Search

conversations on the fringe

Addressing the Racial Climate in your Youth Group


When you spend time with youth, their parents, and your volunteers – wherever you are in your community – be alert. Are you hearing put-downs and slurs? Pay attention to tension between the different groups of students you are working with. There are early warning signs that there is racially driven tension among adolescents. Left alone or ignored, these attitudes and behaviors can create the perfect storm for larger problems.

Safety is of the utmost importance. Are direct threats being made? Are there imminent threats? These situations required an immediate and well thought out response. More direct behaviors indicate that there might be a problem with your church’s climate. Is this the type of ministry you want? Is this the type of ministry your students, parents, and volunteers want? Ask them and listen closely to how they respond.

Make sure your students, staff, and volunteers know the proper reporting system if and when they hear problems. Make this an expectation and set up an efficient reporting system, like an anonymous comment box, text or email, or a specific staff member. After those problem are reported, there must be proper follow-up.

Here’s a list from the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) of things to consider when present in your ministry, church, or community:

  • Casual Pejoratives: Do you hear certain words used regularly in a derogatory manner? That’s so gay. That’s retarded. Are the words “bit**” or “ho” casually used to label female students? Challenge the use of these slurs and work to establish and maintain a climate where casual slurs are uncommon.
  • Skits and Plays: Skits and costumes can convey bigoted and stereotypical messages: the “day-laboring Mexican,” students dressed as “rednecks,” “gangbanger/thugs,” people in blackface. Holiday plays and skits are often steeped in stereotypes and bigotry. Set expectations beforehand about appropriate costumes and cultural sensitivity. Discuss the inappropriateness of caricatures or disturbing representations that are rooted in bias and bigotry.
  • Marginalized Students: Engage students who appear to be left out of group activities, during game time and group discussions or in other ministry settings. Watch for changes in social clustering and ways in which students align. Check for signs of hostility, depression or a marked change in behavior. Reach out to the student’s parents or guardians as appropriate. Alienated students – either as individuals or in groups – are more susceptible to bias-based bullying.
  • Student Recognition: How does your church recognize student achievements? What do those achievements say about your church’s values? What messages are sent to students who don’t receive recognition? Overemphasis on achievement can lead to a sense of entitlement while reinforcing the dominant culture as well as contribute to feelings of frustration or inadequacy in others. Who is spotlighted and who is ignored? Athletes are often at the top of the food chain in many settings.
  • Staff Discussions: How are staff/volunteers/adults talking among themselves when outside of ministry settings? Are the adults making negative comments about the “kids from the trailer park”? Are they telling casually bigoted jokes? Do they define their students by a label, such as; the gay kid, the nerd, the gamer, the black kid, etc.?
  • Your Own Perceptions: Pay attention to the comments or complaints you automatically dismiss or discount. Also pay attention to your automatic thoughts about particular students. Often, your first thought is a reflection of unconscious biases. Explore those thoughts with an open mind and willingness to become more self aware and learn from others.
  • Don’t Forget Other Spaces: You will find yourself wherever students gather, such as; schools, gyms, parks, etc. Follow the general rule, “If you see something, say something”.

Every person in your church – from the worship leader to the incoming 6th graders to teenagers on social media – should understand the climate you are trying to cultivate in your spaces. These ideas are not about politically correct but are our best attempt to create spaces where everyone can belong to the community of God’s people and participate equally in kingdom service.

I leave you with this Benediction from Bishop Woodie White:

And now, may the Lord torment you.

May the Lord keep before you the faces of the hungry, the lonely, the rejected and the despised.

May the Lord afflict you with pain for the hurt, the wounded, the oppressed, the abused, the victims of violence.

May God grace you with agony, a burning thirst for justice and righteousness.

May the Lord give you courage and strength and compassion to make ours a better world, to make your community a better community, to make your church a better church.

And may you do your best to make it so, and after you have done your best, may the Lord give you peace.

Advertisements

Resources on Race for White Congregations


This is a list of resources on race from a predominantly white congregation that is journeying together to deconstruct whiteness in an increasingly diverse culture. If you are a white person interested in exploring privilege and power and how to be a better ally to people of color and other marginalized people groups, this is a good primer. We must do the work ourselves and not expect our brothers and sisters of color to inform us. White people created systems of racism and we have a responsibility to begin the process of dismantling it in our own hearts, communities, and the world.

