Robert Brooks sees his cultural identity as an important key to his connection with students at the University of Pittsburgh. After six years on the campus with Athletes in Action, Brooks says he has seen the meetings go from predominantly white to an even mix and now to about 70 percent African American and 30 percent white, especially notable for a campus that is 71 percent white.
“To see an African American lead the group is vital and extremely important there,” says Brooks. “They respect (the message) more because it’s coming from someone they relate to, someone with similar backgrounds. They want someone to tell them the truth. It doesn’t have to be someone who looks like them, but it helps if it is.”
One of AIA’s mission critical priorities is to increase diversity among its staff members. According to president Mark Householder, the initiative is crucial if AIA is to move forward in reaching the world.
“Diversity gives us an advantage in fulfilling the Great Commission,” he says. “In the past, athletes have looked at this organization and haven’t seen much color. So this can put our staff members and volunteers at a disadvantage in ministry.”
“It sometimes communicates to others that it’s not that important to reach everyone,” notes Corwin Anthony, director of pro ministry with AIA and a key player on the diversity task force at AIA.
Householder says diversity among staff members means that AIA will better represent the diversity of the college and professional athletes AIA hopes to reach.
Householder identifies three major goals for AIA over the next two years:
• Launching AIA ministry at 20 historically black colleges and universities
• Placing a minority in a vice president position
• Garnering at least 30 minority applicants for staff or interns
Householder says there are many more goals, but it boils down to making the organization more culturally diverse and more effective at reaching a diverse audience.
Householder notes that the diversity initiative also extends to current staff members, who are being encouraged to think cross-culturally in their own experiences with evangelism and personal witness. While he knows some of those things are happening already, there is a move toward all staff becoming more intentional in their embrace of diversity.
“By God’s grace and His strength, along with unrelenting intentionality on our part, we are believing God for great change in AIA,” Householder says.