10 Ways to Engage Your Youth Group in Cross-Cultural Thinking (And Topics Like Immigration and Politics)

1. Have your students read this article, Three Important Political Truths to Teach Your Kids (published today on Rooted Parent) as a way to start thinking and talking about the themes that are mentioned. This will give you and your students common language as a group as you enter into further discussions.

2. Connect with an immigrant member (or better yet, multiple members) of your church or your youth group and ask them to share their story. This can be an incredibly powerful experience.

Ask them questions like…

  • If/how the church helped them during the transition?
  • Was there something the church could have done to make the transition easier?
  • What surprised them most about the church in America?

Is there something in particular they miss about the church in their home country?

3. Connect with a church in your community with a different language or different cultural background and do a celebratory event together. Enjoy the fact that you are family. Share testimonies of how God’s been at work. Share a meal with your favorite foods. Worship together in your different styles.

4. Personally connect with the missionaries or mission agencies your church supports. Have them come share with your youth group. Ask them how their ministry has helped inform their faith and view of the church.

5. Skype or FaceTime with believers in another part of the world.

Ask them questions like:

  • What’s your testimony?
  • What’s your favorite Bible verse, person in the Bible, book of the Bible, etc.?
  • What’s it like to be a Christian in __________________?
  • What are some of your greatest challenges?
  • What are some of your culture’s greatest strengths?
  • What do you hear/think about America in your news?
  • When you think of America, what comes to mind?
  • What do you wish the global church knew about your situation?

How can we pray for you and your church?

6. Do a study series on the different people mentioned in the final greetings of Paul’s letters. Personally, the end of Colossians is my favorite for this exercise. As you learn more about the people mentioned, you’ll realize how diverse and cross-cultural the early church was in its makeup. It really is incredible who the Lord brought together. For a fun exercise, you can have your students re-write their own ‘final greetings’ based on current equivalents to the people mentioned in Paul’s final greetings.

7. Visit a local American history museum, cultural show, or war memorial with your youth.

While there, ask questions like:

  • What does this museum/show/memorial want me to believe about America? About others? In what ways is it telling the truth? What truths does it overlook? How does the Gospel inform this message?
  • How do you think various people groups would react to the message(s) in this museum/show/memorial? Black, White, Native American, Mexican, Chinese, Iranian, British, German, etc.?
  • Consider the language and themes being used. In what ways is the language similar to that of the church? How is it different?

This exercise is one practical way we can practice the biblical mandate to “take every thought captive” as we “renew our minds” around the Gospel (2 Cor 10:5 and Romans 12:2 respectively). I recommend doing this exercise on your own before taking a group, giving yourself ample time to reflect on your own personal experience of American culture, and to anticipate how your group might respond. Given the negativity surrounding much political discourse today, it’ll be important to keep this exercise redemptive in focus. We want to be salt and light in the world.

8. In your teaching and preaching, use quotes from people living in different parts of the world and different times throughout church history. It’s an important reminder that people with different viewpoints often have much to offer in terms of insight and understanding into things that impact our daily lives.

9. Go on a trip to a people group or place that is different than the makeup of your youth group. This could be an international trip, but it could also be to a different neighborhood in a nearby city or different part of the country. Go to learn, not just teach. Spend as much time listening as you spend speaking. Serve, but also actively seek to be taught by the local people about an area where your church/community is weak.

10. Pray regularly for the people of a different nation. This can be informal, but it can also take the form of a 30-day prayer series like this one the organization I work with has for the people and nation of Iran. As you pray, you will find your perspective widened. Moreover, you will be collaborating in God’s work in that part of the world.

Mark Howard was a youth pastor for five years before joining Elam Ministries, an organization that seeks to strengthen and expand the church in Iran and surrounding areas. Through Elam, he's had the opportunity to work with Iranian youth as well as talk with American churches about God's work in Iran. Mark has his M.A. in Theological Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and serves on Rooted's steering committee.

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