Books to Read:

The South Side – Natalie Y. Moore
The Invention of the White Race – Theodore W. Allen
The Blood of Emmett Till – Timothy B. Tyson
Evicted – Matthew Desmond
Divided by Faith – Michael O. Emerson, Christian Smith
Color of Law – Richard Rothstein
Tears We Cannot Stop – Michael Eric Dyson
White Like Me – Tim Wise
The Soul of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois
Birth of a White Nation – Jacqueline Battalora
The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
*Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
America’s Original Sin – Jim Wallace
Disunity in Christ – Christena Cleveland
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
A Black Theology of Liberation – James Cone
*Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coats
The Economics of Racial Discrimination and Segregation in the Housing Markets of Cities in the North During the Great Migration, 1915-1930 – Andrew D. Branch
Roadmap to Reconciliation – Brenda Salter McNeil

Films/Documentaries to Watch (always better with a group!):

I am not your negro
*13th
Racism in the media
The Central Park Five
LA 92
OJ vs the People
The House I Live In
Dark Girls
Let the Fire Burn
*Fruitvale Station
*Selma
Birth of a Nation
The Wire

Music to Listen To:

Nina Simone (Mississippi Goddamn)
Curtis Mayfield
The Freedom Singers
Billy Holiday (Strange Fruit)
Charles Mingus
Ray Charles
Sam Cooke
Harry Belafonte
Marvin Gaye
Stevie Wonder
The Staples Singers
Mahalia Jackson (We Shall Overcome)
Public Enemy
N.W.A.
Tupac
Common
Kendrick Lamar

Yes, this list is long. But don’t be scared off by its length. Just watch/read/listen to one thing…then choose something else. It’s a journey of growing understanding, of being willing to hear a perspective that is not your own.

A Statement Regarding the Acts of Racism and Terrorism in Charlottesville, VA.


It is with deep sadness and deep concern that we view the violence, conflict, and acts of cowardice and terrorism of recent days in Charlottesville, Virginia. People of any faith, or of no faith at all, should be troubled by the increase of intolerance in both words and actions that we see everywhere. We denounce racism and terrorism in all its ugly forms and believe it to be evil.

We believe and affirm the image of God (Imago Dei) is in all created beings and seek to call out that greatness in everyone. We will continue our work to speak out for, advocate for, and empower those who are marginalized and whose voices are silenced or ignored.

We commit to being learners and listeners, as well as being the best allies we can be to PoC, LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, those who suffer from mental illness and substance use disorders, and anyone who struggles to find an equitable sense of power and agency in this world.

After Text Message Case, Words Matter Even More


We’re excited to announce we have a new content creator to focus on parenting issues. For years we have tried to serve parents of fringe kids or parents on the fringe and we are fortunate to have Patti Gibbons join our writing team and to share her hard won wisdom with all of us. (Click here for Patti’s bio)

Her first post is an important one and addresses a growing concern among parents. Take a few minutes to read it and share your thoughts with her. She would love to connect.

After Text Message Case, Words Matter Even More

By Patti Gibbons

Two teenagers meet while their families vacation in the same place. A friendship develops and the teens discover their homes are relatively close, about an hour apart. They connect on social media and exchange texts and messages about their lives, their families, their problems. Though they rarely saw each other in person, they called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend.

That all sounds pretty normal these days, right?

Pervasive use of technology and social media allowed this relationship to develop as the teens supported one another through family struggles, serious personal issues like depression and eating disorders, and the ups and downs of teenage life.

But, this is the beginning of a story that ends in a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The weapon? The words typed into those messages.

As parents and adults who care about the lives of our children, that is a stunning statement. The words of one teenager to another were found to have made her responsible for his death by suicide.

This turns up the heat on the conversations about technology use directly, and tangentially about social media, cyber-bullying, privacy, and even the First Amendment. It should give us pause. A long pause.

