Written by Rev. Young Mee Park, District Superintendent of Dekalb District, Northern Illinois Conference
I am a second career, Korean-American clergywoman in my sixteenth year of CR/CC (Cross- Racial/Cross-Cultural) ministry. What an exciting adventure it has been! I had the privilege of serving as an associate pastor in a rural setting, as a lead pastor in a suburban setting, and as a district superintendent during the past six years. I will be transitioning back to the local church this summer, and I can’t wait to see how God will continue to mold and use me for the work of God’s Kingdom! You may find yourself in a similar situation either entering CR/CC ministry again or for the first time. It is my honor to share some of my thoughts with you, my fellow traveler on this amazing journey of CR/CC ministry.
CR/CC Ministry – God’s Design, Gospel Mandate, and Spirit’s Work
I remember how nervous I was when I began in my first CR/CC appointment. I was not sure whether I had the gifts and skills for the challenge. I even doubted the possibility of a successful CR/CC ministry. Yet, sixteen years later, I can tell you that a successful CR/CC ministry is not only possible, but it is God’s preferred way of building and growing God’s Kingdom! As Christena Cleveland put it clearly in her book, “Disunity in Christ,” Jesus was cross-cultural in every way. If we want to follow Jesus, we have to model him and build God’s Kingdom across racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. Through the ups and downs, and thick and thin of CR/CC ministry, let this conviction and confidence carry you on.
Listen – To Your Heart and With Your Heart
Not every congregation, and not every member of a congregation, is fully open and ready for a CR/CC appointment. Biologically, historically, and psychologically, human beings are conditioned to fear difference. Yet our calling is to be in ministry with people who are different from us. This is an awesome and, at the same time, a challenging task! How aware are you of your sensitivities and competence (cognitive, affective, and behavioral) to embrace racial and cultural differences in your ministry? How aware are you of your congregation’s ability to do the same? Are you willing to meet people where they are, and together, go through the journey of healing, reconciliation, and transformation? Leading begins with listening. Listen to your heart; listen with your heart. You have stories only you can tell and your congregation has stories only they can share.
Adapt – While Maintaining Your Own identity
Meeting people where they are and as they are – this is our calling. However, this does not mean that we need to give up our own identity. We need to adapt and not assimilate. I think it is easier to shift our cultural perspective and adapt our behaviors when we have a clear and strong sense of self. When cultural incidents happen (and they will), and there is confusion and misunderstanding (and there will be), we should not hold judgment, but rather, we should refuse to take offense. This is much easier when you know who you are, spiritually, and culturally.
- What about CR/CC ministry makes your heart sing? Where do you find life-giving and joy-producing energy for ministry?
- What concerns you most? What habits and practices do you have in place to transform your fears and doubts into joyful energy for ministry?
- How will you nurture a listening heart and a curious mind? How will you develop bridge bridging skills? How will you let God expand and stretch you and your congregation for the work of God’s Kingdom?