January 15, 2010
Updated September 6, 2018
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A mom who adopted a baby from China tells this story. Her three-year-old was at day care when a toddler walked up to her and said, “Your eyes are different than mine.”
It was a simple statement of fact. There’s a huge diversity in God’s family. Even little ones notice differences. This awareness of diversity in gender, race, ethnicity and abilities begins between ages two and five. By the time children come to Sunday school, they’ve already absorbed attitudes and biases from their family and society. Sooner or later in your classroom you will encounter statements that are not as innocent as the toddler’s remark about differences. Some child will make a remark, and that remark will hurt another child.
When teachers and parents are silent, the biased attitudes will grow stronger. On the other hand, speaking up about the problem and teaching about diversity can break down the wall of prejudice. Here are some suggestions for helping you make your Sunday school a place where children experience the unbiased, unreserved love of Jesus and each other:
1. Model acceptable behaviors and attitudes. When you warmly welcome all children and show no favoritism when you ask questions, assign tasks, or hand out rewards, you are showing children that Jesus’ love does not exclude anyone. Speak positively about other cultures and ways of living.
2. Create an environment in your classroom that celebrates diversity. For instance:
3. Teach about diversity. Use activities and discussion to build positive images so children value differences. Point out stereotypes in movies and media. Give kids opportunities to role-play how they would handle instances of discrimination or prejudice. Invite them to sign petitions or write letters to address wrongs.
4. Facilitate opportunities for children to interact with others in different cultural situations. Visit other churches, invite visitors to you class, or attend a cultural event as a group. People often fear what they do not know, especially if they’ve had little exposure to people who come from different backgrounds. At Pentecost, thousands of people of different cultures became one because of the Holy Spirit of God. Your group may be small, but you, too can experience beautiful Pentecost unity, which is a great foretaste of what’s in store for us in heaven!
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