Educating the Church about Refugees
The Church and Refugees: Part 2
If you have landed on this page because you're interested in educating the Church about refugees, that's wonderful. In this installment of our series on the Church and refugees you'll find a number of excellent resources that can help your church understand what refugees are, where they come from, and why God commands Christians to love and care for them. I would like to encourage you to first read our post on engaging the church. It explains the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships within your congregation and with your pastor or church leadership so that you will have a platform to share your passion for refugees with the church.
The Importance of Educating the Church about Refugees
It shouldn't be necessary to explain the importance of educating the church about refugees, but unfortunately, it is. Due to the prominence of the global refugee crisis in the media over the past several years it is far more likely that members of your church may be familiar with the term refugee. However, most will still have an inaccurate understanding of how refugee status is legally determined and of the complex process of resettling refugees to the US. I cannot count the number of times I have mentioned my work with refugees and had someone ask me if they were in the US legally (hint: they are). These basic misunderstandings must be cleared up in order to address fears about security and to lay the foundation for explaining practical ways that the church can serve refugees.
While educating the church about refugees in terms of legal definitions and the process of resettlement is extremely important, educating the church about refugees in terms of Scripture and theology is even more crucial. While Christians can have strong and varied political opinions about refugee resettlement and issues of national security, the Bible presents very clear guidelines for how we are to treat refugees and immigrants. The problem is that most church goers have never heard their pastor preach a sermon explaining these key passages and principles. The church cannot make a difference in the service of refugees if they do not first understand God's heart for refugees. Educating the church about refugees needs to address both practical questions and theological understanding. Here are some ways to accomplish those goals.
1. Practical Understanding
If you are passionate about refugees and realizing that most people in your church do not understand the legal status of refugees and how they are resettled to the US, then you can play an important role in making that information accessible to your church. Refugee resettlement and immigration are major political issues in this season. Talk to your church leadership about hosting an evening or weekend seminar for people who have questions about refugees and how they come to the US. If you have a World Relief office in your area they would love to send a representative to explain the process and ways that your church can get involved with refugees.
2. Education From the Pulpit
Not everyone is going to be interested in attending a seminar that answers practical questions about refugees, and a seminar will also probably not be able to cover a biblical and theological understanding of refugees in sufficient depth. So, in addition to providing practical answers for people curious about refugees, pastors need to be providing biblical perspectives of immigration from the pulpit. If you are a pastor, consider doing a sermon (or better, a sermon series) on God's heart for strangers. If you are a church member, take time to build a relationship with your pastor and explain your own passion for refugee ministry before asking if they might consider doing a sermon about refugees and immigrants.
World Refugee Day happens every year in June, and many churches have used the closest Sunday to celebrate National Refugee Sunday. Since this year's celebration has passed, you can decide to intentionally engage your church throughout this next year with the goal of persuading your church leadership to participate in National Refugee Sunday next June. Here is an article with some resources specific to Refugee Sunday that I wrote this year.
Resources for Educating the Church about Refugees
World Relief: If they have an office in your area contact them and ask if they would send someone to do a seminar explaining who refugees are, where they come from, and how they arrive in your community.
Seeking Refuge: This is a book recently written by three World Relief employees. It answers both practical questions and concerns about refugees and also briefly explains the biblical and theological reasons for doing refugee ministry. Read my full review here.
The Bible and Refugees: For a deeper look at what the Bible has to say about refugees, feel free to explore my series on that topic.
- Refugees in the Old Testament
- Refugees in the Prophetic books
- The stories of 3 refugees in the Old Testament
- Refugees in the New Testament
- A complete list of refugees in the Bible
A Church Leader's Toolkit on the Syrian Refugee Crisis: This excellent resource explains ways for church leaders to address the refugee crisis from the pulpit. It also includes a sermon outline as well as answers to practical questions about refugees and how they are resettled in the US.
WeWelcomeRefugees.com: This website is bringing the Church together to respond to the refugee crisis in a Christ-like manner. Their resource page includes links to articles, videos, and more that explain the refugee crisis and how the Church should respond.
12 Children's Books about Refugees: Though not a specifically Christian resource, this article lists 12 children's books about refugees that could be read as part of a Sunday school class to help children understand the current crisis and God's love for refugees.
How well do you think your church understands who refugees are and how they are resettled in the US? What other ideas do you have for educating the church about refugees?