Recently, I celebrated another work-versary. Working at The Wesleyan Church Headquarters has been a great learning experience for me, not only because of getting to know so many pastors, leaders, church planters, and lay people that are so faithful to the Church and their zip codes; but also, growing in my leadership constantly. Personally, I like learning. It comes easily for me. I can spend little time trying to figure things out and I grasp it fast, but I know this is not the case for everyone. From time to time, some of my co-workers ask me to help them when they feel stuck with something, and this helps me with perspective and remembering how other people learn, too.
This perspective brings me to the main point of this article today: we all learn differently. It might sound obvious, but I think sometimes we forget about it!
I come from a household where both parents were teachers and they did it beautifully, with passion. They always looked for ways to make themselves understood no matter how different the approach had to be. They wanted all their students to grasp what they were teaching. No one was going to be left behind, not understanding what was being taught. Now that I am working in the Church Multiplication and Discipleship Division as the Translation and Multiethnic Specialist, I find myself advocating for others concerning understanding and learning, too. In Ephesians 4:11, the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to the church. He did this in the days of the New Testament, and still does it today. But: how are we taking inventory of our people’s gifts and talents? Are we assuming we all learn the same way? Are we taking the time to help others comprehend what we are wanting to teach them?
Being a Multiethnic Specialist is a very interesting role: it has allowed me to be a part of group conversations about multiethnic books, being a panelist of multiethnic and discipleship webinars, and, as of these last months, I have had the privilege to lead several conversations around the article The Wesleyan Church… as it is in Heaven. It has allowed me to help others realize that diversity is not just based on skin color, ethnicity, language, or the culture you are from. Rather, it also involves the way you learn, how young/old you are, the way you listen to things, and how things are translated in your head. In order for us to be effective cross-culturally, we need to be able to see these nuances and adapt to what is needed. Yes, it can be exhausting. Yes, it takes time and intentionality, and yes, it is a kind of work that doesn’t build right away but, it’s so valuable when we apply it!
For us in the larger Wesleyan denomination, we use the words Kingdom Force, and since my first language is Spanish, sometimes I must dig deeper into the words to understand what the meaning of something is. Kingdom Force is another way to say “we need diversity in our churches:” of various age groups (multigenerational), of various backgrounds and ethnicities (multiethnic), of various monetary understandings (multieconomic), both women and men, and those who sit in the pew, as well as, those who are leaders of the church (lay and clergy). This broad diversity we talk about includes aspects we need to be aware of. I will share a few thought processes and action methods we can take to build on intentionality concerning this subject.
In terms of thought process methods:
- Learning Approach: We don’t all learn the same way. Some of us are visual, some are auditory, others read/write, and some are kinesthetic. When we lead, it is necessary to include these in order for everyone to understand and grasp what is being communicated – like catching our vision.
- Leadership Approach: Some people can follow a chain of command easily while others are not as formal. This is a very important methodology I keep in mind that teaches me each and every time.
- Adaptability Approach: Some of us are flexible to changing circumstances while others are stricter. The good thing about this approach is that it teaches us how to communicate needs and expectations depending on the situation at hand.
- Communication Approach: Not everyone communicates identically what they want. Some have to take time to process information before they talk, while others process at the moment. This approach allows us to make time and pause for others to allow them to give their opinion.
If you want to learn more about some of these approaches, here you can find a tool to analyze cultural values in your organization, church, or team.
When it comes to action methods, I want to offer you suggestions that I have been putting into practice after participating in several cohorts. Looking at these ways either from a different angle or approaching them differently, will make people feel valued and heard, which is so important, especially when we think of diversity.
- Feedback questions: When you are talking to someone, or listening to their story, ask a few extra questions to make sure what you are hearing is what the person is meaning. This technique is called “the drive-thru method”. To understand this approach, think about going to a fast-food restaurant and ordering food. They usually say back what you ordered to make sure they heard everything you said. It works the same in our relationships and conversations with others. This is a helpful tool that lets you see how people’s wheels turn differently from ours. We don’t all hear things the same.
- Achieving results: We don’t communicate the same way, neither do we approach people equally. Be aware of how some are more likely to take a little longer than others. Some people prefer to establish relationship before they do a task, while others focus on the task first. For some of us, the most important task is to establish trust that could, in the future, become a relationship. Others are more task oriented and we see the project as the goal first, and we do not pay close attention the relationship part. This is helpful to notice because it will push you to see where some people struggle/shine. As a result, it will have you encourage and help with growth – both for you and your team.
- Internal awareness: One approach we need to be mindful of is the “iceberg analogy.” That one picture you might have seen where we see what is above the water but not what is underneath. Another mental image you can picture in your mind’s eye is a computer: you see the outside, but a large number of connections are happening inside for it to work. Each computer might look the same on the outside but the user’s preferences impact how they act (or react!). We are no different! We see faces but lots of things are happening in people’s minds as we interact with them. It is based on upbringing, cultures, languages, traditions, and even things like fears. Observing other’s experiences, and being aware of our own, is beneficial in how we increase our learning curve.
If we look for the beautiful diversity that exists in the Church, we see the words from Paul in his letter to the Romans saying: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…”. This makes me realize that, within the body of the church, each of us has a role as a follower of Christ. When God created us, he thought of each of these differences that make us unique. And, as unique as we are, we all have room at the Lord’s table. I encourage you to invite people to your table who think, process, and lead diversely. Your approach will only become wider and richer as it is infused by the perspectives of others and shaped with togetherness.
Praying God keeps giving you the creativity needed to lead your diverse church and community. I’m rooting for you!
PS: If you are curious to listen to some of the conversations I have had based on this topic, you can check them out here.
Ve a este enlace para leer en español