Stephen Covey once said “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” With that in mind, I have become more keenly aware how diverse our own communities are growing with immigrants from around the world. Beautiful people who are struggling to navigate a whole new set of behaviors and norms in different cultures. I am reminded that God calls the Church to show and share his love to everyone. As Small Group point people of our churches we have an amazing opportunity on the “front lines” to model this to our church and build bridges and community with immigrants.
When serving in multicultural settings, we want to be sure to keep the door open for relationship building. We strive to be sensitive and respectful making it as comfortable as possible for relationships to grow.
By far the easiest thing we can do is to engage in conversation. The following 5 tips will be helpful in finding common ground in some of the areas that are top concerns for immigrants.
#1. Learning The Language
Speak slowly, don’t yell; speak in simple terms and vocabulary. Avoid Christian“eeze”. Comments such as “we just want to love on you” Yikes! If you say that, they may have a very different understanding as to what that means. You might ask questions like, “what types of things do you do in your culture/country to have fun?” Then listen carefully, find the common ground and speak to that in simple language. If the subject of religion comes up avoid debates and comparing religions. Talk about the Kingdom of God vs. Christianity. Give simple examples of what you believe like serving others, giving to the church or going on mission trips.
Ask about their training. Such as what type of work did they do in their country, or what would they like to do for employment now?
#3. Their Children
Who doesn’t like to talk about their kids?!? This is a wide-open door when we are talking with parents. You may ask how are their children doing in school, what are some of the transitions they are finding difficult and offer some suggestions to help in that transition.
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#4. Cultural Issues
Show respect for their culture and be a learner, educate yourself on some of the holidays and family traditions they may have. Be respectful of people’s personal space and levels of comfort; we do not want to impose our gender interaction and cultural norms on them and use basic consideration for how others feel, male and female. Considering diet of various cultures will show care and respect if you are gathered around food.
Be sincere. It is shouldn’t be our goal to convert them but to love them and develop relationships. Try to view them as people rather than projects. Remember they are people with dreams, goals, and intellect just like you! Let your love be sincere. Just be yourself-let your friendship and conversation flow out of an honest and loving heart that desires to show them what the love of Christ is really like. Many will find your authenticity unique and appealing.
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