Who's Sitting Next To You
By: Chantel McHenry March 17, 2021
As our nation is forging through this new year and beginning to form a more accurate picture of what the new normal will look like, I want to highlight a few steps women can take to build community in a post-pandemic culture. While better days are ahead and people are making plans for the future, it can be difficult to fully retrospect on the civil unrest and racial injustice that has occurred in our nation during the past year. This tension is not only prevalent in today’s society but in churches too, and it places emphasis on ministry leaders who must determine what their role is in relation to these topics. Even though these are challenging realities to navigate, ministry leaders are called to steward their church community well. Sometimes this means taking inventory of their approach to today’s prevalent tensions by evaluating and praying through essential questions like, Are churches meant to take action and have a voice about the polarizing issues arising in society? How can women actively work to be intentional leaders and address the continuing turmoil?
Women are specifically gifted by the Lord and are called to utilize their passion for their community during these times. There is a great opportunity now and always for women to widen their sphere of influence and take a hard look at who is surrounding them in all areas of their lives. Are there different perspectives in race, age, class, education, and experience? When we surround ourselves with people who think and act in the exact same manner as us, it can be detrimental to our understanding of the world. On the other hand, if we’re genuinely willing to welcome diverse perspectives into our circles, only then will we begin to see growth in knowledge, empathy, and compassion for the world around us.
Here are three actions you can take today to discover who’s sitting next to you and enrich your life:
1. Take a Leap of Faith For Connection
Human connection is essential for our well-being and putting yourself out there with another person is the first step to learning about their life and experiences. Find someone who doesn’t look like you, live in your neighborhood, or doesn’t go to your church and invite them to get together and have a genuine conversation. Not only will this begin to bring more clarity and appreciation of differences, but it then becomes a catalyst to forming a new connection and new way to support each other by listening and exchanging ideas. As you get to know this individual, you should not have the mindset of reaching a quota or ticking a box, but allowing yourself to be open to a new viewpoint and interaction. Female friendships can be empowering and uplifting amidst the struggle in our country.
2. Educate Yourself About Different Cultures
The next step to determine who’s sitting next to you and expand your circle of influence is to educate yourself about different cultures that you haven’t been exposed to. All people are uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God and he has not made a mistake by seemingly separating us into diverse cultures for us to identify with. Choose a culture that is interesting to you, or possibly one that you feel unsure about, and learn about its history and meet people within that culture. By immersing yourself into a new lifestyle, you might be surprised by the knowledge that you can gain with the people group you are encountering.
Sometimes people have biases about other cultures than their own, whether consciously or subconsciously, and these can be recognized and overturned through positive interactions with real people. Differences should be celebrated in life, not looked down upon and deemed inferior or insignificant. Women can and should surround themselves with diverse communities to love all people and live more like Christ.
3. Offer a Seat Next To You Professionally
Lastly, it is important in a professional career to find an aspiring employee or colleague to invest in and allow them to learn from you. As you accumulate experience, you become better qualified to offer advice and educate others on how to successfully work in your position or field of work. It is important to level the playing field for hard workers by encouraging unity and equality in the workplace. As you open your table to diversity, you are adding value and perspective for the people you serve with and those you care for.
By implementing these steps in your life and work environment, you can prevent habits of the past from dictating your future and change the course of your life for the better! In this new season, take a chance to extend your table, learn about who is truly sitting next to you, and invest in other women both professionally and spiritually.
Here at Vanderbloemen, we acknowledge and are passionate about the importance of diversity in the workplace. We believe organizations with diverse teams experience more engagement, creativity, and retention. As Christian leaders, it is our duty to pursue diversity and equality. We also know it can be challenging to successfully recruit a diverse candidate pool and ensure a strong staff culture. Through our Diversity Consulting Practice, we help clients build and maintain an environment where people of different backgrounds, cultures, and interests can come together to advance the Kingdom in a fuller way. Talk to our Diversity Council today about our diversity offerings.
This recording was originally recorded as my session, Who’s Sitting Next to You, for She Leads Church 2021. This summit for women in church leadership focused on the importance of establishing healthy rhythms in women’s spiritual lives, work lives, and personal lives. I hope this breakdown helps you apply the principles to your daily life and ministry.