Editor’s Note: Thank you to the over 100 youth ministry leaders from around the country (and world) who have contributed to this blog post. This is one of many blog posts on racism we’ll be releasing. We’re also hard at work developing a series of free lessons on the topic. The creation process is taking us a lot longer than usual because we’re doing our due diligence listening, learning, and researching the various issues related to racism.
If you’re looking to do a youth group lesson or create a conversation around the topic of racism with students, here are a few steps to take beforehand to prepare yourself.
First, let’s look at a Bible verse – Psalm 139:23-24 (MSG):
“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.”
Leaders can begin by asking themselves: What is my comfort level when it comes to talking about race?
Many avoid talking about race because they’re fearful or uncomfortable for various reasons. But if you take the time beforehand to prepare yourself for the conversation, you’ll be better equipped.
Statements to consider:
- I am very comfortable talking about racism.
- I would rather not talk about racism.
- I am sometimes uncomfortable talking about racism.
Take time to reflect on these statements:
- The hard part of talking about racism is…
- The beneficial part of talking about racism is…
- It is normal to feel discomfort as you reflect on your own experiences with racial inequality and deepen your understanding of racism. But the more you practice facilitating difficult conversations, the more you’ll be able to manage the discomfort.
- The journey is worth the effort.
- You’ll be most effective when you’re personally growing in this area. For example: intentionally put yourself in close proximity with those of other races (diversify your circle of friends), read about the history of racism towards black people (educate yourself), do a lot of listening with the goal of understanding others’ perspectives, and have an open mind.
- Pay attention to your racial blindspots, unconscious biases, etc. Name it for the sin that it is and surrender it to God, who (as you know) changes you from the inside out.
- Leaders need to acknowledge that racism, and it’s various forms and levels, exists. And admit that it is wrong to ignore or be silent about it.
- You can’t change someone else, but you can be an agent of change.
When talking with a group of students who have been victims of racism:
- Students are experiencing grief, pain, and hurt. They also take on pain of others. Being transparent as a leader helps students know they aren’t alone. Pointing them to Scripture, encouraging them to pray, and taking their feelings to God is vital for a leader.
- When students get angry and shut down, they cannot fully become the person God created them to be. Help them navigate their pain, hurt, anger, etc. Create the space to have an honest conversation so they can talk about their emotions and share their thoughts. Share your feelings, experiences, and thoughts about racism. Speak the truth with grace, love, and compassion.
Before beginning the conversation with students, have conversations with others, including parents.
It’s helpful for a leader to gauge the racial tension (or lack thereof) around them before starting the conversation with students. This might give them a feel of what to expect before addressing it with students.
Be prepared for students’ responses.
- Leaders know their students; consider the emotional responses likely to emerge and list potential response strategies.
- Be willing to have the tough conversations with students, and then when something uncomfortable is said, lean into it. Listen. Dig. Probe. Speak truth to the situation.
Would you like to add something to the list? Leave a comment below.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to the over 100 black youth ministry leaders from around the country (and world) who have contributed to this blog post. This is one of many blog posts on racism we’ll be releasing. We’re also hard at work developing a series of free lessons on the topic. The creation process is taking us a lot longer than usual because we’re doing our due diligence listening, learning, and researching the various issues related to racism.