Crossing cultures: 11 lessons learned

Crossing cultures isn’t easy. Getting to know your neighbour, making friends and building cross-cultural communities is something that definitely takes time and effort. But it doesn’t take a superhero! Here’s eleven lessons learned by an experienced cross-cultural practitioner.


  1. Culture tends to follow the line of least resistance. So, unless we make a conscious effort, crossing cultures doesn’t happen. Birds of a feather flock together.
  2. Practise hospitality across cultures! Many Anglo Aussies seem to have lost the art of hospitality. We’re ready to attend cultural events or meals across cultures when invited, but do we invite newcomers to ours?
  3. People from other cultures are often very happy to talk about their own faith, and yours. For them, religion is not a taboo subject.
  4. Don’t limit yourself before you start. Some Aussie Christians with very little previous exposure to people of minority ethnic groups become excellent cross-cultural workers.
  5. Photo albums can be a great way to learn about your friends who come from other cultures, and albums work in both directions.
  6. For many migrants to Australia, ethnic identity is very much bound up with religious identity. Remember that it can be costly for such people to become Christians.
  7. We all have cultural lenses. We can look at the same situation but how we see it is different. If we’re aware of our own cultural lenses and other people’s, friendships will come more easily.
  8. If you want your church to be more multi-ethnic, it’s important to make sure the leaders are on board. They may not need to be the ones who direct cross-cultural ministry going forward, but they need to be involved and enthusiastic.
  9. In our churches, it’s inevitable that people’s cultures shape their understanding of what constitutes a good leader, and good leadership, as well as appropriate decision-making styles.
  10. Wherever possible, try to set up a diverse team! When planning for a multi-ethnic church, be sure to include people from minority cultures in the planning process, and ensure that they are in up-front leadership roles as well.
  11. There is increasing evidence that children of Christian migrants are leaving the church in significant numbers. We need to plan for this generation by addressing the challenges and overcoming them.


Hopefully these lessons will help you as you get to know your neighbour!


Andrew Schachtel worked overseas with Interserve for more than 20 years, and now serves as a team member of Interserve’s CultureConnect ministry engaging migrants, refugees and international students. He co-authored Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures.



Learn more about each of these topics in Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures by Andrew Schachtel, Choon-Hwa Lim and Michael K Wilson.

You can order the book here.