Any good locksmith will tell you that there are certain keys that fit certain locks. When the pins align, it causes the cylinder to turn. The same is true when engaging a group of people or a unique culture; the pins must align in order for there to be effective communication. As it relates to engaging Urban and Arkansas Delta Churches, there are a few “pins” that must align in order to have a successful connection.
One of the “pins” is History. Urban and Arkansas Delta Churches have a unique personality based on their history. Many of these ministries have been born out of survival. Since many of the members of these congregations (even the Senior Leaders) are blue collar & “no-collar” (the un-employed or under-employed), church has become their place to find identity and safety. Understanding this small snippet of history should give even the casual observer a positive pathway when engaging. However, engaging through the Senior Leader FIRST, would be the proper protocol. He is not only the gatekeeper but the Cultural Scout; he validates the engagement as necessary or not. Because this is a protected place, acquiring credibility is essential to unlocking the door to legitimate and positive interaction.
Another “pin” is language. While this is more prevalent in churches in the Arkansas Delta, among more “mature” Pastors, there is a hint of it in Urban churches as well. Many of the Senior Leaders prefer to be referred to as Pastor. As an outsider, it is necessary to offer respect in title in order to get more pins aligned and the tumblers turning. Not only referring to the Senior Leader as Pastor in HIS PRESENCE, it is understood to use titles in the presence of the congregation. Again, using the language of the culture allows guards to slowly be lowered to assist in successful engagement.
While this article is not an exhaustive list of “pins," knowing them provides a head start in engaging Urban and Arkansas Delta Churches.