10 Toxic Learning Postures In Cross Cultural Ministry

In multiethnic ministry, conflict is inevitable. Misunderstanding is inevitable. Hurt and pain are inevitable. You will inevitably offend someone as well as be offended yourself.
The question is NOT how to avoid those unpleasant things but rather what will your posture be when you face the inevitabilities of multiethnic ministry?

The Great Lakes West region of InterVarsity compiled an extremely helpful list of ten toxic postures that will stiffle any chances of learning, growing and moving forward in Cross Cultural Ministry:
  1. Denial: I did not say or do anything that was oppressive or offensive.
  2. Dismissal: You are overacting, being too sensitive, blowing this out of proportion.
  3. Attack: I say something back at you intended to hurt you or make you angry.
  4. Claim it was a joke: I insist I was only kidding and the problem is that you have no sense of humor or are taking things to seriously.
  5. Rationalization: I try to convince you that you are misinterpreting my actions by rationalizing how my actions were not really evidence of prejudice on my part.
  6. Avoidance: I avoid you, the topic or the situation at all costs because its too hard, too frustrating or too confusing to deal with.
  7. Guilt: I am so ashamed that I offended you that all I can focus on is my own distress that you think I am prejudiced. I feel terrible and apologize even I do not really understand the problem. Sometimes I even get angry if you don’t immediately forgive me and help make me feel better.
  8. Shock: I am so surprised by being confronted that I am immobilized. I cannot hear what you have to say and I cannot think about what I want to do.
  9. Trivialization: I seek support from other more “friendly” target group members to reassure myself that you are being reasonable and unfair.
  10. Gang up: I seek support from other agent group members to reassure myself that you are being unreasonable and unfair. 


For Reflection/Application

  • Do any of these postures describe how you've responded to cross cultural ministry situations?
  • Perhaps you are seeing these postures play out in your ministry?

If so, take some time to reflect, acknowledge, confess and make things right. Ask for help. Call each other out in truth and love. Pray together. Allow your community to give honest feedback to one another.

Anyone who has been on the journey of multiethnic ministry long enough has been through situations where they've reacted in unhealthy ways. The key is not to get stuck and to move forward together.



About the Author

Andy Kim works with InterVarsity’s Multiethnic Ministries, developing resources to help students, staff, and alumni reach people of every ethnicity and culture.

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