillo says:

    1- Yes, two things came up how the different ways of understanding and generate explanations.

    Or maybe you and I just have different understandings of linguistically identical statements.

    Schulz, Kathryn. Being Wrong (p. 253). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

    The right brain, by contrast, is only minimally linguistic; it can understand commands and initiate actions, but it can’t generate explanations.

    Schulz, Kathryn. Being Wrong (p. 80). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

    2- I will say a little bit of race and personality.

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