Why The Roadmap to Diversity Begins With Leadership Diversity

As many Christian organizations seek to diversify their staff, it’s important that they understand the considerations and obstacles that come with this initiative in order to set realistic goals and successfully achieve them. One of the keys to pursuing a diverse staff is building a leadership team that reflects the people they are serving. Our Strategic Partner, Sam Collier has years of experience working with churches looking to diversify their staff. I sat down with Sam to talk through helpful tips and provide realistic expectations for organizations and churches currently navigating this process.

Why is this conversation so important?

Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date. Within these age-groups, there is no majority. For the sake of this next group of leaders, it's critical that we start implementing these practices now.

Diversity conversations are increasing amongst Christian organizations across the country that want to serve a wider range of individuals. The only way we can truly understand and serve individuals who are different from us is to have them represented in our boardrooms as decision-makers. By diversifying your leadership team to reflect who you serve, you are showing people in your community that they belong and have an advocate at the table to share viewpoints that might previously remain unknown. Each community looks different and leaders are searching for the best ways to serve in their unique areas.

What obstacles will we have to overcome?

Like any new initiative, diversifying your organization will not be obstacle-free. It’s possible that your pursuit of diversity will be met with hesitation or backlash from your leadership team and the public. If you’re passionate about seeking more diversity inside your organization, you’ll need support from your leadership team to help encourage and advocate for change. As with any adjustment to organizational culture, alignment from the top down is a necessity. It is the job of leaders to get everyone on the same page.

Before you speak to your team about diversity efforts, it may be helpful to have clear messaging you can share about why you feel driven to diversify. Communicating concrete goals and intentions will help others understand your heart and the true mission behind the changes you’re asking them to make. Once your team understands the purpose and benefit of your initiatives, they’ll be more likely to buy into the process. If and when you face opposition to your goals, having a clear mission will help you convey the purpose behind your efforts rather than getting swept up in what can become an emotional conversation. Hard conversations are inevitable, but focusing on your intent and the long-term goal will help you manage these discussions with focus, grace, and an open mind.

What steps are necessary to create a culture of diversity?

Even though you’ll face challenges in this process, there are steps you can take to move forward more easily. Sam recommends the following efforts for anyone looking to diversify their team.

1. Find an expert to help. Find someone who can answer difficult questions, point out opportunities you haven’t yet considered, and find the right solution for your organization. Each church, organization, and community are different and will need to take different steps to achieve their cultural goals. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for diversity. Find someone you trust who can help develop the right plan to fit your specific context. You’ll want to invite this person into the details of your current culture and goals, so they can guide you in a direction that will align with your desired outcome.

As you begin conversations with your trusted advisor, be open to feedback, and see it as an opportunity for growth and a chance to pursue unity. If you’re seeking change, there will be some adjustments that might feel uncomfortable. Just remember that change is hardly ever easy, but it is usually worth it if you’re passionate about your goals.

2. Develop a strategy. Simply wanting to become more diverse will not make your organization more diverse overnight, and it will certainly not make the transition easy. You need to have a well-thought-out strategy to ensure that your diversity initiatives are successful. Set short-term goals so you have trackable progress.

Your path might include goals like having regular, intentional conversations or meetings on diversity planning, hiring a leadership team member who is different than the majority of the current team, seeking new hires who add variety to the current team makeup, reviewing current policies or structures that might be inhibiting your efforts, and conducting a culture survey to gauge how your staff feels your diversity efforts are going.

3. Check your heart and the hearts of those around you. For most organizations, diversity is a pursuit of unity. Make sure you, your leadership team, and the entire staff are aligned around this understanding so that your efforts form stronger connections in your organization rather than letting differences in opinion distract your efforts and divide your team. Like any change, it will take effort to implement before it becomes a part of your everyday culture.

In any culture change, it’s important to keep the mission at the center of every effort you make toward reaching your goals. If you’re looking to reach and serve more people, it’ll be critical to ensure you have people on your team who share values and understand the backgrounds of those you’re attempting to reach. This can be a long, challenging process, but we are here to help you along the way. If your organization is looking to build a strategic plan seeking to hire and reach a wider range of people, reach out to us. We’d love to help you hire your next key staff member or consult with your team about the best diversity plan for your needs.

Diversity Readiness Checklist