On June 16, 2017, a Massachusetts judge found Michelle Carter, now 20, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following a trial that revealed that she, then a teen, engaged in what prosecutors called “wanton and reckless conduct” sent text messages urging Conrad Roy III to take his own life at age 18. She has not yet been sentenced as of this writing.

Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz decided the case in a bench trial, saying, “Ms. Carter’s actions, and also her failure to act, where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy, since she had put him into that toxic environment, constituted, each and all, wanton and reckless conduct.” [NPR]

In her texts, she urged him to act on his suicidal ideation, “You just have to do it,” one text said. After his death, she organized a fundraiser in Roy’s name, presenting herself as an anti-suicide advocate, posting on Facebook, “Even though I could not save my boyfriend’s life, I want to put myself out there to try to save as many other lives as possible.”

It is clear from the accounts presented at trial that Carter and Roy each had troubled histories with depression and other mental health concerns about which they shared with one another openly. This situation turns on both the words she said and the actions she failed to take. [New York Times]

As parents and adults who care about them, what can we take away from this case?

First, we can be diligent in teaching our children that the words they say matter and that they will be held accountable, perhaps even legally, for what they say. From this case, in particular, we learn a new limit to the First Amendment right of free speech. Not only can we not yell fire in a crowded theatre, we can’t encourage a person to take their own life.

Second, we can be diligent in communicating to our children that they, along with each and every human being, has intrinsic worth and value. There is no person they will ever meet in person or interact with online to whom harsh, demeaning, insulting words need to be said, whether we like them or agree with them or not. This is especially true for social media where there is a harsh and pressured teen culture of comparison, evaluation, and judgement. This is contrary to the prevailing culture online today, even among adults. Perhaps we can all grow this way?

Third, we can culture open dialog with the children in our lives about using their online presence for good. Talking to our kids about finding positive words to use to influence the world, be more authentic, and impact their friends in ways that give life.

Reimagining Adolescence: A Workshop for People Who Love Adolescents (June 17th, 2017)


Less than three weeks to register…

What are you waiting for? Sign up today!

conversations on the fringe

Reimagining Adolescence: Kids growing up today are living in a world that is fundamentally different from the one their parents grew up in. This poses challenges to even the most adept adult. In this workshop you will discover the systemic cultural changes that are creating a whole new developmental experience for our kids as they attempt to find out their true identity and place of belonging.

This 1 day workshop is for all of us who struggle to understand the challenges adolescents face in today’s world. Join us as we explore the developmental, physiological, social, cultural, and spiritual complexities of guiding adolescents through contemporary society. This event is perfect for parents, grandparents, teachers, social workers, coaches, youth workers, or anyone else that love kids and desire to walk alongside them as they navigate an increasingly difficult world.

Here’s a sample of what you will cover in this workshop:

Adolescent Development

View original post 108 more words

A Report on Bullying by a 12 Year Old


Chloe is a 12 year old (nearly 13 now) 7th grader from Central Illinois. She wrote this amazing piece on bullying. It’s such a powerful and insightful paper and it’s written by a tweenager.

Have you ever been bullied?

In this paper, I will tell you about the effects of bullying. Being bullied is terrible. There are a lot of different forms of bullying. Some forms include physical, emotional, cyber, and sexting. Sexting can be a form of bullying. It is one that is common but no one really talks about, but can still have the same effect as cyber bullying.

There is a lot of bullying in schools. School is where a lot of bullying starts. One effect is not being able to learn what you need in life because you stop going to school because you were being bullied. Another effect is depression, anxiety, drug use, and even suicide (Effects of Bullying, 2017). Usually if you are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender), you get bullied more. If you are LGBT, people treat you like you don’t exist. Usually they will try to hurt you if you are LGBT. You could also not be able to sleep because you are worried about being bullied at school the next day. Being bullied could lead on to drinking and taking drugs, and then you could die from an drug overdose.

