In part reflecting continued and diversifying immigration, America’s racial and ethnic minority populations continue to expand. Moreover, the younger age of immigrants and higher birth rates among racial and ethnic minorities contribute to a “bubbling up” of diversity from children to seniors. While the U.S. population is projected to turn “minority white” in 2042, its preschool population will cross this threshold in 2021. Thus, while America’s minority growth is already seen prominently in schools and other arenas involving teens and young adults, it will gradually spread across venues that permeate our entire society.
Diversity is spreading geographically, and it is becoming younger. Therefore, the younger generation, as a more ethnically diverse group, will not know homogeneity in the same way as previous generations. Many of the younger generation are third culture worlders – individually, they represent more than just one culture.
As the younger generation ages, they will not as easily recognize the homogeneous unit principal that was championed in the early years of the church growth movement. Basically, this principal states that people desire to worship and serve in church with other similar people, and the best way to reach people is with others who are similar. Clearly, people with common interests, characteristics, life stages, and languages will still gravitate towards each other. The difference with the youngest generation is that these divides will not be as distinct. And, in many ways, they will see heterogeneity as more normative and more relevant.
The church should not wait until 2021 to begin an attitudinal shift from homogeneity to heterogeneity. Indeed, many congregations have been championing this attitude for some time. Others are beginning to notice the changes to their communities and are taking positive steps forward. Especially with preschoolers and children, however, what are some ways that churches can prepare for these changing demographics?