If we inspire people and do not inform them for Monday, they'll just come on Sunday to get high. -Bishop T.D. Jakes
If you listened to Episode 6 you are aware that Trenelle and I discussed Rape Culture, the church, and more specifically our experiences growing up and what that taught us about Feminism, Womanism, and sexuality. Often times when we deal with serious topics we unintentionally and intentionally point out gaping holes in allyship. Holes that I believe require that she and I give tools that can be utilized or at least considered as listeners process through the infamous question of, "What can I do?". One of the many statements pastors and/or church leaders say when I press them on the necessity of speaking out on social justice issues is, "Eunice we can't possibly address everything going on in the news each week. If we did, we would never preach the gospel".
Now, here are a few things I am unsure of:
- I am not sure when speaking from the pulpit on issues that affect people became so problematic. For one, some of the most prolific human rights movements started from a place of faith or religion.
- I'm not even sure when finding scriptures that speak to the realities we face in today's society was no longer a thing, and I have yet to wake up to a world where we do not rely on the power of silence as a means of addressing real-life problems.
However, I understand that acknowledging a problem when you've never personally experienced the problem can be difficult, but as leaders, we must. If we are far more concerned about the flashiness of our worship experience than the hearts and the issues that affect the hearts of the people in the pews, we are doing it wrong. Not sure where I'm going with this, just read what Jesus said in Matthew 23 (worth a read), and compare that to the instructions He gave the 12 apostles in Matthew 10. Then ask yourself this, "Are you making the wrong thing the main thing?" That's an important question because if your focus is off so will your ability to help people.
Helping people requires time and effort and if we are going to help people we have to disciple people, and if we're going to disciple people we have to be willing to meet people where they are first and foremost. This requires us to often times put aside our egos, formulas created for solely personal comfort, and type A personalities. Which as a result of doing these things creates more room to hear the Holy Spirit and ultimately begins our journey in listening to understand while using common sense regarding how to take action as we take practical steps to show the gospel in action. Keep in mind that various studies like Wen (2013), Krause (2002), Rosen (1982), Ebstyne & Furrow (2008), and Johnson, B. R., Jang, S. J., De Li, S., & Larson, D. (2000) suggest and indicate the positive influence a church has on changing communities, lowering crime rates, and enhancing parent and child well-being amongst other things. Which makes it clear churches have a duty to not only tackle social issues frequently but also need to educate their leaders and future leaders on issues that affect their congregants and help congregants also know what tools are out there to help them, "live like Jesus, and share His love".
None the less, let's not overcomplicate things (as we often do) and start with some practical ideas. Here are 6 starter tips church leaders or individuals can use in order to begin tackling social issues and start having real conversations around serious topics.
- Educate yourself on preventative measures, for example, learn what bystander intervention is and then put what you've learned into practice when needed. BE AN EXAMPLE! Teach your children, congregants, friends all about this and how they too can effectively step in and stand up when they see, hear, or experience an injustice of any kind (i.e. violence, racism, homophobism, sexism, etc).
- Educate our children. Kids are the future and whether you're an aunt, mother, uncle, father, or a relative of some sort, you have a responsibility to raise the next generation of leaders. It's important that children know they do not have to remain silent on the social justice issues of our time and they are never too young to begin standing in the gap for their peers. Now, if that seems extreme, simply educating children on who they should talk to or go to when issues arise is always a great start and making those tools readily accessible to a child is a must.
- ALWAYS remember the influence you have on a child as an adult. Begin teaching your sons, daughters, and children from the nursery well into adulthood to love themselves and respect one another. Build them up. A member of the LGBTQ community has just as much value as a heterosexual individual in society and nonwhite folks have just as much value as the white majority. Why? We are all created in the image of God and since all people have equal value in the eyes of God that should also be how us "church" folks think.
- Educate families & help them start the conversation at home. Along the lines of raising the next generation up in such a way that they stand up against injustice, we (church leaders) might need to assist families in starting or having these difficult conversations around social issues. I don't like telling someone how they should raise their children (persay) but a church should consider the role they play in supporting families. Consider having table topics (age appropriate) available to families that help them foster healthy conversations on social issues at the dinner table. Or a church could offer more in-depth conversations tied to the main message or Sunday school. For example, learning about Paul's conversion may be a great time to talk about the internal and external obstacles he faced advocating for populations he once persecuted. Depending on the age of a child, there is rich content there to begin a conversation on discrimination. Such topics could incorporate scriptures, but ultimately the hope is that families are having these conversations with one another.
- Utilize your various media platforms. Turn a section of your church bulletin board into a resource for congregants regarding social issues. Better yet, devote a portion of your website to include helpful tips when major social issues arise or occur. I never quite understood how a church could hand out a "22-page booklet" instructing congregants on how to vote but they wouldn't offer the same congregation insightful information on how to handle social issues or support groups experiencing marginalization. In the designated section of the bulletin, you might include organizations congregants could visit to learn more about the topic at hand and have links or short bullet points offering insight on what could be done to support those in need. Now If that seems like too much work or not enough...
- Have a table in the lobby with helpful resources. For example, you might include on this table names of counseling services or numbers to various local crisis lines (i.e. suicide, mental health, abuse, assault, rape, etc.). This table could also include books, resources, or the contact information of experts/individuals locally or in the congregation, if a person who wanted more information or needed help could easily access. If you're unsure of where to find this information simply google it.
Of course, there are many more things a church can do, but these are a good start.
What resources or ideas do you have? Feel free to comment below or email in and let us know!
In the meantime you can listen to "Episode 06: Let's Talk About the Church & Rape Culture" below before the new episode drops next week Tuesday!