I came across an interesting interview in the recent issue of Leadership Journal. The subjects of the interview were from River City Community Church—a multi-ethnic ministry located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Leadership talked with Daniel Hill, who founded the ministry, along with several key leaders of the church.
Here's a brief excerpt of their conversation:
What kind of person is attracted to River City?
Hill: Most of our new people are white. But there's a revolving door with the white community here. They have a romantic notion of being part of a multi-ethnic church, so many of them get frustrated and leave when they realize how difficult it is to erase their assumptions about the way church is supposed to be.
What assumptions do white people carry into the church?
Arloa Sutter (pastor of community life): When I came I said, "Let's just start small groups! Everyone wants to be in a group, right?" The fact is small groups aren't as important to other ethnicities as they are to white people.
Small groups are a white church thing?
Hill: White people rely on small groups to connect. Other ethnicities form community more organically, more relationally. Immigrant communities find fellowship within extended families. In the city a lot of community happens on the front porch or sidewalk. So non-whites aren't as eager to set up structures and systems like small groups.
Carlos Ruiz (coordinator of community groups): I think whites really value efficiency.
Antoine Taylor (director of Sunday morning ministries): And releasing that value is really hard for a lot of them. They perceive other ways of operating as inefficient or disorganized.
Jennifer Idoma-Motzko (elder): They say it's not the right way to do church. And I respond bluntly by saying, "You mean it's not the white way to do church."
Obviously, there are some pretty strong statements there, and they raise several important questions:
1. Are small groups primarily a "white" way to do church?
2. If we assume that non-white ethnicities connect more easily and organically than whites, does that mean small groups have no use in those communities? Or can they be a supplement to those organic connections?
3. Are small groups really about efficiency? Is that the appeal they bring to churches, whether white or otherwise?
I've got some thoughts on these questions, but I would really like to hear what all of you think before I let loose.
You can read the full interview with the leaders of River City Community Church in Aug/Sep issue of our digizine, Catalyst Leadership.