Conversations That Shape Us

This conversation guide on racism explores biblical concepts that prepare followers of Jesus to respond to racism in a God-honouring way. It was produced in November 2021 by the EFC, Canadian Bible Society, Canadian Christians for Justice and Mercy, and Cardus.

Download the 29-page PDF by clicking the image at right or one of the other links on this webpage.

Materials participants will need

  • The PDF of Conversations That Shape Us. You may want to display it on a large video screen, print it out or have participants call it up on laptops. (Phone screens are not recommended.)
  • Writing utensils and paper (or phone notes app)
  • White board or sticky notes with a blank wall or table
  • Bible

Important note for leaders

Group leaders cannot lead where they have not been themselves, especially with topics requiring deep vulnerability, like the subject of racism. Until pastors, small group leaders or teachers have spent time reflecting with God and other believers regarding their own biases, they cannot effectively invite others to take this journey. 

There are three ways to lead: by example, by example and by example.

Leaders can reflect on their own biases by first reviewing this guide on their own and reading books or other resources on racism. A list of resources at the end of the PDF conversation guide can  provide a helpful starting point.

Along with learning, leaders can engage in discussion and prayer about racism with others they trust (such as a church member, mentor, etc.) to gain familiarity and confidence speaking about this topic.

Managing group discomfort

The topic of race is a very sensitive one in the Canadian context and in this current culture. Many well-meaning Christians will avoid saying anything at all, for fear of saying the wrong thing. Given the many emotions and opinions, some people may express themselves strongly, while others will withhold their responses out of discomfort. After all, we don’t like to hurt each other. 

Leaders may need to offer encouragement as the group has these delicate discussions.. In Section 3 of the PDF guide, Conversation Preparation, we suggest ways to create a safe environment for discussion. These tools can help everyone process what they are experiencing in a healthy way.

As leaders guide the conversation, it is important to not view the conversation – and the participants themselves – as points along a trajectory toward an end goal. It is better to see each person as moving along a continuum in both their understanding on this topic and their relationship to God. The learning and conversation journey itself is more important than a set outcome or specific end goal.

It is important to make space for participants to acknowledge where they are at, emotionally and spiritually. To that end, it is important to not rush the conversation to arrive at closure on every point. Those who want quick closure will shut down the discussion. Comments like “Can we all agree that this is wrong before we go any further?” will freeze the conversation. 

A helpful question that leaders can frequently ask is: “What are you feeling and thinking about what has been said?” This simple query helps to prevent group members from becoming overwhelmed by emotions such as anger, defensiveness, or feeling that others are attacking them. It is a question that helps to move thoughts and emotions out into the open in a gentle way. 

If a participant does have an angry outburst, leaders should avoid reacting in the moment and not use Scripture to silence the person or the conversation.. Unhelpful statements like: “This is God’s standard and we all need to live up to it” can shut down a person’s learning journey. Instead, ask open-ended questions that invite participants to share how they are feeling. Outbursts can be prevented by giving people ample opportunities to share, without judgement. The more opportunities participants have to express what they are processing, the better they can navigate their emotions and listen to what others are experiencing. 

We believe that with the right tools and a loving, patient posture, leaders can effectively guide participants through essential conversations about racism. You can do this!

Video from page 14 - Understanding the concept of race

This video unpacks the history of the idea of race and how we can respond in a Christian way.

We are grateful to you for taking on the role of leader, especially with a topic that can be as sensitive as racism. We want to support you. If you would benefit from exploring a question or issue with one of the editorial team as you lead this study, please reach out by email.