Multicultural Worship: Helpful Do’s & Don’ts

Multicultural Worship Helpful Do’s & Don’ts
By Vaughn Thompson Jr 

An online exclusive, this list can stand alone as a guideline for practical ministry if you are trying to broaden the scope of your ministry on a multicultural level. As well it is a continuation of Vaughn Thompson’s article in the September, 2012 issue of Worship Leader. Subscribe here to read that article and others like it. 

Do’s:

1. Vision: (Most Important) – make sure your vision drives everything.
     - Nothing unifies and mobilizes diverse teams like a clear vision
     - Beliefs drive our behaviors. “You do because you are.”

2. Student: be a student of leadership information (Mainstream and Christian)

3. Mentorship: find one (in person or from a afar), then mentor someone else (pass it on)

4. Grow: be a constant learner—worship researcher—always looking for new songs, styles, artists. Always looking and listening.

5. Dimensions: Think Multidimensional
     - Multicultural worship is inclusive—must be wide in scope—consider your tools:               music genres, tempos, rhythms, languages, musical time periods, technology, etc.
      – Use the above and NEVER stay in the same lane the whole set; create a diverse multidimensional experience.

6. Technology: use technology more in worship (loops, video, clicks, stems etc)—technology is a language and culture

7. Subcultures: consider generations, genders, new believers, long time faithful’s, technology, sports, etc.)

8. Network: with other worship leaders; what’s working, what’s not?

9. Gifts: What’s in your hand? What cards have your church/community been dealt?
     - Don’t force Latino music down the throat of an Asian community, etc. 
     - Much like you assessing your personal gifts, the answer to what church you are   called to be in the global community is probably in the house.

10. Tools: the songs and art forms are tools, visible expressions and symbols of invisible truths (WORSHIP-WORTH-SHAPE)

11. Tribe: shift from team mentality to tribe (family-community)—people are not your resources and assets—they are members of this household

12. Language: Try multilingual songs by translating really familiar songs first—not new songs all together (i.e. “How Great Is Our God”)

13. Authentic: be authentically you (church)—if you’re not creating your best environment for people to have an encounter with God with your “form” then you should lay that aside.
     - Form always follows function; our methods serve the message.
     - It will always be about creating an environment for people to meet God, never to “be multicultural”.
     - This way ensures we are what we are meant to be in the global picture of the kingdom
     - Some folks will never want to come to the “multicultural” church—we need you to be you in the kingdom
     - If we are all “multicultural” then no one is “multicultural” (image of the stained glass window with everything being the same color)

13. Diverse: “Be what you want to see”—Assemble leaders/teams that reflect the vision of the church. But again, never force fed. Don’t pick leaders just because they are diverse.

14. Transitions: creative but MEANINGFUL transitions—they make a world of difference. Don’t just stop and go. Be creative in the entry and exit of songs. Create journeys.

15. Medleys: Create and use medleys! Always use “theme” as the thread, not just keys, tempo, or styles. Be sure to be content driven. 

16. Communication: key to building relationships and building bridges. Don’t assume anything. Ask the questions. Have the second conversation. Seek to understand.

Don’ts:

1. Cross > Culture:
     - Be careful that your art form or cultural foundation does not overshadow the cross
     - Our methods should never overshadow the message. 

2. Do not force multicultural elements
     - It can come off contrived, forced, and inauthentic = distracting

3. Don’t try to move too quickly
     - Make adjustments firm and steady—this will ensure that what you are doing is a cultural shifting and not just a fleeting change.
     - This will also help people to follow the shift and not feel that they showed up to the wrong church :)
     - “You never want to be so far in front of those you lead that you appear to be the enemy”
      – “People can stand evolution, few will stand for a revolution.”

4. Don’t serve kimchee if you want more than just Koreans at your church (etc.)
     - Other elements of your church communicate culture other than music
     - Decorations, food, greetings, etc. 

5. Don’t try multicultural approaches just because you think they work for others
     - Don’t wear someone else’s armor
     - Make sure they are natural forms that emerge out of your communities love for God.

6. Don’t settle for the comfortable
     - Have a good rhythm of trying new things even with old songs (keys, rhythm, tempos, styles etc.)
     - The majority of your work will be true to who you are but you must risk every now and again. 

7. Do not lead worship to attract people from outside the house
     - You are called to lead worship for those who are already inside the house. This comes from a sound biblical theology of worship leading. If we don’t understand the core of what we are called to do we can easily view music as bait vs. a ministry unto God. 

8. Don’t GIVE UP! 

 

Vaughn Thompson Jr. is a worship leader/songwriter, and the Worship Pastor at Cathedral of Faith, a multi-cultural, multi-site, 8,000+ member, church in San Jose, CA. Vaughn and wife Irene Marin Thompson have formed Third Culture Worship (TCW). Vaughn was recognized in WLM’s Bests of the Best issue of 2011 for his song “You Are Exalted” and his entire album was voted in the Top 5 Indie Albums of the year.

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    7 comments on “Multicultural Worship: Helpful Do’s & Don’ts

      • Awesome, Vaughn! Thanks for the detailed notes- I’m still leading worship at Newsong Los Angeles, and will definitely keep this in mind. Blessings!!

    1. Wonderful article Vaughn, I wish I had this list in my tool box a long time ago! I have made plenty of mistakes in engaging multi-cultural worship with the wrong mentality and expectations. I have learned to always be a student – get to know the worship culture/environment and take the risk of building a bridge to the people that you lead.

      Keep the articles coming!

    2. Thank you Vaughn for such helpful site. Reaffirms our intent of Worship. As I read the instructions of your practical worshiper guide to success it also helps us understanding our passion. The positivity of Vision, Leadership, Mentorship, with our ability to increase learning takes us to greater level …Thank you for bringing worship to light in a greater bandwidth.

    3. Vaughn, this is great stuff, my brother! Thanks so much for putting so much good transformational information into so little space. I can tell by reading it springs from living life in this way and reflecting on the processes. I am encouraged.

      I love what you wrote about wearing other people’s armor…and the reality that people are not resources, but members of the household. I am a big fan of medleys as well. I’ve written quite a lot about them and even posted a number of audio/video recordings at: http://www.proskuneo.org/blog They help combat the subtle but dangerous “separate but equal” mindset we have towards cultures and worship.

      Psalm 67 blessings to you – that the nations might praise.

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