On September 19, the Center for Leadership Excellence hosted thirty laity and clergy for a Day of Learning with Daynette Snead Perez. The curriculum, Stranger to Neighbor, was designed to equip congregations to become diverse in a way that honors relationships and true Christian connection. The Stranger to Neighbor activities and the Day of Learning content help UMCs grow to be the open and hospitable churches we claim to be.
At the start of the time together, Daynette invited the group to engage in the ‘five friend challenge,’ asking participants to think of their five closest friends to chart similarities and differences across factors such as race, age, and socio-economic status. Using a scoring tool and charting scores on a number line, a surprising – and yet not surprising – trend emerged. Even among a group that gathered out of a mutual commitment to and desire for diversity, our closest friends are a lot like us.
Throughout the day, participants were encouraged to take concrete steps toward forming more authentic relationships across cultural boundaries and to rethink how we “do church.” As one participant remarked, “I appreciated the guided reflection on where we really are and the hard work needed to be truly more intercultural. I have a better understanding of the steps to take individually and within our ministry areas.”
Knowing that this work is not achievable in one day, the Center for Leadership Excellence is hosting three follow-up coaching conversations with Daynette 30, 60, and 90 days after the event. Intended for accountability, support, and deeper learning, these group coaching sessions are an opportunity for participants to share their challenges and successes as they put their new tools into practice. With the Stranger to Neighbor tools, our churches can build not only our cultural competency but our witness and impact as we seek together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The Center for Leadership Excellence is committed to providing quality opportunities for church leaders to engage and grow. Consider bringing a team from your church for one of our future Days of Learning. On January 30, we are hosting Kenda Creasy Dean for The Good News of Shipwreck: What Does Church Look Like Now?, and on May 21, we are planning a Day of Learning focused on hope and improv with MaryAnn McKibben Dana.