oGmlilg (1)This week’s question is from a pastor who is looking for ways to respect diversity in her congregation:

Dear Matriarchs,

Our small congregation is becoming more and more diverse (hooray!). Diverse in different ways–racial background, sexual orientation, educational level, socieconomic status. My question is: how do we live into this diversity in faithful ways which honor everyone? I’d love to hear your experiences and recommendations for reading (for me, for the governing board, or for the whole congregation). 

Thank you,
Pastor of a slowly-getting-there congregation

Rev. Kelley offers us some awesome ideas:

Dear Pastor of a “Slowly-getting-there-Congregation”,

I celebrate with you on the good news of the growing diversity in your congregation! How wonderful! May we all move in that same direction.

“How do we live into diversity in faithful ways which honor everyone” is a question all pastors and congregations should be asking. I share these few thoughts to your question:

1) Be intentional to include diversity in your lay worship leadership and lay governing leadership 

2) Create opportunities for safe, small-group faith sharing and bible study so that those who share differing views will learn to talk and to listen to each other

3) Focus on the incredible truths we all share together in Christ, regardless of our political identities, sexual orientations, racial backgrounds

4) Have your congregation be part of intergenerational service and mission ministry, so that the focus together is on loving our neighbors and serving Christ

5) Offer Christian Education classes where your people are allowed to share views and ask questions about differences theologically and culturally and spiritually, and where active listening is taught and modeled 

God be with you in your important ministry.

Rev. Kelley Wehmeyer Shin
Centerville, Ohio

Thank you, Kelley!

Your turn, dear reader: How do you keep diversity from creating divisions in your congregation? Please share your experiences and resources in the comments below.

Do you have a dilemma confounding your congregation or a question about the pastor life? Send your scenario to askthematriarch (at) gmail (dot) com


Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor serving in Nashville TN.  She is a contributor to the RevGals book, “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit” and blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.


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One thought on “Ask the Matriarch: Strategies for the Diverse Congregation

  1. Kelley is wise in her advice, and I agree — in my diverse congregation, the greatest learning and joy come from the opportunities people have to connect with each other. As the pastor, I feel like part of my call is to a bridge-builder, connecting people who may have diverse backgrounds but share a common interest or an experience. I also suspect that you may become a translator of culture for people — they may come to you and ask “why does that group do that?” Or “why are they so upset about ____?” You can use those experiences to educate the wider congregation and add to their cultural understanding of each other. Blessings in this work! It will ruin you with joy — you’ll never be able to serve a non-diverse congregation again, after this!

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