Church in Color
Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr.
Montague R. Williams
Congregational leaders are often unsure how to attend to the complexities of racism and racial division in the United States. One common response is to acknowledge that racism is wrong and then avoid the topic as much as possible. This is especially the case in youth and young adult ministries, as pastors and other youth workers attempt to foster a sense of community and identity that transcends race. While this method may seem helpful on the surface, it ultimately undermines the goal of offering young people authentically Christian mentoring, understanding, and pastoral care. There is a dire need for a practical theological framework that welcomes young people’s experiences and questions regarding race into the work of theology and vocational discernment.
In this groundbreaking ethnographic and theological account, Montague R. Williams unearths and examines the realities of race in multiracial and multiethnic youth ministries in the United States. Church in Color invites readers to consider stories of young people in three distinct congregations and witness their longing for a Christian discipleship that grapples with rather than avoids race. Williams further analyzes how young people communicate this longing and why it is difficult for congregational leaders to recognize and respond to it. Finally, placing these findings in dialogue with an in-depth and nuanced engagement of Martin Luther King Jr.’s theological aesthetics, Williams guides congregations to embrace a discipleship that recognizes, remembers, and wrestles with the realities of race, racism, and racial identity.
Church in Color demonstrates the importance of including the questions and experiences of young people from diverse backgrounds in the work of theological construction. It also models how to bring various fields, such as congregational studies, youth ministry, race theory, pop culture, and Kingian theology, together within a broader practical theological conversation. Most significantly, Church in Color charts a path forward for the future of intergenerational Christian communities in a racialized world.