Panel Moderator: Gena McCown Panel Contributors: Jenny Andrews, Aimee Nelson
Click Here To Listen to the Audio Recording of the Panel Session
PLEASE NOTE: We allowed questions to be submitted anonymously. We made the decision to read the question as it was written, we were not going to adjust the questions at all. This kept our session authentic. We all agreed to receive the questions with grace, and good intentions. However, the answers may have been adjusted as this is a learning opportunity.
The first question was missed, which was what is the correct terms to refer to people of other races/ethnicities. The answer begins with the uniqueness we have in S. FL as we are an entry point and home to many first generation immigrants. In S. FL. African American does not apply to everyone who has dark skin. The audio carries on the answer defining the various ethnicities we encounter in S. FL and the rest of the questions.
Unfortunately we were moved outside for the meeting, which inhibited our ability to video the panel, and hit the audio with some unexpected noises. Praise God we have this to share with those who couldn’t attend.
We have decided that this subject is going to be continued in future discussions.
It can be hard to come to terms with a subject that is just completely outside of your scope of understanding. To have someone think less of you for nothing more than the color of your skin, or your country of origin. To be treated as less than, to have lower expectations on your ability, or marginalized by how you look before someone even takes the time to get to know you.
Something else that is also hard is a willingness to call out sin for what it is, especially when it a sin you don’t want to admit is still present. Even more so when that sin is being committed by yourself or others you know, particularly when you know that they are a good person. From tasteless jokes to out right discrimination, we must come to terms with the fact that racism still exists in our country. Yes, there are areas in the country that are more progressive than others. There are people who have fought for civil rights in the past, and those who are still doing so today, because they believe in equality for all people.
Yet, there are still places where racism exists in very blatant ways. Many more where racism is far more subtle. If we call racism what it is, SIN… then we know exactly what we are supposed to do with that sin. Which is tackle it head on. It can be far easier to justify someone’s sin, by pointing out a persons checkered past or giving a good person a pass for an inappropriate joke. Jesus never gave sin a pass. Nor should we.
As our eyes become more open to the wounds that have not healed, we feel conviction over our thoughts and words. We make the effort to change ourselves, to influence those around us. For others, and for any number of reasons, their eyes are still covered by scales. They can not see the sin, and as leaders we have a responsibility to not allow sin to go unchecked.
What are some practical ways you can be apart of change in your life, Women’s Ministry, Church, and community? To confront sin, we must identify it and then actively work against it.
- Take the time to understand the feelings of others by choosing to be quiet and listen. Ask people who come from other cultures and ethnicities to share their experiences with you, and do not interject your opinions. Allow them to speak, listen to what is being said, and take time to reflect on that conversation before you respond with more questions.
- Read. There are plenty of books on the subject of racism and also on racial reconciliation. You can watch interviews online, panel discussions, and more. Google “Race and the Church” or “Racial Reconciliation and the Church” and you’ll find a trove of useful information. I recommend “UNITED” by Trillia Newbell.
- Challenge your Women’s Ministry team (or church leaders) to go through “The Bridge to Racial Unity” Bible Study as a team. You can access this through the ministry Be The Bridge. Enter this study with humbleness, willingness to listen, and as the leader of the ministry set the tone of respect. If you do not have any women of color serving on your ministry team, considering inviting a few willing women to go through this study with your team. Women who are willing to field your questions with grace and mercy.
- PRAY for your own life to become open to diversity, that the Lord will bring the women to add to your Women’s Ministry team, and convict the heart of your church leaders to create a space that is welcoming to all of God’s people (even when it means getting out of our comfort zones in how we worship) including bringing people of color onto staff positions.
Leaders from Women’s Ministries in St Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties gathered for a special Women’s Ministry Council event. We began a conversation about race, diversity, and unifying our ministries and churches. This conversation is just the beginning, and we are going to continue working through this topic through articles and future meetings.
One of the overwhelming themes from this event was that if we want to be a part of a movement of change in our ministries, we must being within our own life. As ministry leaders, the practical steps are more obvious. Broaden the authors of your Bible studies to women from various ethnicities, as well as the speakers you hire for your brunches or retreats. Make sure you invite women to serve on the Women’s Ministry team that represent all the cultures in your church. Partner up with churches of other cultures for events or come together for a fellowship event.
