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  • Hannah Williamson

10 Principles for leading in a multicultural youth ministry

I recently found this list I made from back in 2012! It felt even more relevant today than it was back then so I thought I would share it with you! For 15 years, I had the honour of youth pastoring in a hugely multicultural environment. Our youth group was made up of a variety of cultures which in many ways reflected the town in which we served. In fact, I remember going to take a religious education lesson in a local school and in a class of 30, 28 young people were of completely different nationalities! Here are a few things I learnt back in 2012, but I continue to learn to this day.

'Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people.' Revelation 14:6

No other organisation does this like the church. Even secular youth clubs do not and cannot run like a family, but the church can. In a family, members have similarities and differences that have to be accepted and learnt about. It is the same when it comes to your youth group and different cultures.

In order to understand why people act the way they do, the best thing to do is ask good questions! Different cultures have different viewpoints and traditions that may effect the way you reach out to young people. Hang out with some young people of other cultures and ask questions!

This is important whether they are of another culture to you or not, but it can often help in understanding how families work and how to help young people with family issues within a certain culture.

A great way to help young people appreciate other cultures is to take them to another part of the world which is different to the way they live. This will open their eyes to understanding other cultures and may then help in your local context.

When dealing with potential challenges to do with culture, youth workers of that culture or a similar culture may be able to help you deal with or help the young person better than just dealing with it yourself with little understanding.

An example that we did is something called ‘The Dining Room’ in which groups of young people with a leader would go round to a family in the churches house for dinner. The host homes are of all different nationalities and the groups of young people going would be a mixture of nationalities. It allowed young people to experience a family different to their own.

There was often a great deal of banter between cultures but when it crosses the line to racism, deal with it quickly and take it seriously. Young people will observe the way you deal with this and will quickly understand your viewpoint on racism.

A way of doing this is to intentionally include this into you normal youth programme. For example, having a mission’s focussed night at which you can have different foods for people to taste, different cultures’ music etc.

Sometimes groups of young people can stick together in cultural groups as it is more comfortable. Do all you can to bring young people of other cultures into groups. Be intentional about groups of young people that you put together for small groups.

Young people will always copy what the leader does. If you only have friends of the same culture to you, they will copy that. Whereas, if they see you spending time with a wide variety of cultures and learning about them, they are most likely to copy this.

It seems strange looking back on this as this was from 7 years ago yet still applies. I think what stood out to me from back then was how intentional we as a youth group tried to be. I’m sure we didn’t always get it right, but the important thing is the intentionality. In light of all that is going on in our world today, particularly in light of racism, do all you can to build a youth group that reflects the Kingdom of God – a youth group that is full of every culture and most importantly is full of love and understanding.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

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