Cyber bullying is where people get bullied the most today. People who get bullied on social media will be more likely to have depression (Effect of Bullying, 2017).  Sexting is also a form of bullying. Sexting affects how you look at yourself and could lead to bad self esteem. Poor self esteem is when you think you are ugly, dumb and you say bad thing about yourself. Sexting is when you send a nude of yourself and then the person you sent it to sent to all his/ her friend and then they kept sending it on and on then they would begin to tell stories about you, your body, or your behavior. And then you would have bad self esteem because of what people said about your body type. Sexting could also lead to anxiety because you try to starve yourself because of how you look at yourself or how you think others look at you. Some people even take pills that say it will make them skinnier but actually can’t. You can still die from a drug overdose if you take a lot of those.

The biggest effect of bullying is suicide. There are 4,400 death per year because of bullying. One of the most common suicide death are cutting him/herself, and taking drugs to die from a drug overdose. Another effect that leads to suicide is depression. When  someone suffers from depression, they tend to think everything is sad and you feel lonely. 10-14 year old girls will be at a higher risk of committing suicide study have shown (Bullying and Suicide, 2017).  Also, people who get bullied or have depression may take drugs because they think it will make them happier, but that can and will lead to a drug overdose if you keep taking them.

Bullying is a real problem. We need to put a stop to it. The suicide numbers will go up each year if we do not put a stop to it. People who are LGBT, an outcast, or people with disabilities should be treated equally. No one should be bullied because of who they are, they are all human beings, then they should be treated the same way as everyone else. And not just them, NO ONE should be treated like that. How as a nation or school or anyone, can we put a stop to bullying?

 

Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion Guide


WOW! In just a week’s time, Thirteen Reasons Why has become the most watched series on Netflix of all time. That’s a whole lot of teens watching and talking about the same thing at one time. The internet has been a buzz about whether or not they should be watching this show. The show is raw and can be VERY TRIGGERING to an adolescent that struggles with any of the content matter, not to mention the mature nature of the show (language, bullying, sex, rape, and suicide).

Regardless of our thoughts of the show, teens are watching it and we (adults) must be prepared to help them process the issues addressed in the series. This guide is simply that, a guide. We do not have an agenda of writing a comprehensive guide for this complex show and the complex issues it strives to address. We will also give suggestions on how to handle to the more sensitive moments of the show to reduce risk to the students watching or talking about it.

There is a leader’s guide that you will hopefully find useful. This particular guide will explore the show from a faith-based perspective but you need not adhere to a particular faith tradition to use the guide. We also attempted to provide solid clinic information to direct you and the student towards professional help if needed.

The authors are Melissa Rau, a long time youth ministry veteran and Chris Schaffner, also a youth ministry veteran and counselor. We will release these as they are completed. We’d love your feedback so don’t hesitate to contact us with your thoughts or questions.

Thirteen Reasons Why Leader’s Guide

Tape 1 Side A

Check out our RESOURCE PAGE for discussion guides for each episode. New guides are uploaded every other day.

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why Has The Teen World Buzzing


If you haven’t heard about the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why you’ve been living under a rock. It’s all anyone is talking about right now. This series is based on the Jay Asher novel of the same name. This story centers on Hanna, a teenager who takes her own life due to a series of events. She leaves behind a series of cassette tapes to explain what led to her suicide and the role others played in driving her to that point. Here’s the goodreads.com summary:

The #1 New York Times bestseller and modern classic that’s been changing lives for a decade.

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

The series is not for tweens. It’s definitely for a more mature audience and should be discussed to help the students process what they’re seeing. This is a realistic expression of the rawness of teen life so there’s quite of bit of language, mature content, implied sex, rape, self-injury, and suicide. The book and the series aims to address the difficult issues adolescents face daily and it will be hard for parents and adults to watch or to believe life can be like this.

The topics addressed in the series have long been the focus of Conversations on the Fringe. Here’s a list of links to the topics explored on the show that we’ve written about:

Suicide

Depression

Bullying

Self-Injury

Dating Violence

Sexting

Look for more resources in the next couple weeks on 13 Reasons Why. We’ll be interviewing students, releasing a discussion guide, and will continue to explore themes addressed in the book/series. If your kids aren’t watching this already, they are talking about it daily with their friends that have seen it. Use this opportunity to lean into the difficult issues your teens might be facing but are often so hard to talk about.