Making changes in our personal life is a bit harder. It means stepping out of our own comfort zone. Have you invited someone of another ethnicity to your home for dinner or coffee? Are you reading authors or following influential speakers who are from another culture than you are? Have you made an effort to learn more about the other cultures who make up the community you live in?
- PERSONAL: Go to a women’s event at a local church that is a different culture/ethnicity than your own. LEADER: Go as a WM Team.
- PERSONAL: Read Bible Studies, books, or attend an event where the speaker is from another culture/ethnicity than your own. LEADER: Use these materials in your church. (I recommend Kristie Anyabwile, Trilla Newbell, Priscilla Shirer)
- PERSONAL: Attend local cultural festivals in your community. LEADER: Host a multi-cultural event at your church or in conjunction with other local churches.
- PERSONAL: Invite a woman from another culture out for coffee or to your home for lunch/dinner. LEADER: Invite a WM Leader from that church for lunch to talk shop, and see how you can partner together.
- PERSONAL: Intentionally build relationships with women of other cultures. LEADER: Intentionally build a women’s ministry team that is as diverse as your church.
- PERSONAL: Volunteer at a local culture church’s fundraiser or drop items off for their charity drives. LEADER: As a team, volunteer.
- PERSONAL: When a new friend of another ethnicity celebrates a birthday, send a birthday card and take the time to translate it into their native language (if they are fluent). LEADER: Send cards of encouragement or prayer to leaders at local churches, taking the time to translate it into their native language. Google translate is a help, but I bet you can find a friend online/facebook that can help too.
If you have made efforts to build bridges between the various cultures in your community, we’d love to hear what you have done!
In the past, the Monday after our Women’s Ministry Council meeting, we will usually publish to the site a recap of the events. This particular meeting was probably one of our hardest subjects to date, and a conversation we know that we are not done with. Before we even attempt to put into words what happened at our Diversity and Unification meeting, I would like to thank those who contributed to the success of equipping women leaders on an important subject.
Thank you to Moody Publishers, who donated a copy of Trillia Newbell’s book UNITED: Captured By God’s Vision for Diversity for each of the women in attendance. We pray that each leader is able to use this resource not only for her own benefit but also to share with her team and church.
Thank you to International Missions Board, who donated their Limitless material and the Gospel in Henna Tattoo and Explanation Card sets. To be diversified in the church requires a diversity in how we reach out to other cultures.
Thank you to MOPS International for the donation of these awesome tote bags, MOPS groups are a great way to open our church doors to the community at large and bring many different people to the table.
Thank you to Be the Bridge, who created the Bridge to Racial Unity Bible Study materials. Also thank you to the donors from the community who provided the funds to print the study, allowing each woman to take home a physical copy.
Please pray with us that all of these materials will be a blessing to the churches in which they make their way back to.
Additionally we announced a few exciting pieces of news:
- 2018 We will begin to roll out WMC groups in other cities!
- 2018 the WMC will offer our first full day event for women leading in the church, LeadHer Conference. The 2018 theme is: LeadHer with Wisdom
Please pray along with us over these next steps, as we remain faithful and obedient to do as God asks us in HIS timing not our own.
Over the next several articles, we will begin to break down the content from the training, point our readers to resources, and share the ways we are going to keep this conversation going.
In April, our local Women’s Ministry Councils will begin the start of what we hope is an ongoing conversation toward understanding the value of diversity in our lives and our ministries; as well as the role the Church should play in unification among God’s people.
We recognize that not all of our readers and Facebook friends are local, but that doesn’t mean that we do not want you involved in this conversation. In fact, we’d love to see these conversations starting in your ministries too.
As we prepare for this important conversation, over the next several weeks WMC is going to share resources with our Women’s Ministry Leaders and teams. These resources are ones that we are using for research and preparation, recommended reading, and tools that you can use not only for your own growth but for facilitating change in your church.
All of our churches in attendance at our April meeting will receive a copy of Trillia J. Newbell’s book UNITED from Moody Publishers. If you are not local or will not be attending that meeting, this is a great book to start with.