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To help you better understand different cultural values, following are brief descriptions of several cultures most commonly found in America. The cultural values described here should in no way put people in a box or insinuate that every person of a particular culture is the same. Rather these are generalities made to give insights on various people groups and their cultures.

Understanding the African-American Culture

  1. How African-Americans Express Themselves
    • Verbal, direct
    • Confrontational
    • Expressive
    • Self-assertive
    • Strong non-verbal language
    • Sensitive
    • Misunderstood
    • Warm
    • Insistent
  2. Historical Characteristics of the Black Family
    • Resilient
    • Establishment of social networks and/or communities
    • Strong biblical heritage
    • Family responsibility and leadership
    • Excellence in human endeavor
    • Unique
    • Family unit of love despite hardships or slavery, segregation and poverty
    • Creative, productive, resourceful and diligent
  3. Current Status
    • Progressive
    • Different levels economically
  4. Values
    • Extended family (home may include grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.)
    • Very private
    • Family Heritage
    • Dignity (don’t like to be embarrassed or looked down upon)
    • Music
    • Pride
    • Respect
    • Black community
    • Church, God and family
    • Strong relationships
    • Education
    • Food
    • Success
  5. Things to Keep in Mind when Ministering to African-Americans
    • The African-American pastor is usually considered the central religious leader in the black community. Religious activity is usually limited to the church. When in doubt, students will defer to the church for spiritual growth. Students who may have never become official members of a church may demonstrate loyalty to a specific congregation because a parent, grandparent or other family member is there.
    • Many students who excel in athletics view it as an opportunity to make it into college or gain financial success. For that reason, especially for African-American males, there can be a disproportionate focus on sports over or equal to academics.
    • Much like a large percentage of U.S. society, African-American homes are often headed by women and single parents.
    • Hip Hop and R&B are the most popular forms of music.
    • African-American students have a very strong desire to do ministry in their local community.
    • The urban and suburban African-American student can sometimes be vastly different in culture. Many of the rules that apply to the urban kid will not apply in suburbia. Economic status she chooses to function in money or the lack of it will always pre-determine an urban or inner city student’s involvement in any activity.
    • African-American teens are drawn to environments where they feel like they’re represented. These students will watch television shows or attend events where they can see others in situations like theirs. They feel reluctant to place themselves in an environment where they are consistently the minority.
    • Food, music and fellowship are central to African-American events and festivities. Most black Christians are accustomed to an expressive, fun, and highly relational environment where they can worship God.
    • African-American communities tend to be suspicious of outside and predominately white groups. Teens will likely have been influenced by their parents or grandparents’ thinking about whites and will sometimes use that to decide how they will relate to other whites. Students want relationships with teens of other races but need to know that they are genuine, sincere and long lasting.
    • Hopelessness is becoming more and more prevalent amongst African-American teens. The level of despair has manifested itself in increased teen violence, drug use and teen pregnancy. It can be seen and heard through movies, television and music in the black community. For this reason, it is becoming necessary to reach teens at the youngest possible age.

Understanding the Asian-American Culture

  1. Similarities of Asians and Americans
    • Emphasis on education to get ahead
    • Strong work ethic
    • Future oriented
    • Highly ethnocentric (our way is the best way)
    • Importance of children
  2. Asian vs. American Culture Asian Culture
    • Family
    • Emphasizes harmony between individuals (wants everyone to get along)
    • Respect for authority (i.e. parents, government)
    • Tradition (hold on to the old)
    • Respect of elders (they value older people)
    • “Don’t show off!”
    • Minimize disagreement
    • “Don’t show your feelings.”
    • Extended family (includes grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.)
    • Male-oriented
    • Parents often live with children when older
    • Conformity
    • “Don’t rock the boat.”

    American Culture

    • Individual oriented
    • Questions Authority; Values individuality
    • Change (try something new!)
    • Americans value young people more
    • “We’re Number One!”
    • Values differences
    • “Let it all hang out!”
    • Nuclear Family (mom, dad, brothers and sisters only)
    • Children are equal to each other
    • Parents live separately from children when older
  3. Facts About the Asian-American Student
    • Among Asians, it is often viewed as prideful to volunteer for ministry responsibilities whereas Whites feel much more comfortable with it. In Japan, there is the saying, “The nail that sticks out gets pounded down.” It is more important to be alike than different.
    • Most Asian Americans feel a great pressure to succeed academically; when other kids are playing sports in junior high, Asian kids will often be studying math/science. Advanced education is a high priority. Asian American high school students tend to be driven and focused. They are very selective about what they are involved in and will tend to choose things that will help them succeed academically or their future career. Most often, parents have the final say in what they will study in college.
    • Asian American students have the highest SAT scores of any group of students on campus.
    • The term Asian American is much more difficult to define then African American. With Asian Americans, there are at least fourteen different Asian groups identified as Asian American by the census bureau: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai, Filipino, Malaysian, etc.
    • Some Asian American students only hang out with White students while others only associate with Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, etc. and want nothing to do with any other cultures.
    • When sharing Christ, it is critical to build a relationship first. Second, many Asian Americans come from Buddhist background. It is important to try to be respectful of his/her background, and to communicate biblical truth in a sensitive, caring, and direct way.
    • Most Asian Americans value a very close family. It is very typical to have grandparents living with the family. Students tend to prioritize family over any other activity.
    • Many Asian Americans feel uncomfortable in White traditional Christian meetings. It is very typical to have students attend one time and never come back again. Creating an environment where they are comfortable (i.e., with other Asians: Koreans with Koreans, Chinese with Chinese, etc.) or focusing on a topic that is very important (leadership, education, etc.) could draw more Asian students.
    • Asian American parents expect their children to participate in making the family successful. Many teens will have after school jobs in their family’s business. Any other time is expected to be used for studying or practicing or any other activity to help them advance.

Understanding the Hispanic Culture

  • The Spanish language is important in the Hispanic community. It is a complement to them when others attempt to use it to them.
  • The overwhelming majority of Hispanics come from conservative religious backgrounds. Therefore, they are spiritually prepared, ready to hear the gospel message.
  • Hispanics are known for loving the family, food, fellowship, relationships, and Fun Fiesta. You can use these different cultural values to reach the Hispanic student. Having a meal with a Hispanic student is a great way to build a relationship. Next, ask about their family and how you can pray for their family.
  • Hispanics make major life decisions based on a relationship of trust. Having any kind of positive influence on the Hispanic high school student means you have to start by building a relationship.
  • Family is very important to Hispanic students. When forced to choose between family and ministry, they will almost always choose family. Love of family is a positive characteristic about the Hispanic culture and being welcomed into their celebrations and events is considered an honor and a tremendous learning opportunity for those who want to minister to them.