HomeSocial Impact HeroesCelebrating Diversity: Dr PJ Dunn On How To Build Inclusive Communities

Celebrating Diversity: Dr PJ Dunn On How To Build Inclusive Communities

An Interview With Vanessa Ogle

You hit what you aim for, so aim for a diverse culture! Singles must be valued and included in all teams and processes to be heard throughout an organization. Intentionally check roles and teams for an equal representation of single adults.

In a world where diversity is often acknowledged but not always celebrated, we are taking a step forward to highlight the importance of inclusivity in building strong, vibrant communities. This series aims to explore the various facets of diversity — be it racial, cultural, gender-based, or within the differently-abled community — and understand how embracing these differences strengthens our social fabric. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. PJ Dunn.

Dr. PJ Dunn is passionate about reaching and equipping single adults through discipleship. As an advocate for singles, he travels nationally, speaking, coaching, and creating content for singles and the local church. Table for One Ministries was created in 2013 to build community for single adults through discipleship. With over 15 years of local church service, PJ now serves as a Discipleship Consultant in North Georgia with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, helping churches make disciples and reach their community. He also is an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about celebrating diversity, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

In my early 20s, I realized that I was different from my friends and remained single longer than most. I began searching for how to reach and engage the single adult population like myself to discover that. After completing graduate work, I took a doctoral workshop that challenged me to “ask the question no one is asking,” and I was hooked. I wanted to learn more about singles to advocate for them to be complete where they are and help others see they are a significant part of the community surrounding them.

Can you share an interesting or hopeful story where spending time with someone who did not look like you or who was different from you taught you something that has been useful to you?

Singles come in several life stages. Never-married, dating, engaged, divorced, widowed, and single parents. I have spent years with people from each of these categories, learning what drives them and helps them connect in the community. One of those people was Nicole. Nicole was in her mid-30s and was passionate about children, even though she could not have any herself. She started fostering as a single adult and eventually adopted her son Nate. The crisis facing the foster care and adoption system is well documented, so seeing a single adult step in to help another life was a watershed moment in my life. Singles can tremendously contribute to our community if we challenge social norms and see love change lives.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Challenge the process. I read the book Leadership Challenge in my undergraduate studies, which shaped who I am as a person and leader. Having a character that can challenge the process unlocks new horizons of opportunities. It also comes with a responsibility to challenge a process and the emotional intellgence to respectfully analyuze a situation for additional possibilities.

Teachable. If you are teachable, you can consume new information but, more importantly, have an adaptable mindset. Teachable people tend to be team players who desire to know more in pursuit of a challenge. This character trait translates into relationships, work projects, and all aspects of life to always be flexible in new pursuits.

Lifelong Learner. This character trait is a root character trait that is pivotal to success. You can go at life alone and believe you are always right or be a lifelong learner who acquires knowledge to ask better questions. Having information does not make you a lifelong learner, but applying learned information creates leaders worth following.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Can you share a personal story that highlights the impact of diversity and inclusivity in your life or career?

I arrived at a normal single function, ready for everyone to come and have a fun evening. In walks in a young adult, parents in tow, through the hallway towards our room. I thought, why would you bring your parents inside with you as a young adult? As the trio arrived at our door and we made introductions, Paul asked me aside to see if the four of us could talk before he stayed. Paul was on the Autism spectrum, and his parents were concerned for his wellbeing. After a brief conversation of assurance and exchanging numbers, the parents were on their way, and we entered the room. It never occurred to me how a parent would feel about their adult child being in social environments with some extra attention needed. We, of course, connected him to our community, and he returned to many more events. I did use his parents’ numbers a few times, but overall, awareness helped our group increase in diversity to be the loving community we knew it could be.

How do you approach and manage the challenges that arise when working towards creating more inclusive communities?

Most of the challenges that arise to increase diversity are personal preference. Diversity comes in many ways but is specific to singles; they want an environment where they are accepted as a whole person, not a half in need of another half. Speaking directly to a person, even when they are in a relationship, is essential as they are individuals first. When set aside, personal preferences create a community where everyone is welcome, and diversity is celebrated.

What innovative strategies or initiatives have you implemented or observed that effectively promote the importance of diversity and inclusivity?

Intentional structure for social events and communication helps to promote diversity. We all have a bias to see the world through our eyes. That is why working in a team and through a strategy of diverse inclusion creates communities where love thrives and people connect.

In your opinion, what are the key elements that make a community truly inclusive, and how can these be fostered on a larger scale?

Scaling diversity is about culture. We see this in several Fortune 500 companies, where they have a culture that celebrates specific values, which are scaled throughout the organization. To be an inclusive large community, there must be assumed norms in its culture that are valued and exhibited rather than enforced. When those axioms, elements, values, statements, and missions are engrained, they can enlarged.

Based on your experience and research, can you please share “5 Ways We Can Build Inclusive Communities”?

1 . Challenge the Process

Be the person who asks three questions for every answer. This will help draw out new ideas and involve others for information gathering.

2 . Be a Lifelong Learner

Set a personal goal to consume atypical information to learn diverse information. These goals do not have to be about work, it can be a new hobby or sport that challenges you to be adaptable and teachable to someone else.

3 . Remain Teachable

Reading, watching, and participating in things you typically are not drawn towards helps to build a teachable spirit. Keep asking good questions to receive even better answers.

4 . Structure Culture

You hit what you aim for, so aim for a diverse culture! Singles must be valued and included in all teams and processes to be heard throughout an organization. Intentionally check roles and teams for an equal representation of single adults.

5 . Acknowledge Personal Bias

We all struggle to see things from another worldview. Try always to ask questions on how someone else would view a situation and try to share empathy with their position.

How do you measure the impact and success of diversity and inclusion efforts, and what changes have you seen as a result of these initiatives?

Progress comes through evaluation. Data gets a seat at the table to measure if you are a diverse community. Collect facts to help paint a picture that is not biased towards a people group but has distinguishing information to draw the next steps in diversity. A community never “arrives” at being diverse; it is a constant evaluation for inclusion.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be for people to acknowledge life alone was never intended, but marriage is not the finish line. Being complete comes with being selfless first and then being a friend worth having to others. When we are a friend worth having, we can be who we were created to be and a community of diverse inclusion.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can follow us on any social media platform by searching “Table for One Ministries” and our website

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success in your great work!

Celebrating Diversity: Dr PJ Dunn On How To Build Inclusive Communities was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.