RESOURCES FOR YOUTH MINISTRY
In solidarity with black people and those we have historically marginalized
Practices of Self-Care. Black trauma is compounded by constant exposure to black trauma. Equipping black youth with practices of self love and care is essential youth ministry. From the Association of Black Psychologistsand the Community Healing Network.
Media by and for Black Youth. Consuming media that centers blackness and minimizes the white gaze is vital for black youth identity development.
Theologians Who Center Black Youth. By no means a comprehensive list, we love engaging the work of:
- Dr. Almeda Wright, Associate Professor of Religious Education at Yale Divinity School. Check out The Spiritual Lives of Young African Americans.
- Rev. Dr. Gregory Ellison, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Emory University’s Candler School or Theology and Founder ofFearless Dialogues. Check out Cut Dead but Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men.
- Dr. Lakisha Lockhart, who will be joining the faculty of Chicago Theological Seminary on July 1. Check out theconsulting work she does around vocational discernment and play.
Combatting Anti-Blackness. The messages of white supremacy are so saturated in our society that people of color can uncritically internalize these messages, which affects how they view themselves and others. Because of the unique history in America that intertwines our economic system with systemic oppression of black people, all people of color are susceptible to anti-blackness. Non-black youth of color, therefore, must learn to identify and combat this racist ideology.
Intersectionality. Having absorbed much of the cultural messaging around race during their own racial identity development, youth of color can sometimes perpetuate the so-called “oppression olympics” that pits various communities against one another. Youth ministers can help these young people develop their own complex and intersectional identities in ways that foster solidarity across difference.
Making and Protecting Non-White Space. “Diversity,” “inclusivity,” and “belonging” have become favored buzzwords for well-meaning white people. Yet, in a society permeated by white supremacy, these words often imply the creation of predominantly white spaces that still operate within the norms and constructs of white supremacy— just with more people of color. In order to help youth of color develop and thrive, ministries need to cultivate and protect spaces (through worship, programs, events, and other tools for ministry) that are not dominated and constructed by whiteness.
Being Nice Isn’t Enough. White people arefrequently brought up to believe that racism occurs in isolated incidents with individual people saying or doing mean things to people of color. This teaching leads white people to believe that the solution to racism is simply being nice to people of color. The desire to promote “colorblindness“—a refusal to acknowledge racial difference and its impact on society—often follows from this logic. But this refusal is also a denial of the fullness of another person and their experience. This isn’t actuallynice at all.
White Youth Have a Racial Identity. The messages of white supremacy indoctrinate white people to understand themselves and their experiences as the default way to be human. While everyone else has a race, the logic goes, white people are just normal people. Like colorblindness, this erases the full humanity of people of color and often results in white people never realizing their own racialized identity.
Stopping White Savior Complex. The social conditions that white supremacy has created often result in predominantly white youth ministries approaching “mission” as the opportunity for white and wealthier youth groups to “help less fortunate people.” This approach perpetuates the myth of the white savior, which is both deeply harmful in practice and reflects very poor theology.
Anti-Racist Youth Ministry. Angela Davis said it best: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist; we must be antiracist.” Faithful youth ministry with white youth requires a commitment to the work of anti-racism.
Getting Started. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, many people across racial lines have begun to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism. If you are newer to the movement toward racial justice, take some time to educate yourself. And remember—this moment isn’t new. People of color (particularly black people) have long been fighting this fight.
Accountability to People of Color. There’s no getting around it—conversations about race are hard and emotional conversations. But they are necessary; they are part of the work. In the process of these conversations, you will make mistakes and need to be corrected—especially if you are white. But these corrections are also part of the work. Sitting with your own discomfort is not work that white people are accustomed to doing in a system of white supremacy. Accountability to people of color is essential.
Action Over Intention. While education about race and racism is an essential part of the process toward dismantling the oppression of white supremacy, it is not enough to know and not act. Beyond the hashtag, beyond the blackout boxes on social media, and evenbeyond the protests, there is work to do.
Racism is Sin. White supremacy is idolatry. Reckoning with the ways that this evil has ravaged the Church and corrupted the gospel of Jesus Christ is imperative work in the world today. Anti-racist ministry matters, not only because of the the social implications of racism but also because of how racism poisons theology.