Counted the cost and still concerned
Black Kids in a White Church? Every Christian has counted the cost of following the Lord Jesus (Luke 9:23–24)—the sacrifices to make, the suffering to endure—and has rightfully considered that Christ is worth it (Romans 8:18). When it comes to choosing a local church to join, especially if one joins a church where he’ll be the minority, he has to count the cost of this decision as well: both physical and cultural loneliness.
I’m a black man, and I pastor a majority white congregation. I love the congregation I get to pastor, I’m continuously encouraged by them, and I’m confident this is where the Lord has me. Though my family has already counted the cost of me being a minority in our congregation, counting this cost doesn’t mean that there aren’t real lingering concerns that my wife and I continually discuss and pray through.
These concerns in large part involve the impact this could potentially have on our children. By choosing to plant this church and be a part of a congregation that isn’t currently very diverse, I am burdened by two specific concerns for my children, black kids in a white church.
Concern #1 – Being everyone’s black friends
My children are mixed, therefore, in the world’s eyes they are viewed as black. And because of the current demographic of our congregation, my concern is that at church my children will be the other kids’ black friends. That at parties and playdates, Sunday morning gatherings and prayer services, they’ll only have the opportunity to play with white kids. That they won’t get to look across the snack table and see someone else who looks like them. That their differences would be constantly highlighted, from skin color to hair texture.
My concern is that they’ll constantly stand out like a sore thumb, potentially either becoming color blind, not seeing themselves as black, or despising the beauty of God’s artistry in how He made them (Psalm 139:14) because they’re the only black kids.
Concern #2 – Assume that Christianity is (with a few exceptions) a white man’s religion
Because there isn’t much diversity in the church, specifically many Black Kids in a White Church, my second concern is that my children may assume Christianity is a white man’s religion with Daddy being an exception. That when they think of our church body, they think “white” and when they think of Daddy they think “different.” What we see, whether good or bad, shapes our perspective, whether it’s true or false. Cognitively, we know that perception isn’t reality, but oftentimes it becomes reality to us. My children could potentially conclude that God favors and loves white people more than people of any other ethnicity or that God doesn’t love them as much because he didn’t make them white. For my children, I’m concerned that they’ll draw this false conclusion about Christianity and therefore misunderstand God’s great design.
Though these concerns weigh heavily on my heart, they don’t have to stay there. I can find comfort in knowing that God cares about my cares and hope because God is at work saving a diverse people.
Action plan #1 – Cast cares
The Lord commands us to be anxious for nothing, but pray about everything (Philippians 4:6) and to cast our cares on Him because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). He gives us His listening ear to the cries and distresses of our heart as we pray and take refuge in Him (Psalm 62:5–8). Not only that, but the Lord alone has the power to bring more diversity to the church and children’s ministry and to prevent my children from believing lies about Christianity. Therefore, my wife and I pray about these matters. We also share these concerns with members in our congregation so that they may pray with us and for us regarding these matters.
Action Plan #2 – Expose to diversity
We intentionally invite to our dinner table Christians of different ethnicities. We want our children to know Christians who look like their dad and those who don’t look like either their mom or dad. We want them to see first-hand that Jesus died for a colorful bride. We try to spend more time with the other minorities the Lord has given our church so that our children can be around more people who look like Daddy. We also have our children spend a good amount of time with another mixed kid in our congregation so that they may befriend and play with someone who does look like them.
We also intentionally read to them Christian books with good representation in the pictures. We love to read books like God Made Me and You by Shai Linne, God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell, and The Gospel in Color by Jarvis Williams. We want them to see in the resources we read that God’s people are a diverse people.
Ultimately, we pray for the salvation of our children and want them to know that though our local church isn’t very diverse, the church at large is diverse and, even more than that, heaven is diverse. There will be girls with ringlet curls and boys with light skin. That in the new heavens and the new earth there will be citizens of every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).
- Pray that the Lord gives wisdom as Christians consider which local church they’ll join.
- Pray that church members would be sensitive to the concerns of the minorities in their congregation.
- Pray that the Lord would give more diversity to his churches
- Pray that local congregations would have a culture that’s conducive for diversity
- Pray that the Scriptures would shape the perspective of our children, not their experience.