What do you remember about Martin Luther King Jr. Day growing up? Did your family or community celebrate? Did grasp who Dr. King was? Were you like me and just glad to have a day off school??
My hope for my kids is that their introduction to MLK is inspirational, not compulsory or wearisome. His legacy is too important.
This year I’m striving to help my kids (and myself) make the connection between MLK’s faith and his fight for justice. Not only was he an activist, fighting to overturn overtly racist laws, but he was also a passionate minister of the gospel. He pleaded with leaders of white churches not to be silent about Black peoples’ plight and to courageously stand in solidarity. His faith framed not only his protests but also his non-violent methods of protests. And he remained faithful to proclaiming the truth of God and the dignity of humanity to the very end.
I’m focusing on this aspect because the silence MLK called (white) churches to break still hasn’t broken. It is still difficult for us to reconcile the work of justice and the work of evangelism. Sometimes we ignore justice (silence) and sometimes we publicly oppose it (like the SBC’s statement on Critical Race Theory). And sometimes complicit silence turns into deliberate violence (like the recent attack on the Capitol).
Studying the role of faith in MLK’s life is a compelling way to show our kids, and ourselves, that there isn’t a rigid dichotomy between justice and the gospel.
His life is an example of how the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment are not in competition with one another, and studying his role faith played in his activism is a great way to see that.
I’d encourage all of us to look deeper into Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and consider how we talk about him with our kids. If you’re looking for a free way to celebrate, here is a list of 17 Virtual Events for kids and families on MLK day 2021!
- What do your kids already know about Martin Luther King Jr.?
- What is one additional aspect of his life that you can talk about or teach them this weekend?
- How would your kids define faith and works? How would you?
Resources for younger kids (4+):
Video: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by BrainPop (a quirky, but quality, quick overview of MLK’s life for kids)
Coloring pages showing MLK in his pastor role:
Resources for Older Kids (8+)
Video: Martin Luther King Jr. as Pastor from PBS (7 minutes highlighting the role that pastor played in MLK’s activism and ministry)
Video: The Bible Project Explains Justice
Resource for Adults:
Article: How Martin Luther King Jr.’s Faith Drove His Activism