Minorities make up the majority of babies born in the United States, according to the U.S. Census. That news will have an impact on small churches.
“For the first time, minorities make up a majority of babies in the U.S., part of a sweeping race change and a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and predominantly minority youths that could reshape government policies,” according to MSNBC.
The article points out what we already knew: Minority populations are growing at a faster pace than the aging white population.
The American Community Survey had initially pegged white children under 2 as 51 percent of that demographic, but larger-than-estimated rates of minority births have moved the needle. White children under 2 are now just below 50 percent of that group.
Here is what this means for small churches.
Small churches, especially rural or small-town churches, tend to be segregated by race. With a declining white population, the handwriting is on the wall. Small, predominantly white churches will either broaden their outreach or eventually die as their members age and die.
But white churches cannot just say, “We need minorities to survive.” That demonstrates a self-serving attitude that is not biblical.
Attitudes change slowly among older church members, but even older members can be led to broaden their vision and begin to take intentional steps to reach out.
Most small churches will need to develop what Wendell Griffen calls “cultural competency.”
This involves an understanding and appreciation for the ethnic diversity of God’s creation. And it involves understanding that to meaningfully reach out to others means more that “signing them up.” It also involves sharing decision-making, leadership and authority.
If you haven’t read his book, it is one of the must-reads for this decade. It will give white people an entirely different perspective on how other ethnic groups view evangelicalism as a whole.
When you add these additional insights to the news about the gains in minority births, we have the ingredients for major sociological shifts:
— Married couples now comprise less than 50 percent of U.S. households for the first time.
— Same-sex couples are now one in 10 of unmarried couples living together.
— Several states, my own Virginia included, will flip to “minority-majority” status in the next 10 years.
What we do not need are shrill voices of doom using these figures and trends to forecast the end of society as we know it.
Social patterns, including family patterns, in the United States and world are changing. These changes present challenges to churches in communicating the gospel, and in reaching out to include a diverse representation of our communities within our congregations.
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.