These options must be negotiated with the prevailing culture. Carroll says, “The majority culture doesn’t have to negotiate these spaces. It’s not about the color of their skin or why they speak with an accent.” For Hispanic youth in America, these questions are present day after day.

This negotiation fails at times, which saddens Carroll. “For some Hispanic youth, because they sense the racism and disrespect, they are ashamed and try too hard to be Americans, to imitate and mimic American youth culture. It’s usually not healthy. It’s usually what they see on MTV.”

(Multi)Culturally Aware

In light of this phenomenon, it is not enough to make our young people culturally aware. “Make them multiculturally aware,” says Carroll. “That’s the world. Teenagers today have gone to multi-ethnic schools. Young people have gone to college and roomed with a person of a different color. Diversity does not surprise a young person, while the older generations are used to a more monochrome, homogenous reality.”

This awareness starts as interest, curiosity and fascination. Ethnic foods. Latin dancing. Mission trips! Some of this, of course, is, as Carroll says, “manufactured.” Take for example a normal conversation when deciding where to go for dinner. What are you in the mood for? Italian? Mexican? Chinese? Indian? This surface-level engagement with diversity is a starting point, but it is only that. It must be directed and deliberate to move beyond mere awareness to engagement, embracing, and ultimately to the unity of which the gospel speaks.

The first step is to listen to people who are different than you are. It could take our lifetime to get this one. The next step is more difficult. This is where the breakdown often occurs. Carroll says, “We must be willing to entertain the presence and reality of different lifestyles.” The third step is nearly impossible in the present geopolitical and cultural landscape. We must embrace these differences as valid and valuable. Take a deep breath. It’s possible. (Neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free … sound familiar?)

What’s Next?

Carroll says, “There is a world out there in desperate need of youth workers who are contextualized.” This multi-cultural world starts right outside our church doors. No, it’s closer than that. It starts in our pews (or our multi-purpose rooms). Carroll, though he is well-connected in Latin-American Christian circles, is not aware of a single Latin-American seminary that has a youth ministry focus. Youth workers in Latin America and in the Hispanic subcultures in America need partners, sponsors, mentors and teachers—all with an attitude of service, humility and mutuality. Majority culture youth leaders need to help prepare and resource youth workers in minority cultures. Additionally, Carroll says, “Majority culture youth leaders need to engage and minister to Hispanic youth while preparing majority culture youth for the realities of the 21st century.”

According to Carroll, “The thing is to expose and inform. The way to do that is to get materials into people’s hands and maybe even do a Bible study.” Reading Christians at the Border together is a great place to start. The second step is for majority culture youth groups to “hook up with Hispanic churches and begin to meet some youth from other cultures.”

Is this possible? What if we could engage and embrace? Listen and learn? Serve and celebrate together? Carroll says we need to move forward in a “constructive, Christian way.” What if your youth group could teach your community how to live not only with diversity but in diversity? Then I think we’d be on to something. Our message would have weight. Our kids would have a purpose. Our cities would be healthier. The stranger would find a home. The lonely would find a family. Sounds like the gospel to me. Sounds like a beautiful, humble and creative kingdom opportunity.

Daniel Clark is Outreach Director, Children's HopeChest, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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This article originally appeared at youthworker.com. Used with Permission.