Engaging with the Election and Your Student

Today is a big day in the life of our country and world. Regardless of the outcome of the election, it is certain that our youth will be impacted by it. They already have been impacted by the election season, and yet, don’t have the ability to cast a vote. So, our youth are asking you to vote, remembering that your vote will dictate the kind of the world they grow up in. If you aren’t planning on voting, hear these words from one of our high school seniors, who misses the ability to vote by one day, as her birthday is the day after the election:

“Let us embrace and lift one another up in these trying times. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Do not stand aside. Inaction is an action in itself. I’m asking you to vote. I’m asking you to listen. I’m asking you to bring the conversation to us. But most importantly, I’m asking you to love because to love is to live.”

Process your own emotions and make home a safe space.

Students can see that we’re on edge. Be honest and tell them, “I’m is a little nervous about the election.” It’s helpful for youth’ social and emotional development to hear you naming your emotions. It also gives them the space and opportunity to be vulnerable and share their own anxieties or hopes. Behavior begets behavior: if we’re desiring to know what our students are thinking, nervous about, or desiring, it is helpful to model that first and give them permission to do so. It also helps them learn how to respond to when someone is being vulnerable or sharing.

Ask: “What have you heard and how are you feeling?”

As you all know, this question is a great question to ask at any time — even when there is no election, no protests, no pandemic casting a long shadow over our lives. I like to add the follow-up question of “Where do you see God in that?”. As Karl Barth once quipped, Christians need to read the newspaper in one hand, and the Bible in the other.”

Use this as a learning opportunity

Election time is a perfect opportunity to help youth build up a foundation of knowledge. Take a look at all the state maps online. For slightly older youth, you can talk about the origins of the Electoral College, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. If they’re fans of the musical Hamilton, you can put on “Cabinet Battle #1” for some great context. Many youth, myself included, are never taught about the governmental structures or the historical ramifications of decisions made by people in power. We often think of history as something that just happened, rather than something that has been created, decided, and enacted.

Put the election in the context of history — including our “hard history”

Our youth are living through history. It’s good to have perspective on the highs and lows that came before. (Honestly, it’s sort of helpful for grownups too!) We’ve studied this semester and in Peace Academy that God has a special place in his heart (and Kingdom) for those who are oppressed, victims of injustice, the poor, the abused by power. To gloss over that aspect of our nation’s history is not only to be deceitful, but terrible theology. It to ignore a critical part of God’s heart, and the life mission of Jesus, as well as the charge given to the Church.

Don’t demonize the other side. We need to teach kids the fine art of tolerant disagreement.

It feels like the United States has never been so divided. It can be tempting to stay in our safe bubbles and bash our opponents. But, that is not the way of Christ, or the way of His Kingdom and Church. Jesus, the Apostle Paul and our founder John Wesley state that unity is perhaps the greatest demonstration of love, especially unity in opposing views and beliefs. As Jesus claims in John 13, our love will be the only defining characteristic of our discipleship, and He goes even further to state that the greatest test of our discipleship is how easily and readily we love, pray for, and choose the good of those we dislike.