Beyond Four Walls: Called Outside of the Church to Connect with Diverse Communities

Beyond Four Walls: Called Outside of the Church to Connect with Diverse Communities

We are called beyond our congregations to connect with cultures and communities around us. No matter your denomination or religious foundation, most congregations have a sacred calling to serve the people and communities around them. Unfortunately, too many congregations have become complacent in residing comfortably within the four walls of our churches. We may send money to foreign countries, maybe even send food to a local homeless shelter a couple of times a year but is this the true mission of our churches? There are those congregations that commit to a once-a-year schedule evangelical crusade. The traditional approach is to seek out a marginalized neighborhood, make assumptions about the people and their needs, deliver food or services without invitation or connection, and expect this handout would result in folks willing to listen to a doctrine intended to convert the residents.  

Now more than ever, we must recognize that we are called out of the church not to convert but to connect; to listen, learn, and love. In order to make these vital connections, we must be intentional about increasing cultural competency and extending care from our congregation to diverse communities. We must also take an assets approach to build these critical relationships by recognizing, learning from, and valuing the community capital, cultural wealth, and funds of knowledge unique to each neighborhood. When we take this relational approach, there is much to teach, much to learn, and much to gain today and for future generations. Let’s not be color-blind, let’s be color-brave; let’s be culture-brave, and let’s start in our congregations!


This workshop will be offered twice to provide scheduling flexibility for participants. Participants do not need to attend both sessions. 

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM EST

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM EST 



Wilisha Scaife is a passionate woman who describes herself as a believer, dreamer, and life-long learner. Her purpose in life is to encourage, equip and empower others to reach their goals and live their God-given dreams! She has been married to Robert Scaife for 28 years and is the proud mother of three (Jauwan 30; Jayla 24; and Jasiah 18). She is a lifelong resident of Muncie, Indiana. 

WillishaScalfeWilisha earned her B.S. in Organizational Leadership from Anderson University and her M.A. in Executive Development for Public Service (special focus in adult and community education) from Ball State University. She is employed at Ball State University in the Teachers College Office of the Dean as the Professional Learning Specialist for Culturally Relevant Family & Community Engagement. She also serves as an instructor of family and community engagement for the awarding-winning Schools Within the Context of Community teacher education program. Wilisha is a community liaison and serves as Program Coordinator of the Parents CORE and LiftUPP Family, School & Community Engagement initiative. She is a published author, frequently invited speaker at prominent national venues, and a staunch advocate for pedagogical approaches that are culturally responsive, community sustaining, and which authentically engage families as equal partners in their students' education.

Along with her service as a child, family, and community advocate, Wilisha is a licensed minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She began preaching in 1999 and has served in multiple capacities at Union Missionary Baptist Church (Muncie), including being hired by the church as Coordinator of Ministries (2003-2008). Wilisha currently assists in ministry leadership with her husband, Robert, who is the senior pastor at Union. Together they serve the church, local school, and community in significant ways. Wilisha and her husband, Robert, have received many commendations including the “Champions for Kids – Civic Volunteers” Award from Prevent Child Abuse in April of 2015 and the Mayor James P. Carey Community Service Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Dream Team in 2017. 

Wilisha is a talented writer with a record of publications which includes lead authorship of the piece I Am My Community in the recently published book The Power of Community Engagement: Voices and Visions of Hope and Healing (Teachers College Press, 2021). In 2021, along with colleagues, Wilisha and Robert co-authored a manuscript focused on 'reimaging schools' and how the Black Church experience can positively reshape classrooms, published in Teachers College Record – the journal of Teachers College at Columbia University. Most recently, Wilisha was lead author of the chapter Building a Better Table: Families and Communities as Architects of Imagination in Teacher Education Reform, which will soon appear in a publication of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement.

Wilisha enjoys spending time with her family especially taking long walks on summer evenings. You will find her supporting her children’s many academic, career, and extracurricular activities, cooking, and entertaining family and friends in her home.