5 ways to facilitate cultural immersion experiences with your church

by Terry W. Sharp, International Mission Board
Monday, September 17, 2018 | 32 days old

Have you ever spent time looking for something only to discover it was right in front of you? I apparently suffer from this malady when it comes from finding things in the refrigerator. Just ask my wife — she’ll tell you the very thing I’m searching for is usually right in front of me!

It’s interesting how sometimes we can be so focused on finding something, we miss seeing the obvious.

I was once shown a short video of six people passing basketballs between them and asked to keep a count of the number of passes made by the people in white shirts. Later, when asked for the number of passes I observed, I was also asked if I saw the gorilla. What gorilla?You see, there was a gorilla strolling by for nine seconds while the people passed the balls, however, I was so focused on counting, I totally missed it. It is my understanding that this was an experiment done at Harvard University and in their results, half the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla.

It’s good to focus — especially when it comes to our churches reaching the unreached in their communities. But there are somethings right in front of us that we shouldn’t miss. One of those things is the peoples of the world who are moving into our communities every single day. These are the same peoples for whom we have prayed; the same peoples to whom we send missionaries. While we’ve been looking for other ways to reach the world, God has brought the nations to us. The nations are right in front of us!

Sometimes, it’s helpful to look at things differently. That way, we don’t miss the obvious.

Here are a few ways to facilitate a cultural immersion experience with your church among unreached in your community.

1. Provide opportunities for people to explore their communities.

Select certain areas of your community and ask people to see if they can find all the different ethnic stores, restaurants and religious centers in that area. Have them to write them down and make a list. Bring folks back together and have them share what they discovered. I did this in an area of Denver for the local association. One man who had been a leader in his church for over 50 years, said with tears in his eyes, ”I have driven by all of this on my way to church for the past 50 years but never saw it until today. Thank you for helping me open my eyes to the nations around us.”

2. Visit different ethnic restaurants.

Invite your Sunday School classes or life groups to visit different ethnic restaurants in the community. Make sure they go at a time that is not typically busy (like 2-4pm). That way they can talk with restaurant staff and find out about where they are from, how long they have been in the country, etc. Ask non-threatening questions that start conversations, such as: What is your favorite food from your country, as well as your favorite food in our community.

3. Set up opportunities to discover the city:

Set up planned visits for church leader, Sunday School classes, life groups or families that include an ethnic restaurant, a grocery store and even a visit to a religious center. Use open-ended questions; they’re a great way to engage people groups in conversation and build relationships with them. Click here to find topics that you can use to build relationships on these visits, as well as encounters with people groups at school, in your neighborhood, while out shopping, or in a restaurants.

4. Participate in a cultural festivals in your city.

There are lots of cultural festivals taking place throughout the year that are typically centered around key dates or religious importance of the people group. This is a great way to meet people, hear their music, try unique foods and cultural experiences.

5. Have a scavenger hunt with your students:

This is a fun cultural immersion scavenger hunt my wife, Kathy, and I created for you to do with the students of your church. It can even with done with families.

EDITORS NOTE: Terry Sharp presently serves at the International Mission Board and works in the area of state, association and diaspora networks.