Your community’s demographics will shift. It is not really a matter of if but when. By 2050, America will be a minority majority nation, with Hispanics realizing the greatest population growth. But it is not just race or ethnicity that will change. In 2030, there will be 73 million people 65 and older. Currently, there are about 33 million. Whether it is race, age, income level, economic status, or education level, your community’s demographics either have or will shift.
So how does a ministry respond? How does a ministry adapt to shifting demographics? Here are 6 suggestions:
1. Listen. A lot. And carefully.
Much can be learned about the people of your community by simply sitting down and having conversations. What are their likes? What are their dislikes? How are aspects of your ministry currently helping or hurting your ability to connect with them? Don’t debate or defend. Just listen. And learn.
2. Work hard to increase your team’s cultural intelligence (CQ)
Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski define CQ as “an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.” There are three sources of CQ:
- Head – The ability to cognitively understand the new demographics’ beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, etc.
- Body – The ability to mimic body language and mannerisms
- Heart – The motivation for continued learning and understanding, even when hit with setbacks
Like a team preparing to go to a foreign country, ministry leaders should encourage team members to increase their CQ by bolstering these three aspects.
3. Hold loosely to systems and tactics
Demographic changes may cause former systems and tactics to lose their effectiveness. As ministry leaders learn the new preferences, attitudes, and perspectives that community members hold, they must be willing to adjust. Holding tightly to prior systems and tactics could significantly injure future ministry.
4. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
Many leaders are not comfortable with organizational change. Different is scary. And often, it is this discomfort that prevents needed organizational adjustments from ever occurring. So ministry leaders must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. They must get comfortable with doing things differently for the sake of their community.
5. Try to make your team look more like the community
It will become easier to understand your community when your team looks and thinks more like your community. Bring new team members on board to help you think through needed adjustments.
6. Stay focused on the mission
When a ministry’s community’s demographics change, much can and probably should change about the ministry, because the ministry was never created for systems and tactics. It was created for mission. Systems and tactics merely help accomplish the mission. They are tools. And different tools are needed at different times. Stay focused on the mission but allow for flexibility with the tools needed to accomplish that mission.
When community demographics shift, so must the ministry. A ministry that decides to remain constant in a changing community may find itself an island, unable to connect and make a difference in the lives that surround them. Change is rarely easy. But the mission is bigger than any system or tactic. And it is for the sake of the mission that adjustments are made.
What about you? What suggestions do you have for ministries who are witnessing a shift in their community’s demographics? Please place your comments in the section below.