WHEN TEACHING ON RACISM…
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.
9 Replies to “WHEN TEACHING ON RACISM…”
I have been teaching about social injustice, including racism. I have used the parable of the lost sheep, John 13:34 , and Galatiand 5: 13-14 for three of these lessons. Thabks for sharing the selection in the article. I look forward to incorporating it into the next. As a Jr/ Sr High Sunday School teacher and Sunday School Co- Director, I thank your for the blessing of your amazing resources. Ministrytoyouth is my go to when looking for lesson ideas and games!
Thank you for this important and helpful information. I’m looking forward to the lessons.
Pastor J. L. Knight
As a pastor in the ministry for 51 years + we have faced many opportunities to minister to all races. I know the African American race has been spotlighted; but there are many other races as well and all races are important to God. It is important not to focus on any one race and focus on the “Human Race” as a whole. We must be more like Jesus reach the Human Race for Him. The Scripture records:
Matthew 28:19-20 New International Version (NIV)
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is the Biblical way. Loving Jesus and everybody. Seeing through Jesus eyes.
Your statement is the problem that many African Americans have with society…and until you change your way of thinking and open your heart to what the reality IS…you will continue to be a part of the problem…The Black Lives Matter movement focuses on black lives because the rest of the country refuses to see the disparity — instead, telling them to shut up and that all lives matter.
The point of the movement is not to assert that black lives matter more than other lives. There is an implicit “too” at the end of the phrase. It is saying that black lives should also matter and the disparity should be acknowledged and changed. However, saying “all lives matter” is dismissing the very problems that the phrase is trying to draw attention to.
As a Black Person I agree with Pastor J.L.Knight
Right now police brutality against black people have been highlighted during this time, it is also a place of division. If we speak and teach like Jesus would then we wouldn’t just talk about black problems, but hispanic and others that also have experienced racism. So it is an uncomfortable conversation to have, but Jesus walked in many areas where he was the minority and faced uncomfortable conversations. So if we look at that and then minister in that vain, we will bring understand, healing, and reconciliation.
Belinda Maria Murray Castaneda
Is there a reason why we are limiting ourselves only to racism against black people?
As a Cuban immigrant (and a female), I have experienced racism, although my race is white. The Native peoples of this country have experienced terrible injustices, as well as our Japanese brothers and sisters or anyone who looked like them. What about native-looking Mexican brothers and sisters from Mexico and Central and South America? And although it seems insignificant, we even poke fun at our Canadian brothers and sisters, who couldn’t be whiter.
I understand that this lesson is a reflection of the culture’s response to a particular moment in history in which the victim, Mr Floyd, RIP, was black, and his aggressor was a white public servant who in that single act betrayed all of us. My concern as a youth director, and Cuban immigrant living in South Florida, is that we only talk about this topic with regards to black lives. It is not only a black experience.
Perhaps it would be helpful to expand this series of lessons to be more inclusive. This issue used to be called prejudice, but now has been pigeonholed into exclusive categories, under which we miss the opportunity to look at this issue as a whole.
We could really dig in deep. We could talk about sexism, or the reverse. Or religion. Our Christian brothers and sisters are dying every day because they refuse to deny Christ, our Lord, or succumb to totalitarian regimes. Even in the US, this freedom is at risk. There is a systemic issue, and it’s not just racism, and it’s not just about black lives.
Thanks and God’s blessing on everything you do to make my work easier.
I think it’s extremely important to focus on racism and teaching young people. I think we do need to acknowledge different peoples cultures, not necessarily the color of their skin. Once acknowledgment of the difference in cultures… Let’s allow the presence of God to blend those cultures together into the Kingdom of God. Let’s not run or fear what God has created.
I appreciate this lesson on Racism. It is a very difficult uncomfortable and avoided subject, but is very very real. As a former classroom teacher I only taught it (Quickly) when it was presented in one of our history books. Rather it was the holocaust or the Mission’s, Civil War, slavery, Pearl Harbor, diversity, bias, inequality, social injustice all were/are heavy painful and emotional subjects. I believe racism should be taught because racism exists and I don’t believe this lesson is all about Black Lives Matter that’s not even mentioned in the lesson. This lesson is about “Teaching on Racism”. If we, the church, don’t address the subject, our youth will get their information from an unwise or ungodly source. Then a new ignorant (unknowing the truth) generation will arise. As a black woman I was not raised knowing my true history. I don’t remember any lessons in elementary or junior high about my people other than we were slaves. Imagine growing up in the 60s and 70s and only hearing that if you had been born 100 years before, you would be a slave. You wouldn’t be able to be in the class, you wouldn’t be able to learn how to read, you wouldn’t be able to drink from this fountain…. This lesson focuses on the individual “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;… It’s about self reflection and comparing our heart to Christ’s. We are supposed to be “reflecting His image”. If we as teachers of God’s word would just teach His word! Phil 2:5 let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
Emmanuel Acho has a YouTube page entitled, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. He has posted 5 episodes that are all of 15 min each. You may recognize Emmanuel as and NFL professional. And now is an analyst for Fox Sports 1. The manner in which Emmanuel handles the subject; real, authentic and genuine, is a good model to consider bench marking. When addressing this issue, as a white man, I think it’s important to let youth be open and honest and point them to how Jesus handled the issue of inequality between the races (Jew and Gentile) and male and female (i.e. The woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery). It was an issue then, it will most likely be an issue in years to come. May God give us all the grace and wisdom bring the unity Jesus spoke of in John 17. The temptation for teachers and leader of youth today is to shoulder the responsibility of getting it right. Sometimes we just need to be willing to have open dialogue, so that people feel safe to share their concerns and fears. Regardless, we should be pointing people to the heart of Jesus, the heart of our Creator. Previous generations may not have gotten it right, if not strategically then maybe tactically. We need to give our youth hope that “…the Same Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is lives in you…” (Romans 8:11); and by his spirit they can confidently proclaim “…now to him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20). God bless the Ministry To Youth team and all those who work to reach this generation with the Gospel.