Celebrating Black History Month in a Christian Classroom

A year of changes brings a year of adaptations. How blessed we are to serve our God, who is unchanged in His love, care, and provision for us. He even provides ways for us to spread His love and care to others through loving our neighbors intentionally and consistently in various contexts. As Sunday School teachers, classroom teachers, youth leaders, and children’s ministry champions, we have the chance to engage cross-culturally with our students and young people, while adding richly to our own cultures, in response to the gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Each year, we are tasked with incorporating lessons, programs, projects, artistic expressions, and more from Black culture into our educational and congregational spaces during the month of February.

But Does It Really Matter?

Based on my own experience, and as a goal for my own life, I think Black history ought to be more thoroughly integrated into the “norm” of the historical narrative and in our reflections on past and present. “Black history month” is every day! When looking from a Biblical perspective, having one week, one month, one year, or any other measurement of time dedicated to teaching Black history is considered to be adiaphora, or “spiritually neutral.” In other words, the celebration of Black history month neither saves us nor condemns us. This is not to say it has no importance in our lives; rather, it further enriches our witness, mercy, and life together as we look around and see God’s people.

Inclusion of Diversity is Valuable

God’s love is centered in Christ and in relationship. In John 13:34–35, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” This means that we have been blessed and tasked as Christians to love our brothers and sisters and to love those whom God loves. 

Does Black history month matter in the Sunday School and parochial school classrooms in 2021? Some of these classes remain housed online, due to pandemic in-person limitations. We understand why we ought to love our neighbors by affirming and recognizing them, but how then do we craft material around these topics? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul shares concrete ways to include and to serve others. Scripture guides us in which attitudes to adopt and reject when considering all of the humans of God’s creation. Philippians 2:4–7 states, Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This gives us a picture of how to plan. We see that the inclusion of diversity is valuable to God, and it is valuable to us as well. We see that putting the interests of others ahead of our own is a model of service that we could afford to exercise.

Be Bold in Sharing

We would be remiss if we did not mention the difference the LCMS made in Black history or if we did not highlight Rosa Young, who made herself known in the early 1900s at the recommendation of Booker T. Washington. She partnered with the Synod in working for educational progress among marginalized Black communities in the South. Her work was marked by persistence and contagious evangelism that continue to enrich and affect our church body to this day. One woman made a difference because Christ our Lord made the difference first, the difference between life and death.

This February—this Black history month—be bold. Share stories of Black excellence. Be bold in making connections that foster unity in our fragmented nation. Be bold in calling out areas of pain and calling in ways to alleviate that pain in the lives of our young people. Be bold in sharing stories, videos, books, podcasts, and songs that tell the story of different groups. Finally, be bold in the Gospel, which frees us to act in love and to speak in truth of the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loves and welcomes us all.

Learn how a young black woman became a hero of our faith.

Celebrate Rosa Young

Picture of Deaconess Janine Bolling
Janine Bolling is a Brooklyn-born-and-reared Millennial who is passionate about practical education and connecting people with resources. She works full-time as an admissions recruiter for SUNY, part-time as an adjunct professor of theology at Concordia College New York, and part-time as deaconess at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn. The rest of her time is spent in EdD studies at Concordia University Wisconsin in the Leadership in Innovation and Continuous Improvement Program and with family and friends. Janine is a foodie and WILL fight you about why New York pizza is better than all other pizzas.

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