Shifting Attitudes from Homogeneity to Heterogeneity

Sam Rainer

July 8, 2009

Snapshot 2009-07-08 14-11-26

While researching for an article I am writing for Church Executive, I came across an interesting piece of data:

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?

5 comments on “Shifting Attitudes from Homogeneity to Heterogeneity”

  1. Bryan says:

    I think you’re making a questionable assumption. A more diverse population doesn’t necessarily mean that heterogeneity will be more normative. I would love to see that, but I think we may see just the opposite–a society more polarized and divided than ever before.

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Bryan –

    Thanks for your insight. I would agree that people do not naturally gravitate towards utopian unity. We like to divide what God wants to unite. We build walls when God would rather we tear them down. However, the youngest generation will be exposed to more diversity than previous generations. From the classroom to the ball field to the neighborhood, children will be around others that are not exactly like them. These experiences in their formative years will likely give many of them (certainly not all) more receptivity to heterogeneity.

  3. Rob Turner says:

    Sam, One of the ways I believe the church must respond in the immediate is to be praying that God would raise up a diverse leadership base. We have seen in today’s church that congregations tend to take on the identity of their called leadership. If the leadership is diverse and works well with each other, it will go a long way in leading God’s new generation of people toward unity and faithfulness in the midst of never before experienced levels of diversity. Just a thought. ~ Rob

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