God has blessed our church over the past few years as we regularly have newcomers attend our worship services. We place a lot of emphasis on hospitality toward guests and when someone attends several times I try to sit schedule a coffee with them as an opportunity to get to know each other. During these conversations one of the questions I ask is, “What do you like about our church?”
This past week I had coffee with a new guest and she volunteered that although she was white her boyfriend was African-American. She told me that she had invited him many times to attend her previous congregation but he had no interest in being the only person with black skin in a large room. She went on to say that she is hopeful he will attend church with her now that she has found a congregation in which neither of them will stand out.
Earlier this year I met with another couple (African-American & Jamaican) who said they really liked our church because it reflected their broader experience in society. They wanted their children to grow up playing with children of other races. They also wanted their children to grow up with Christians of other races.
This is a growing trend.
At this point in our congregation’s life our leadership team is glaringly white. We only have one black deacon. But we do have an elder in an interracial marriage and an international minister [me] married to an American. While not a huge percentage, 10-15% of our married couples have interracial marriages. Finding a church that not only accepts them, but supports their marriage and families is important to these couples.
This article provides some keen insight into the challenges biracial families face. If you take the time to read it, you’ll quickly see the importance for churches to provide safe places for these diverse families.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve done a lot of reading or research on interracial marriages, but I did stumble across a USA Today article highlighting the growth in interracial marriages. According to the study it was reporting on, “In 2010, 15% of couples married outside their race or ethnicity.” In 1980 just 3.2% of all marriages in the US were interracial. Thirty years later the number has more than doubled to 8.4%.
How does this trend impact churches?
One area of impact will be classes related to marriage or parenting. This is more than newlywed couples discussing whether their families of origin drank full cream or skim milk. Interracial couples and parents need to discuss which elements of their ethnicity they will integrate into their married lives and pass on to their children.
- Which holidays will your family celebrate?
- Are there particular foods which posses a significance to you beyond taste?
- How will you help your children settle upon their unique identity? (In the first article above the author describes herself as “a biracial, self-identifying, culturally & ethnically black American woman.”)
- In your marriage, are you free to ask questions related to race? Will you accommodate each others learning?
- If the married couple have different native languages, what languages do you want your children to learn? How will you teach them?
Communication about differences is super important for all couples, but interracial couples do face some distinct issues that require special attention. Multiracial churches will do their communities a favour by developing awareness and supporting the challenges interracial families face.