Last week, I had the privilege of attending a Zoom gathering with fellow Christian Educators from around the country who are grappling with how to talk about race and racism within a Children’s Ministry context. The gathering was led by an impressive panel of Children’s Ministries professionals who invited us to walk in the truth of Jesus’ teachings and to appreciate the influence and leadership that houses of worship bring to this important topic.
Although it’s not possible to adequately represent all that was shared on the call, I’d like to offer a few takeaways that were particularly powerful for me, both within the context of my role here at First Pres, but also as a person in the world who is always striving to choose love in order to be the light that just might change the world. These takeaways are paraphrased from my notes as I heard and understood them.
- Teaching our children about empathy, compassion, acceptance, humanity, and justice is the responsibility of all of us.
- Intentionality within programs can go a long way towards creating welcoming and affirming ministries. This means offering a variety of images of Jesus, so that all children can see themselves in Jesus’ face. Musical offerings that represent different cultures and rhythms broaden a child’s perspective and experience in profound ways. Inviting people of color to be teachers and leaders amplifies voices that are desperate to be heard.
- We must listen to children and validate how they’re feeling. Asking a child, “What scares you about what’s happening” allows them to verbalize what they are seeing and hearing, without adding an adult context and an unintended layer to a child’s experience. As adults, it’s ok for us not to know the answers and to say so.
- Don’t let the conversations end when the headlines die down. Normalize justice and compassion and empathy in discussions and lessons. Change isn’t something you can check off your list and move on from. It’s an ongoing process.
- And finally, “Ask God to check your heart.” This direct quote from one of the panelists, Keedren Boston, has moved in and taken up space in my heart and brain since last week. Asking God to reveal who you are and who you want to be can be one of the most vulnerable things you do, but also one of the most life-changing.
God longs for us to be in relationship with one another. God has given each of us the spirit of compassion and empathy and justice and wants nothing more than for us to use these gifts to make the world a better place for everyone. God yearns for every man, woman, and child to see both God and humanity in every other man, woman, and child. May God’s wisdom prevail in such a way that God’s spirit is unmistakable when we see it at work in our own lives and the lives of our neighbors.