Social justice is something we’ve seen students become more interested in and passionate about over the years. With more awareness comes a desire to lend a hand, speak up, and participate in various ways. Students are finding new and creative opportunities to make sure their voice is heard.
If social justice is something your students are interested in, I encourage you to step into it with them. As youth leaders we can join in social justice campaigns with our students, foster community and conversation around these issues, and model what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ who has a heart for justice.
If you’re wondering how to practically engage social justice initiatives within your ministry context, I have some suggestions to get you started. You may find different approaches, campaigns, or issues are more relevant to your group. So I would encourage you to start simply.
Talk to your students about their passions.
You may find a wide range of interests within your group, but you also may be able to identify a common theme. Or you may be able to uncover a few key areas where your leaders and students can get involved together.
Rather than trying to generate interest in a random cause, I think it’s important to begin by identifying what social justice issues currently fire up your students and leaders. You may find a few key individuals who can help lead the rest of the group. From there, you can plan how to move forward in specific ways that are relevant to your group.
Host a social justice night.
Take a regular “youth group” night to discuss, share, and take steps forward as a whole youth group. This is a great way to raise awareness and leverage the passions and involvement already existent within your group. If some of your students and/or leaders are already passionate about particular issues, you can work with them to help lead your social justice night.
You may also want to consider bringing in someone professionally involved in a social justice issue to speak. You can share a short video, host a panel discussion, or invite students to select and attend a breakout session on a specific topic. Again, not everyone may be passionate about social justice, so consider education your primary focus. Some students may be moved to action, which is why its important to have an involvement plan you can share.
Help students get involved.
You may have a social justice issue knocking at your back door. Or you may have no idea how to get students practically involved. If you can identify a local need that your group can meet, that is an excellent place to start. Tap local experts to help you look into opportunities that are possible for your students. If you’re struggling to find something local, look for ways to partner with a national or global organization.
A great and simple place to start is by advocating through an organization called Dressember. Participants commit to wearing a dress or tie throughout the month of December to raise money and awareness for organizations that fight human trafficking, modern day slavery, and other social justice issues domestically and abroad. You and your students can form a team and those who participate can create their own fundraising page–and monetary goal–through Dressember’s website. (If you have questions about Dressember, feel free to ask; I would love to share more with you!)
Leverage social media and story telling.
However you and your students decide to practically participate, don’t forget to share what you are doing on social media. This is a great platform to not only show people what you are doing, but more importantly, tell them why. This is one of the ways your students can learn how to incorporate the Gospel into their social justice involvement. By explaining the heart behind the work, they can begin sharing the love of Jesus not only within their involvement, but also their extended community.
You can also encourage students to tell their story–many times a desire for involvement comes from a personal connection. That personal connection can often be a bridge to draw others in. Students don’t have to put all the personal details out there, but if they feel comfortable, they can share why social justice matters to them, and what things have come about as a result of their involvement.
If your students have stories to tell, don’t hesitate to share these with the church body at large. Your students can lead others in this area through their passion, care, and commitment. I encourage you to not only let your students lead by example, but to allow and encourage others to follow. Maybe your students can help lead a social justice night or initiative for the entire church, showing how the Gospel can move us all to action.