Developing a Multicultural Ministry

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Practical ways to get your kids to love and accept
kids from all cultures.

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“But she stinks, Daddy.”

Jason had refused to sit next to a little girl in our Bible club
in Spain. She was part of a subculture that wasn’t highly
respected. Jason’s reason for such stubbornness was echoed by the
other children who begged me to ask her and the other kids like her
to leave. We explained that we were there to preach the gospel to
everyone — even if they were unbathed and had tattered
clothes.

Some people are harder to like than others, and children can be
especially cruel to those they dislike. But that unloving attitude
needs to be dealt with while children are children. Hatred in our
society has produced violence toward so-called “unlovable” people
in epic proportions. We have to stem the tide of hatred now and
train children of all cultures to love the “foreigner” in their
midst.

As Christians, we have the responsibility to preach the gospel to
every person. We will never win them to Christ unless our faith
works by love. So in our ministry, we’ve developed these ways to
help children develop a more Christ-like compassion for kids from
other cultures.

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SET THE EXAMPLE
Your attitude as pastor, teacher, or parent makes all the
difference in your success at changing children’s attitudes.
There’s so much you can do to express acceptance of people from
varied cultures.

*Befriend people from all cultures. Put your arm around the
shoulders of all kids. Laugh and play with people who are different
to show that they’re fun to be with. Publicly praise the good
qualities of all children. Give positive illustrations from every
culture.

*Have fun. Play games related to other cultures to show how much
fun kids from other cultures can be. Put kids from different
cultures on the same team to cheer each other on. Have children
demonstrate skills in games that are popular in their cultural
backgrounds, such as soccer or breaking a Pinata.

Have children from each culture take turns teaching others a game
from their culture. Invite parents if necessary to help teach. See
the “Around the World” box for more resources. Or check out books
of festivals and games from around the world at your local
library.
Put a new twist to old ideas. Yell “toro!” like Spanish matadors
while playing Blind Man’s Bluff. With older kids, play a rhythm
concentration game, clapping to a rhythm while saying, “I’m taking
a trip to Belgium, and I’m going to take a…” Children name
something beginning with an A, then follow with a B item.

Have a cross-cultural party. Ask the parents of children from
other cultures for party ideas, or talk to a language teacher for
ideas. Folks from other cultures are often quite hospitable and may
open their homes for the party or prepare a favorite snack, such as
peanut soup or egg rolls.
Have kids make fun decorations to match the party theme. A
librarian can help you find numerous books of crafts from around
the world in the children’s section of the library.

SERIOUSLY SPEAKING
There are many things you can do to help kids learn to love all
people-no matter what culture they’re from, what they wear, or how
they smell. Here are more ideas:

*Talk-Include missions and themes of neighborly love
often in your messages and devotions. Regularly tell missionary
stories from countries represented in your group. Invite
missionaries, teachers, or parents from other cultural backgrounds
to share their experiences and discuss the need for the gospel
among their people. Invite respected authorities from varied ethnic
backgrounds to tell how their cultural backgrounds help them do a
good job. Such “heroes” could develop love and respect in the
children for people from other cultures.

*Drama-Act out cross-cultural Bible stories such as
Naaman’s servant girl (2 Kings 5:1-4), Daniel in Babylon (Daniel
1-2), or the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Emphasize in each
story how the “foreign” person may’ve felt. Then have a group
discussion about the story.

*Music-Look through your hymn book. Many of our beloved
songs are translations of hymns from other countries. For example,
“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a song from India. Have
bilingual parents teach your group a simple chorus such as “Jesus
Loves Me” in their native languages.

*Field trips-Visit the homes of children from other
cultures. Ask about their customs or cultural manners in the home.
If a snack is served, children may be surprised to discover that
they like food from other cultures. Anyway, a friend will be
won.

*Bible studies-Adapt Bible lessons to develop compassion
for those of other cultures. Jonah’s hatred of the Assyrians in
Nineveh (Jonah 1-4), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42),
and Paul’s love for the Gentiles (Acts 13:16-41) are just a few of
the possibilities. Emphasize Christian compassion and understanding
of others’ feelings in each situation.

The smelly little girl in Spain was won to Christ, as were many
others. She later brought her family and numerous friends to hear
of Christ’s love, just as the Samaritan woman at the well had done
in Christ’s day.

What won that little girl to Christ? A young man, who was reared
in New York City, loved her and the other grubby little ruffians.
He set them on his lap, put his arm around their shoulders, gave
them rides on his motorcycle, and won them to Jesus as he told them
of God’s love and salvation. A good example for all of us. cm

Rick Armstrong is a cross-cultural missionary now in
California.

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