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Talking About Race In A 95% White Youth Ministry

7 · 11 · 16


Photo Source AP

Our youth ministry is 95% white. It’s a demographic issue. It’s a cultural issue. Sunday mornings are still the most segregated moment doing the week. Our youth ministry welcomes any and all  kinds of students, but having a majority of white kids makes it tough to talk about race. Did I mention I’m located in the south? Birmingham, Al. to be exact. A city with a long history of racial issues.

This Sunday I asked kids to write down any questions they have about the racial incidents they’ve seen in the news over the past week and got zero response. This could be because they don’t care and are apathetic but it’s more likely that they don’t know what questions to ask. Race is not on their radar because most of  them do not have to interact with other races (ethnicities) except when they’re are at school.

As usual, I have more questions than answers.

Should I only address racial issues when they come up in the news?

How do I break up groups for small group discussion?

Am I the right person to lead the discussion?

What happens if things get heated or off topic?

I’m working these things out as I go but this is my plan at the moment.

To start with I will show this video by Viktory called 1968 (the year Martin Luther King was killed)


I have also asked an African American man in our church to come share his thoughts about race and, as he shared with me yesterday, why he believe it’s not abut race but about the spiritual nature of people.

I will also be speaking on two stories where race was in issue in scripture (and the culture) and what Jesus tells us about being a good neighbor.

The Woman at the Well – John 4

The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37

The Samaritan Leper – Luke 17:11-19

Jesus racially insulted John 8:48

Closing Scripture I John 4:16-21

My warnings to students

Don’t believe everything the media says (context)

Guard your heart again what you read on social media and what you post.

Be willing to say, “I have no answer except to love the person in front of me.”

This is not about one message  because of one incident or several instances. It should be the ongoing work of all youth ministries to cultivate awareness and compassion so that when a race issue becomes a local or national news story our students will default to what we’ve taught them all along, to love each other.










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