4 ways your youth ministry can help to stop racism in this nation

Greg Stier
Greg Stier

UnityThis morning, my heart, all of our hearts at Dare 2 Share, are deeply saddened by the killing of 5 police officers (and wounding of seven more) in Dallas last night. All of this took place at the hands of a sniper who reportedly said that he wanted to kill white people. My heart is also broken for Philando Castile being shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota on Wednesday night and Alton Sterline being shot by two white police officers on Tuesday.

Two of these incidents were caught on cell phone videos and streamed online. It has helped to accelerate the anger among people of all ethnicities across this nation. From #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter, emotions are running hot in the not-so-United States of America.

So what can a youth leader do about it? More than you might think! Whether you’re in the cities, the suburbs or the farmlands you can make a difference…and so can your teenagers. You can help to eradicate racism in this nation one teenager at a time.

Before I share with you 4 ways you can do this, let me give you just a little background as to why I believe this can happen.

I was raised in one of the highest crime rate areas of my city in a largely Latino part of town. I felt racial tensions every day walking to and home from school, at my school and in my own neighborhood. My family was a white family full of body-building, tatted thugs who were known for their willingness (and even desire) to fight the Hispanics in and around our neighborhood. Witnessing bloody fights and hearing racial slurs was commonplace growing up.

But then a church from the suburbs reached out to my part of the city and one-by-one began to reach my uncles and aunts and cousins for Christ…and to disciple them. As a little kid in Northern Denver, I witnessed a slow and steady transformation in my family members.

Although the church and youth ministry that reached my family for Jesus was in a pasty white part of a mostly middle and upper middle class town, they had an unusual amount of racially diverse young people in key leadership positions. I was equipped to share my faith, grow in my faith and preach the Word by Latino brothers and sisters. And, over the course of time, God replaced the rampant racism in my family’s hearts with massive love for red, yellow, black and brown! At the center of it all was a youth minstry that wanted to reach everyone everywhere with the hope of Jesus. 

With all of that as a backdrop here are the 4 things you can do to #StopRacism in your students and community:

1. Pray! Pray! Pray!

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  John 17:20,21

In Christ’s high priestly prayer he interceded for us, believers from all ages and races, to “be one” as the Father and Son are one! He asked God for unity in the church! 

As we join him in prayer for a united church, we will intuitively begin to take steps to make sure we are a diverse youth group. Our teenagers will begin to pray for teenagers of all races at their schools to put their faith in Jesus and reach out to them with the gospel. It all starts with prayer!

Why not spend time praying for God to break down the racial barriers in your youth group and city together as a group this week? This issue is trending on Twitter and saturating our news channels so much it should be impossible for us to ignore.

2.  Get your theology straight.

Where did racism come from? We all know that ultimately all sin started in the Garden when Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit on our behalf on passed on to us that selfish seed. But, more specifically, we see it’s etymology when God confused the language of a once-united, same-language people and scattered them over the earth (Genesis 11:1-8.) The people clustered then collided. Racism became rampant after that.

What’s the solution? Salvation! The red blood of Jesus is color blind. It can save the lost souls from any ethnicity. Galatians 3:28 makes it clear that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

What should the practical outworking of all this be? Fully integrated churches and youth groups! As my friend, Derwin L. Gray, wrote,

In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile. But God birthed a group of people on the planet who He recreated in His eternal Son Jesus to transcend this racial hostility, injustice, and oppression. He did this by means of Jesus’ death on the cross so that our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Derwin L Gray (Pastor of Transformation Church and Author of High Definition Leadership…Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World)

3.  Teach this theology interactively.

Don’t just blurt these truths out to students and then wrap up in prayer! Use questions to get the real issues in your  teenagers’ hearts to surface and then deal with them. At Dare 2 Share we use a strategy called ALTernative Teaching. It basically stands for:

Ask great questions. This is what Jesus did and we should do with our teenagers.

Listen deeply to their answers.

Teach the truth from God’s Word. 

Using this style of teaching will allow teenagers to have a dialogue with you and not just hear a monologue from you. But be warned, this can get a little messy. Teenagers may have strong feelings and some sinful perspectives that need to be gently corrected. So bring a mop, it will be worth cleaning up the mess and helping them to have a solid theology when it comes to truly loving everyone!

4.  Gospelize everyone.

True evangelism is color-blind. It only sees red (the blood of Jesus) and longs for everyone everywhere to be cleansed by it!

Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” In his now famous last words before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the call for us to reach everyone of all nationalities. We start where we are (Jerusalem) and move outward toward the less-comfortable regions…like Samaria.

To the Jews of the time, Samaritans were considered lower than Gentiles. They were half breeds, half Jew and half Gentile. Many Jews felt like they had sold out to the Assyrians during the fall of Israel and had intermarried with them, producing what they considered to be accursed offspring. But with one sentence Jesus rips that stereotype from his disciples’ mind and challenges them to reach them all with the hope that only he can offer!

In the same way we must reach our own “Jerusalems” with the Gospel, but we must reach our “Samarias” too. I call it reaching across the street and across the tracks!

That’s one of the things that made my youth ministry growing up so special. They reached across the tracks to my neighborhood (30 minutes away in the bad part of our city) to reach my family and other families with the message of hope. They didn’t care about the color of your skin but the condition of your heart. And, as long as you were willing to grow, they would train you and give you key positions to lead in the youth group. Although I was fatherless, I felt like I had brothers and sisters of all types and races in my youth group.

So how do you build this brand of youth ministry? You have to choose to integrate 7 Biblical values ripped straight from the book of Acts into the meat and muscle of your ministry. If you’d like to go deeper into these values pick up my book Gospelize and go through it with your youth ministry team.

Racism is a problem in America. We can play our part in helping to solve it by building multi-ethnic, Gospel-Advancing ministries that are making and multiplying disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and beyond.

Why do this? “That the world may believe” because they see in our teenagers an other-worldly, Jesus-centered, unshakeable and unbreakable unity.



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