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Developing a Multicultural Ministry

RIck Armstrong

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

"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.

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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