The word “diversity” is used in many capacities these days by organizations to describe a variety of different approaches to building a team. It can be easily misunderstood or misused, or even utilized where not applicable at all in its true meaning. As a result, the waters become murky surrounding how to promote and sustain a culture of varying perspectives, backgrounds, race, gender and other characteristics with integrity.
Building an organization that reflects the community it serves is not just important, but crucial, to its flourishing. As faith-based organizations, we are called to an even higher standard of inclusion, knowing and believing that we are one in Christ and God values our differences and shows no favoritism.
“Scriptural guidance on diversity can be found in a number of places, but my favorite is the story of the Good Samaritan,” says Ed Fry, President/CEO of FaithSearch Partners. “Samaritans and Jews were hated enemies, yet it was the love for another human and simple decency which motivated the Samaritan to not only rescue the injured Jew but take him home to care for and manage his recovery. While this example doesn’t directly address leadership inclusion, it obviously establishes the principle that a Christ-like example of service can extend far beyond our own family and peer groups.”
By creating an environment in which a spectrum of people are represented at all levels of employment and leadership, we ensure that we are making the greatest effort to serve people well, regardless of their background. Doing so enables leadership and management decisions to be based on diverse, more fully informed, perspectives.
“It is essential, though, that there be unity on mission and values,” adds Fry. “Various opinions and viewpoints are important but there can be no division on the fundamental aspects of why a faith-based organization exists.”
FaithSearch is particularly passionate about thought diversity, understanding that we each have something significant to contribute based on our experiences and points of view.
“Many faith-based organizations define diversity in terms of race and gender. While this remains a sensitive and critical consideration — in fact, two-thirds of our successful candidates represent gender and racial diversity — but even a highly racially and culturally inclusive team can become a conclave of ‘yes’ men and women without differing views that encourage innovative ideas and collaboration,” says Fry.
Scripture illustrates the value of diversity in terms of the different gifts, talents, and skills each person brings regardless of their differences from one another. In Romans 12 we find this laid out clearly:
“4 For jas in one body we have many members,5 and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, kthough many, lare one body in Christ, and individually mmembers one of another. 6 nHaving gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…”
For nonprofits, diversity is particularly beneficial. Of course, if your team is serving in an international capacity, having people on staff who either live in the country or are a part of the culture is crucial to understanding how to approach the people there in a respectful and effective way. Even if your focus is domestic, having a cultural competence surrounding the people you serve greatly affects the impact you will have. This goes for boots on the ground all the way up to senior leadership making decisions for the future.
Ultimately, the diversity of leadership in a faith-based organization should reflect the diversity of the people it serves, whether that refers to ideology, race, backgrounds, points of view, gender, or any other relevant characteristics. By doing so, we amplify our effectiveness and our impact for the Kingdom.