More black men and women shot.
Social media explosion.
Black Lives Matter marches.
That list is not exhaustive, and you probably have your own perspective on the events of this year. But this year has undeniably brought another movement in the fight against racial injustice, and the church can’t miss this opportunity to be leading this conversation with students.
If you’re reading this blog post, then you already know the importance of small groups. And you already know that the best place for these conversations to happen is within a small group of students with adult leaders who have built trust over time. But the reality is, when it comes to this topic of racial injustice, most small group leaders don’t know where to start. As a ministry leader, here are five ways you can set them up for the win:
- Explain the why
You’re the best gauge of your community, your environment, and your team. Do they already recognize the importance of this conversation? Or do you need to put in some work up front to help SGLs understand why these conversations need to happen?
Regardless of where each leader stands on understanding the importance of this conversation, it’s still pretty essential for them to hear from you, the leader, about why it’s important to you and to the Church. So take some time to do the work. If language already exists within your church, use that when communicating with them. If not, take some time to clearly formulate your why and share it with them. This conversation on racial injustice should not be one of those topics that is just on the ministry schedule that has no pre-conversation.
What about your students? How can you introduce this conversation to them? Maybe you raise the tension through a teaching series or simply address current events as a large group, but either way, make sure to prepare Small Group Leader’s in advance.
- Resource them.
There are so many voices and so much information about racial injustice issues right now. Many of them are great, but it can definitely be overwhelming to know where to start—especially if your SGLs are new to the conversation.
Resource SGLs, but don’t overwhelm them. Find the right pace and schedule for your team to help them learn without overwhelming them to the point they don’t do anything at all to prepare. Start small and be realistic. It’s helpful to have a variety of resources that speak to different learning styles such as blog posts, podcasts, infographics, books, and interviews.
If you’re looking for a place to start, check out Resources on Racism Every Leader Should Watch, Read, and Share.
- Remind SGLs that their silence communicates something.
Not knowing what to say often means we don’t say anything at all. The fear of saying the wrong thing can keep us from even starting the conversation. But sometimes silence is worse than stumbling over our words or honestly saying, “I don’t know.”
The truth is, many students are already aware of what’s happening in the world, so when adults are silent on these issues, students often fill in the gaps about what they assume the adults around them believe about it. How SGLs use their voice (either through a one-on-one conversation or even on social media), will oftentimes determine whether a student labels them as a safe place to process their feelings or not.
Help SGLs understand that this generation needs to hear their voices advocating for racial reconciliation and equality. Set the example as a ministry leader. Gen Z is the most diverse generation our world has ever seen (for more information about Gen Z, read here and here and here), and they need to feel safe to talk about racial injustice at church.
- Clarify what is helpful and what is not.
Conversations about racial injustice can be loaded, difficult, and emotionally charged. Here’s a helpful tool: before SGLs say anything, simply ask the clarifying question, “Is this helpful?” We all have a lot of thoughts, stories, or information that we want our students to understand, but before we share any of that, we need to ask what is actually helpful to the student we’re talking with.
- Help them balance sharing their experience and asking questions.
So, you reminded SGLs that they need to say something, but you might also have to remind them not to talk too much. Help SGLs to prioritize listening and focus on learning with their students.
Give them the win by providing some good questions to ask.
Here are few to start with:
- What have you heard about racial injustice? What do you already know?
- How does this make you feel?
- How do you think all of this started?
- In what ways do you see racial injustice in your world (school, teams, etc.)?
- What are your friends saying about it? Do you let them know if you agree or disagree with them?
- What role should we (our family, our church, Christians, etc.) play when it comes to racial injustice?
- How did Jesus interact with people in the Bible who were marginalized or oppressed because of their race or ethnic background?
- What do you think about the things you see in the media about other races? Do you think they’re mostly true? Do you think they’re mostly false?
- If you had the chance to say anything encouraging to another race, what would you say?
Last, but not least, pray together. Encourage each other. Be resources for each other. Share and celebrate wins as a team.
Change is happening. You, your SGLs, and your students are a part of it. Don’t miss it. This is history in the making.
Katie Matsumoto Moore is an enthusiastic cheerleader of students seeking to empower the next generation to have a Kingdom impact on the world around them. She has the best job ever—loving and leading students with her husband Kellen in Southern California. Katie is a creative mind, an empathetic heart, and a lifelong learner. She looks for the lovely in life, favors colored pens, and will always stop for coffee!