Estimated read time: Eight minutes
Do you ever yearn for justice? It’s that feeling when you see something you know is wrong, and it rankles deep in your soul. This isn’t right! We all feel that at times, and that’s just as true for children.
In fact, sometimes a young person’s sense of justice seems more sensitive than that of adults — think of when toddlers declare their outrage at not getting the same snack as their sibling or a teen decries the unfairness of an early curfew. While these don’t count (at least in our book) as injustices, it does demonstrate that young people have strong sense of what is right and what “should” be. Sometimes, a young person’s conviction, paired with action, can create change even where adults have failed to do so.
Parents and caregivers can help kids develop and focus their convictions by helping them find age-appropriate ways to answer God’s call to seek justice (Isaiah 1:17). Finding ways to advocate can help kids feel a sense of agency instead of helplessness when they see something wrong. It encourages self-efficacy when kids have a desire to create change. And advocacy can help them develop a deeper understanding of the Biblical call to justice and righteousness.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.— Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
Here are 5 ways that kids can advocate for justice:
Prayer might not be top-of-mind when we think about advocacy. But it’s an essential first step (and should be part of every step). Christian advocacy is different because we work together with God, because God cares about injustice even more than we do. Before a person of any age starts on an advocacy journey, they should ask for God’s help and guidance. Remind young advocates of Esther, who knew she needed to speak up to save her people but first fasted and prayed for three days and asked everyone she knew to do the same. She knew that her success as an advocate depended on God.
But prayer is more than a part of our advocacy. Prayer often is advocacy. We can explain to kids that just like they might need someone to speak up for them (like a parent or a teacher), God calls us to speak up for others. And we can speak up for them directly to God, the most powerful and loving person we know.
2. Write or draw
Just because kids are too young to vote doesn’t meant they’re too young to influence their government representatives! (Just ask Lucy, who had her first meeting with her congressional representative before she was old enough to drive!) In fact, contacting local or state representatives is a great way to teach kids about how the government works in a way that helps them understand that they can be a part of it. And contacting an actual person helps kids learn to humanize their leaders rather than buy in to the rhetoric that all people who work in government are bad or incompetent.
To write a letter, kids and teens should take basic steps to familiarize themselves with the issue that they’re passionate about, but they don’t need to be experts. In fact, letters from the heart are often more effective than form letters that include lots of facts and figures. Young writers should be sure to introduce themselves, share their age and where they’re from, and then simply share how they feel and what they’d like to see change. Then, find the contact information for your representatives and send it off!
Kids too young to write can draw pictures (watch below!), and personalized emails or even pre-written emails can help kids take action if they’re not ready to write a paper letter. Many Christian organizations offer easy ways for kids to advocate and get involved, and World Vision is no exception! Check out our action page to see our current issues. Encourage kids that even if they don’t see instant change, speaking up is important, and there’s no age minimum for influencing our leaders!
Injustice can be hard for kids to process. They might not understand (and rightly so) why some kids are hungry or malnourished, why not everyone is allowed to go to school, or why people are sometimes treated unfairly. Volunteering can help them understand that while injustice exists, so does good, and we can be a part of tipping the balance.
Depending on what cause has inspired them, it may not be possible to volunteer directly, but adults and kids can put their heads together to think of relevant ways to help in their own communities. Those concerned about hunger globally could volunteer at a local food bank or homeless shelter. Young people concerned about refugees might volunteer for a U.S. based church or organization that does work in those areas. Work behind-the-scenes is vital to the success of work on-the-ground, and kids should know that even simple volunteer jobs support the larger work and provide huge encouragement to other justice-seekers. Share the parable of the bags of gold (or talents in some versions): the story shows us that what we have doesn’t matter as much as what we do with what we have! (Matthew 25:14-30).
If the right volunteer opportunity is not immediately obvious, check out volunteer websites or talk to neighbors or friends about local needs. The important thing is that a young person can take ownership of the project and see it as a step toward building the peace that justice brings.
4. Fundraise or organize
Organizing an event like a fundraiser or donation drive is perfect for older kids and teens who are ready to take on something a little more ambitious. For donation drives, be sure to first find out what’s needed and makes sense. While taking action can and should make us feel good, there’s a danger of that being the only thing it does if we act before we fully understand an issue. Encourage your young advocate to spend some time really thinking about what injustice is on their heart and ways to help address the issue.
If a child is concerned about access to clean water, they might look into organizing a run to raise funds to build wells. Do they care most about those struggling with homelessness? They could contact a local shelter to see what items are most needed and hold a drive to gather those items. And if a young person has something on their heart that doesn’t quite fit traditional fundraising or donation models, invent something new! They could sell baked goods, organize a virtual “a-thon” of some kind, or do pretty much anything to raise funds or support for the cause they care about. Let’s be honest — most people will be inspired when they see a young person working for justice and will be happy to support them.
While fundraising and donation drives might feel less important than doing direct service, that’s not the case! Organizations tackling the root causes of injustice need to pay the bills, and like volunteers, donors are a key part of the team.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.— 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV)
One final note: Drives and fundraisers actually have a double purpose because they also contribute significantly to another way kids can advocate …
5. Raise awareness
Raising awareness sometimes gets a bad rap as the easy route to advocacy, but it’s absolutely not! Getting people to understand and care about an issue is a huge challenge, and it takes a brave person to take it on. We see change when many people lift their voices together, so raising awareness is key! That’s why we work so hard at World Vision Advocacy to get people to email, call, and tweet their representatives asking for change — because the more of us that understand and care about an issue, the better chance we have of getting the attention of decision-makers.
And, let’s face it, sometimes young people are better at this than adults. Their passion is inspiring, and their perspective is fresh. Young advocates can make a real difference by taking the time to learn about an issue and then find a new way to share it. They could share as part of a school project, at church, on social media, or even come up with a creative art project to get the word out. Advocacy is all about finding a way to raise your voice, and the more creative, the better!
God takes kids seriously, and we can too when we pay attention to their desire to create change in the world around them. By advocating with the kids in our lives, we show them that we take seriously God’s call to work for justice in the Bible, and that we believe in their ability to make a difference. Most importantly, by allowing kids to find ways to advocate that are meaningful to them, we help them put their faith into action and use their God-given talents to bless others!
Want to learn more? Join Violet and her dad to learn more about easy ways kids can advocate (with parent permission, of course!).
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Top photo: Pricillia, a sixth-grader and refugee from the Central African Republic, shows there are ways all kids can advocate. Here, she raises awareness about how her community can protect itself from coronavirus using a handy bullhorn. (©2020 World Vision/photo by Didier Nagifi Sademoke)