A Report on Eating Disorders by a 12 Year Old


Claire is a 12 year old (nearly 13 now) 7th grader from Central Illinois. She wrote this amazing piece on eating disorders. It’s such a powerful and insightful paper and it’s written by a tweenager. Next week we’ll post another paper written by her twin on bullying that is equally insightful.

Cause and Effect Essay on Eating Disorders

Having an eating disorder is not something to joke about. It is a serious problem caused by many things that go on around the world everyday. Just in the United States of America, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. Eating disorders do not typically show up out of the blue; they are caused by many things. Eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa can be influenced by even the smallest thing. Things such as a negative or insulting comment at school, low self esteem, poor body image, dysfunctional family setting, troubled relationships, inability to express emotions, depression, anxiety, bullying, genes, wanting to be exceedingly great at a sport, or even the media can be the cause of someone to develop an eating disorder. There are five categories that the causes can fall into: psychological, social, biological, environmental, and interpersonal.

Psychological eating disorders are eating disorders caused by negative thoughts. A teenager could see a picture of a model on Instagram and in a split second feel like they need to look just like that, but then they realize they do not look like that. This could cause low self esteem. Psychological eating disorders can be triggered by almost anything. One negative comment could break someone. The leading cause of an eating disorder is bullying. The words that the bullies say can really hurt someone and the person that is being bullied could start to believe the horrible words that the bully is saying.

Another type of eating disorder is social. Social eating disorders are eating disorders caused by things that are going on in the world everyday. This can include the small things like seeing a very athletic and thin student at school and then thinking that everyone has to look like that. Never compare yourself to anyone or anything. Everyone is made a certain way and everyone is unique. “Cultural norms value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths; stress related to racial, ethnic, size/weight-related or other forms of discrimination or prejudice,” (Factors That May Contribute To Eating Disorders, 2016). In society today, in general, people care more about what someone looks like instead of focusing on inner beauty and someone’s personality or character. Social eating disorders are also largely influenced by the media. Cyberbullying can cause people to think poorly about themselves but even seeing pictures of models can cause negative thoughts. Teens do not notice that the people in magazines or online are photoshopped and wear special makeup to look a certain way.

Genetics can also play a large role in the chance of having an eating disorder. This is a part of biological eating disorders. If a parent has had an eating disorder such as Type-2 diabetes, then the likelihood of the children having an eating disorder is high. If a parent had an eating disorder, there is a 56% chance that the offspring will too. If a baby was not supplied with the proper nutrients that he needed to function properly, then later in life there is a chance that he will grow up to have an eating disorder.  

Environmental eating disorders are caused by living and working environments. Environmental eating disorders can be caused by someone’s work or home life. If someone is being abused, they might develop small habits that lead to eating disorders. Another cause of an environmental eating disorder could be a dysfunctional family setting. This could include anything from abuse to parents fighting constantly. Neglection is also another leading cause of environmental eating disorders. Work settings also have a large impact on eating disorders. The job of playing professional softball will include a lot of physical activity and typically athletes need to be healthy, muscular, and thin. If a player does not feel they are in that size range, they might start to starve themself. Another job that could cause employees to develop an eating disorder is a modeling job. Models for most famous companies are thin, tall, and photoshopped. Never starve yourself for a job. It is not worth it. Models are photoshopped to look a certain way.

The last category is interpersonal eating disorders. Interpersonal could be anything going on in someone’s personal life.  “Troubled personal relationships; difficulty expressing emotions and feelings; history of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight; history of physical or sexual abuse” (Factors That May Contribute To Eating Disorders, 2016) are some causes of interpersonal eating disorders. If someone can not express emotions, they will feel trapped and then possibly develop depression or anxiety, which are causes and symptoms of any eating disorder. Bullying is another major cause of any eating disorder but especially interpersonal. Bullies have a tendency to get inside people’s head and this can trigger an interpersonal eating disorder.

The five main categories of eating disorders are psychological, social, biological, environmental, and interpersonal. Within those five categories, there are more specific causes. These may include low self esteem, poor body image, depression, anxiety, bullying, abuse, lack of ability to express emotion, troubled relationships, genetics, and even the media. If you notice these things in anyone, talk to a trusted adult. Never compare yourself to anyone or anything because you were made just the way you are and that is perfect.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: