Grant enables new cross-cultural project to move forward

September 06, 2007

For the Rev. Henry Kim, reaching back to help others is a part of ministry. A Korean American serving Grace United Methodist in San Ramon, Kim says memories of his life as a young seminarian are still fresh, along with the heady days which followed, including transitioning into his first cross-cultural appointment.


“I’ve been [in the U.S.] long enough to understand the culture and language. I grew up here. Still, a lot of the practices in American churches are different – weddings and funerals, for instance, are different from one culture to another. I wasn’t very confident whether I would be able to lead a church in a cross-cultural ministry.”


Kim says he was able to succeed due in great part to “a lot of on the job training,” and a generous congregation that helped him with the learning curve. Now, 15 years into his cross-cultural ministry, Kim is working on a program to assist other ethnic seminarians to take more confident steps into the world of cross-cultural ministry, and he’s receiving national attention and assistance.


The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has just awarded Kim a grant to fund a pilot program based in the California-Nevada Annual Conference that will assist Korean students preparing for cross-racial, cross-cultural appointments. Kim says it’s hard for seminary students, particularly ethnic students, to find appointments. Understanding cultural differences is often a main roadblock.


“Ethnic students who speak English as a second language have a difficult time finding appointments,” says Kim. “That’s particularly the case with Korean students.”


Kim took his project proposal to the National Association of Korean-American United Methodist Pastors Serving Cross-Racial Appointments. With its backing, the United Methodist Council on Korean American Ministries and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry moved to assist funding the pilot program, which will enable Korean seminary students to receive training in cross-racial ministries before they leave school.


“The students will receive training at mainstream churches for a year, learning about the ministry and experiencing everything from sermons to Bible studies, funerals, weddings, and council meetings. The more they’re exposed earlier on, the easier it will be for them to be prepared for cross-racial ministry,” Kim says.


Kim has met with Bay View District Superintendent Renae Extrum-Fernandez, who will assist in finding training churches for the project. He has also consulted with Pacific School of Religion President William McKinney and the Rev. Lucia Ann McSpadden, author of the book, Meeting God at the Boundaries: a Manual for Church Leaders. Both are helping in designing the program. Kim is also working with the Korean Caucus of the Conference for additional funding.


Kim says the most important element will be finding clergy with cross-racial experience to mentor students. “I feel those persons already in cross-racial ministries are the best people to help our seminarians expand their experience in cross-cultural settings.”


Kim believes the pilot project has the ability to benefit seminarians from other ethnic groups as well as Korean Americans. He says the California-Nevada Conference is an excellent setting for the program because of the Conference’s emphasis on multiculturalism.