Resilient Ministry: Cultural Intelligence

As I have already mentioned, cultural intelligence is grouped together in Resilient Ministry with emotional intelligence, although there is enough material on each of them to merit treating them separately. If you like annotations and enjoyed EQ (as opposed to IQ), how about some CQ?

Since the book is written in a North American context, based on research done with North American pastors, it’s no surprise that there is a discussion to the changing cultural face of North America, where it is reckoned that by 2040 Anglos will no longer be the majority population. Mind you, Ireland gets a couple of mentions by way of illustration.

Cultural intelligence refers to the ability to function across several cultural contexts. There are several cultural domains for pastors to be aware of.

  • The personal, whether from family of origin, wider childhood contexts, home church experience.
  • Generation – ‘different cultural perspectives and commitments are reflected by each generation.’
  • Church, with its organisational culture – ‘the way we do things around here.’
  • Denomination, including the cultural subgroups that exist within denominations.
  • Geography and demographics
  • Socioeconomic class
  • Socioethnicity – with this sobering comment: ‘White evangelicalism likely does more to perpetuate racialized society than to reduce it’ (Is there a Northern Irish equivalent?)

As ever, with one chapter to highlight the issues, the second chapter devoted to the theme seeks to work towards improvement. ‘Ministry in the twenty-first century will involve working with people who have radically different perspectives on life and the world.

It calls for cultural discernment and biblical wisdom. Leaders need to learn to withhold judgment on cultural differences: negative attribution theory (why a 5 year old might instinctively decide that he doesn’t like a new dish) means that people tend to assume things in a new culture are not just different: they are wrong!

Leaders also need to learn to evaluate culture with humility: ‘CQ serves humble pie to everyone and provides learning for all.’

There are several cultural values that build trust.

  • Communication context. In some communication situations, the importance of context is high. Such a context relies strongly on non-verbal aspects of communication.
  • Power distance. This refers to the distance that is felt between leaders and followers. If you are the kind of person who values low distance, you will find it difficult to relate to a leader who values high distance. The opposite is also true.
  • Clock time v event time. This is where Ireland gets a mention – ‘a country that runs much more on event time than America does’. In cultures that value event time more than clock time, it’s more important to deal with the current conversations than to hurry to a scheduled meeting!
  • Precision v ambiguity. A question of how open-ended or controlled people like to be.
  • Results v relationships. There are examples of both kinds of culture, but the authors note the following from Kouzes and Posner:

In the thousands of [leadership] cases we’ve studied, we’ve yet to encounter a single example of extraordinary achievement that’s occurred without the active involvement and support of many people.

If leaders are to develop their CQ, it will require the following:

  1. Spiritual formation: ‘ministry leaders need to be examples of ongoing spiritual transformation.’
  2. Reflection (heard about that before?). Without proper reflection, a cross cultural experience can send us the wrong way and make us more fearful and judgmental of other cultures.
  3. Experimentation.
  4. Asking curious questions.
  5. Hardships (another one of those recurring themes in the book).
  6. Community.

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