Special Statement from the IYM

We at the Institute for Youth Ministry strive to live and work in solidarity with all people who have not ordinarily been centered in our ministry and society. We explicitly name our solidarity with Black people, even as we confess our continual need for repentance, learning, correction, and accountability. We join our voices to the great cloud of witnesses who are making the profoundly theological claim—Black Lives Matter. In a society that marginalizes, oppresses, exploits, and targets Black people, this insistence on the holy dignity and infinite value of God’s beloved children is the revolution made possible because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The COVID-19 pandemic has again exposed a society that overwhelmingly identifies as Christian, while it has made a god out of whiteness no matter the consequences of this idolatry for fellow human beings made in the image of God. We reject this false god, and we refuse to perpetuate this heinous theology and the ways it manifests in how we do ministry. Our friends and family are dying, and our children and young people are watching. There’s too much at stake. There always has been.

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many of our loved ones have been lost to this evil. At long last, let this be a wake up call to the Church. Below are resources that we hope will educate, challenge, nurture, and inspire your ministry with young people as we navigate the ways that our racialized identities are integral to how we understand God, ourselves, and each other.

(Note: BIPOC is an acronym for Black and Indigenous People of Color, and we use it below as an inclusive term in an effort to undo Native invisibility and anti-Blackness in the popular acronym POC).

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Mental Health and Self-Care
Physical Health and Wellness
Health, Race, and Ethics
Congregational Resources
General Resources
For White People
Talking to & Teaching Young People
Ministry With Black Youth

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.

Media by and for Black Youth. Consuming media that centers Blackness and minimizes the white gaze is vital for Black youth identity development.

Theologians and Ministry Practitioners Who Center Blackness and Black Youth:

  • Dr. Almeda Wright, Associate Professor 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 of Theology and Founder of Fearless 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 the consulting work she does around vocational discernment and play.
  • Rev. Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Mercer University’s School of Theology. Check out Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength.
  • Rev. Dr. Willie James Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School. Check out The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race.
  • Dr. Christena Cleveland, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Renewal.
  • Rev. Dr. Neichelle Guidry, Dean of Sisters Chapel at Spellman College. Check out her Modern Faith podcast, as well as shepreaches, which connects Black millennial women with meaningful spaces for theological reflection, liturgical creation, fellowship, and mentoring.
  • Tanya Boucicaut, Assistant Professor of Focused Inquiry at Virginia Commonwealth University and Program Director of the STREAM Youth Theology Institute at Virginia Union University. Check out her recent project with VCU students sharing their stories of COVID-19.
  • Tricia Hersey, Founder and Nap Bishop at The Nap Ministry.
  • Ministry with Youth of Color

    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 are frequently brought up to believe that racism occurs in isolated incidents with individual people saying or doing mean things to BIPOC. This teaching leads white people to believe the solution to racism is simply being nice to BIPOC. The desire to promote “colorblindness“—a refusal to acknowledge racial difference and its impacts 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 actually nice 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 BIPOC 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 sustained work of anti-racism.