Things You Can Use / Nov 21, 2016
How to Respond to Racism, Sexism, and Other Inappropriate Behaviors at Youth Events
Annual Conference events for youth are opportunities to bring together a diverse expression of the United Methodist Church. Churches (and youth!) will come to an event expecting to experience something beyond their normal experience of the local church. This means churches of different sizes, cultures, and contexts will be in the same room to worship, learn, and grow in discipleship together. Youth leaders often refer to the need to create “safe space” for their youth. When youth feel safe, they can better express themselves, be vulnerable, and grow into world changing disciples. That said, youth today are struggling with the same divisive elements as adults in the US. Divides between rural, small-town, suburban, and city. Divides between economic levels and cultures. Divides between ethnicities. These and many more divisions have risen to the surface and are demanding attention and response, both from culture and fro the church.
As an event planner, one of your goals should be safe space of course, the UMC can be proud of planning events that are welcoming for all. Yet, we need more than words to create that space. It takes investment and energy from event planners and event leadership to create that space. Sometimes, event participants behave inappropriately, threatening the safety that other youth, event planners, and youth leaders value. If and when conflict arises or when inappropriate behavior arises, leaders need to be prepared to create “brave spaces.” Brave spaces are where conflict is processed. Those are spaces where what needs to be said can be said, and resolution comes from intentional work.
Many Annual Conferences in the United States have mid-winter events for youth coming up in January and February. We at YPM of course pray for safety and bravery at those events, both for leadership and for participants. We also believe that event planners have the responsibility to prepare and respond effectively to anything that takes place during their event. With that in mind, YPM staff in combination with support from many sources, have created a resource designed to help event leaders prepare, respond, and guide conflict resolution as needed.