Across the nation and across denominations, youth and young adult educators are engaged on both the sidelines and the frontlines in helping determine what the mission and ministry of the church looks like in our digital and diverse contexts. As we adapt and enhance goals and programs, a tool that can be deeply useful in evaluating needs and relevant areas of ministry is an equity audit, an idea used by multiple denominations on a nationwide level in recent years. For those who are not familiar with the term, an equity audit is a process tool used to collect data that supports identifying and removing barriers to full participation, access, and opportunity for all people in a space or organization.
An equity audit generally looks at policies, programs, and practice that directly or indirectly impact both our young learners and the adults working with them. Areas where inequity may intentionally or unintentionally be present can include race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, language, ability, or realities relevant to your context. As the national organizations that provide many of our faith formation materials and individual denominations or congregations begin to explore the usefulness of an equity audit, we can also explore how this highly regarded practice might help our children’s, youth, and young adult programs become even richer spaces of welcome and nurturing.
Here are some of the things we can begin to look at as children’s, youth, and family ministry leaders to evaluate and improve the systemic justice of our children’s, youth, and young adult programs:
1) Supplier Diversity. (A personal note: you are reading a blog post written by a Black lesbian and a priority of Sparkhouse is to work supportively with diverse authors, editors, and content creators. Hooray!) Where are you purchasing materials from? Who is writing your curricula? What organizations are you partnering with for outing, community service, or mission trip opportunities?
2) Resources and Finance. Are special guests and educators being paid equitably? Do your paid staff come from backgrounds of resource while BIPOC or disabled educators are mostly volunteers? Are youth programs funded adequately and are accommodations available for youth with disabilities or from traditionally marginalized backgrounds? Examples can include scholarships, food, or transportation for young people not able to afford participation otherwise.
3) Leadership and Governance. Are families of traditionally marginalized youth and young adults included in decisions that may affect them? An example, the families of a trans teen and a young adult who uses a wheelchair were intentionally included in our ELCA Youth Gathering planning meetings and their input was invaluable in making choices about hotel sleeping arrangements and modes of transportation.
4) Programs and Curriculum. Do your music, art, craft, dance, and story content choices reflect diverse cultures and have adaptations for children with different abilities? Do your books and films only depict one type of family? Are you using opportunities to educate around areas of injustice so present in biblical stories?
While a comprehensive equity audit may be outside the scope of your back-to-school planning, this lens can be a valuable tool in enhancing the equity of a reverent and relevant school year!