I’d love for this blog to be a place where resources are shared. Our team works hard to train our student staff as peer leaders, social justice advocates, and community partners. So I’d love to offer you the materials of one of our workshops that explored faith and social justice called “The Middle Matters.”
The Middle Matters – A Workshop for Students
Help your students grow in their understanding of justice and how it impacts multiple issues in our community. They will also have the opportunity to articulate the foundation for their commitment to justice while also exploring what it means to have a Christian foundation for seeking justice.
In this workshop, students will:
- Identify how everyday choices are interconnected with injustice in the United States.
- Articulate their understanding of the center of their own justice work (what motivates, drives, convicts them) while they explore what a Christological center of justice efforts looks like.
- Explore how their “middle” affects their own commitments to service and social justice.
Introduction: Defining Social Justice (5 minutes)
Introduce or remind your students of the meaning of social justice. There are both pressing needs and systemic causes. This is like a disease that has both symptoms and root causes that both need to be addressed.
Ask your group to quickly identify the who, what, when, where and why of injustice:
- Who? – Who are the victims, who is affected?
- What? – What happens as it is occurring, what does it look like?
- When? – When does or has it occurred?
- Where? – Where does or has it occurred?
- Why? – What are the causes of injustice?
Activity: Find the Injustice (10 minutes)
Divide your group into smaller groups of 3-4. Give each group a packet of materials and tell them their job is simple: find the injustice, and be prepared to explain what you find to the rest of the group.
Suggested materials: Since we are working in Los Angeles, we focused our case studies downtown. You could create other packets of materials for your context.
- You rent an apartment in this development.
- Provide: printouts promoting an apartment near Skid Row. Feature amenities, rent rates, and give them a map.
- You buy a t-shirt
- Provide: A step-by-step list showing the process from cotton in the ground to the shirt you buy. One version is available in the Vision Generation #9 lesson, which was where the idea for this exercise came from.
- (You may provide this handout later on as follow up: http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/12931)
- You are deciding where to move and send your kids to school.
- Provide: The per pupil spending for two equally sized schools that are not too far from one another, but have vastly different income levels. In our case, we used the information on Montecito Union Elementary compared to Holmes Elementary in South Central Los Angeles in the Pueblos del Rio housing project.
Discuss (10 minutes)
- After groups have worked together have them share their findings with the others.
- Ask: Is it easy or hard for you to recognize injustice (or potential injustice) in your everyday life? Why?
- Ask: What if I said “undo it”? Where would you start?
- Explain: That seems so daunting because these issues are so complex and interconnected. It really is easier said than done.
Activity: All About the Middle (5 minutes)
Place a box of mixed See’s Candies in the middle of the group. Ask them to each take a piece and explain that the only thing you want to know is why they picked what they did. (For time and ease, I recommend letting them all get up and pick at once, and then just a few share their reason. No need to go around the circle one by one; it’s just chocolate.)
Explain: The main reason you went for what you did is the middle. It’s all about what you hope is or is not inside that thing.
Discuss and Write (10 minutes)
- What if the filling of a See’s got translated into a King Sized candy bar? It doesn’t work because it’s too rich. The richness is what makes the center so effective.
- Writing exercise: What are the things that are in the middle for you? What core beliefs, perspectives, or stories undergird your commitment to social justice?
- We need a rich center, or we will become jaded, cynical, and just opt out. And the CAUSE deserves better.
The Christian faith in the middle
So what is it that the Christian faith brings to the complexity of working for social justice?
Read Isaiah 58 (5 minutes)
- Describe God’s tone of voice. Why did you pick that?
- What would happen to Christians if they seriously studied this passage and let it change them?
Personal Reflection (10 minutes or more)
Have the group spend some time writing about the following questions:
- Does my middle need to be richer? What can I do to cultivate a rich center?
- Is there anything about the Christian or biblical perspective on justice that I want to explore more deeply?
- What parts of my own service or social justice involvements most connect with or remind me of the middle of my work?
- When is it hardest for me to be connect with the middle of my work?
- What can I do to remember, stay connected to, be motivated by the middle of my work?