I live in a pretty diverse area. I can go to a number of grocery stores in my neighborhood and see people from many racial and ethnic communities all shopping for the things they need to feed their families. But there is one, large grocery store in my are that is part of a regional chain that stands out because of the people who shop there. You can go there any time of day and see people who belong to numerous raical and ethnic commiunites. Some people avoid this grocery store because it is diverse. They have derogatory names for the store, and they will drove a few miles out of their way to shop at another grocery store within the same chain that has less racial or ethnic diversity in terms of the people who shop there. Other people love shopping there because of the great variety of people who shop there. These people may feel that they are supporting a business that proudly serves a diverse constituency. They may assume that because the shoppers are diverse, that this store is also inclusive and equitable.
But not everyone who shops at this large grocery store in my neighborhood is able get everything they need to make a meal that tastes like home. True, the people shopping at that store are diverse, but the store does not include everything they need to fix their family meal. For some of the shoppers, it is necessary to shop at several markets to find what they need to have a taste of home. The store is not equitable for every shopper, because it doesn’t take into account the grocery needs of the entire diverse community. This might be missed by people whose grocery needs can always be met by shopping at this one, large store filled with diverse people. For a lot of shoppers, they might not know who to ask for what they need. For others, they will get some ingredients from the big grocery store, but will get some or most of their groceries from other markets that cater to their region or ethnic community. And some people might not be able to find what they need anywhere, because there is not even enough people to make it profitable to have a business that caters to their needs. They may need to make due with what they can find available by pulling together disparate ingredients from a few places to make something approximating home.
Belonging is more of a sense than something that can be observed. And yet, it is so very important to building a community. Most churches want to be these kinds of inclusive communities. Some churches even have antiracism teams to try to make their congregations more welcoming or inclusive. Others are trying to make their congregations places where any number of groups can thrive who may have been overlooked or marginalized. Our smaller team had a conversation about belonging today that I think you will really want to hear. So…
Let’s go now and listen to this conversation.
Group Discussion Questions:
1.) What are examples or definitions of these four concepts: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging? How do these ideas interact?
2.) Jane talks about retention is a way to measure belonging. Look at the diversity characteristics of people who make up your church, community or institution? Use these diversity characteristics to describe the people who make up the majority of the constituency, and what kinds of people make up smaller parts of your constituency. Now look at the people who make up the staff, board, or constituency of your church, community or institution. What kinds of people tend to have longevity? What kinds of people tend to leave? When looking at staffing, are there bitter breakups that have happened along these demographic lines? How has your church, community or institution responded to these breakup situations?
3.) Another way of measuring belonging is measuring how long people with different diversity characteristics talk when there are meetings. What do you notice about who talks the most in terms of groups of people who share the same diversity characteristics? Which groups of people talk little, or do not talk at all? What can be done to solicit feedback from people who may not be talking?
4.) Many organizations form teams that gather to achieve a task. Sometimes, these teams are intentionally designed to include a diversity of people with the aim of being a space that makes decisions based on the needs of diverse constituencies. However, these intentions assume that the group already trusts and values one another’s perspectives, and that people feel that they can give their thoughts without negative consequences. What practices do Jane and Eric talk about to illustrate how trust has been built on teams they have been a part of who have done this well?
5.) Handling disagreements is an expected part of being part of a diverse community. How does your church, community, or institution handle disagreements? When are diverse opinions welcomed and when is there an emphasis on agreement being a necessary element of belonging? How do these kinds of institutional responses impact conversation and the willingness of members to share their thoughts openly and honestly? Look at question 3 to see who may be talking or not talking to inform your reflections.
6.) Eric talks about praying for the needs of people who don’t agree. How do we pray about the emotions and desires of people we disagree with? How might that shape our hearts individually, or our congregations or communities collectively? What would be challenging about this personally and collectively?
7.) What do you know about Intercultural Conflict Styles? What is the way you handle conflict in the culture you live in now? Is it the same or different in any significant ways from the way conflicts are handled in the culture of your family or culture of origin?
Here is a description of the Intercultural Conflict Styles model from icsinventory.com:
The innovative, four-quadrant intercultural conflict style model, developed by Dr. Mitchell R. Hammer, provides a roadmap to how people use specific culturally grounded strategies for communicating ideas, resolving disagreements, and dealing with emotional upset. The ICS Inventory assesses culturally learned approaches for communicating information and resolving conflict in terms of Direct or Indirect strategies for “working through” substantive disagreements and emotionally Restrained or Expressive approaches for dealing with emotional upset.
To learn more about the ICS Inventory, go to https://icsinventory.com.
8.) Teams often make decisions for larger groups of people. What teams are you a part of now or in the past? What are stories from your past where a team you were a part of made decisions that helped more people belong? What did you decide and do that helped widen the circle? Do you have stories of being excluded from groups that still carry emotional weight with you? What was that like?