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Promoting Human Relations Day in your local church

SUMMARY: You glance at the calendar and realize Human Relations Day (celebrated annually on the Sunday before the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday) is just around the corner. It's too late to do anything, right? Wrong!

Here are a few ideas for promoting Human Relations Day every day of the year. These simple steps will strengthen your outreach to communities in the United States and Puerto Rico and encourage social justice and work with at-risk youth.

"Doors to success" is one theme for Human Relations Day, and you can help to open these doors in many ways—not just on one Sunday but all year long.

  1. Recall how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opened doors for many people. Think of doors in your community that you can open: tutoring children and teens, teaching English to immigrants, donating new socks or gently worn coats to a homeless person, or helping with housing issues. The possibilities are infinite!

  2. Draw attention to the millions of people who face hunger every day by hosting a "love feast" to raise money for mission and ministry. Invite people to bring their favorite main dish for a church potluck and ask those attending to donate a love offering. Use the money to buy gift cards for fast-food restaurants and share the cards with people who come to the church seeking food.

  3. Encourage youth to get involved in the community. Bradford, an aspiring Eagle Scout in my church, built a food pantry in the corner of our fellowship hall. He earned his award and many people benefit from his hard work every day.

  4. Plan a celebration honoring church and community members who are advocates of social justice issues. Ask them to share the story of their ministry and to invite others to become involved personally and financially. Some people are just waiting for someone to ask them to help. In the process, you—and they—may discover untapped talents.

  5. Recruit people to serve as mentors for at-risk children and youth. A preteen I know—Mariah—is improving her grades and her self-esteem because her "big sister" spends time with her and sets a positive example.

  6. Talk with local correctional facilities about leading Bible studies for incarcerated persons. It's an opportunity to connect people to the church and to enrich their faith and yours.

  7. Reflect on these words of Delia Ramirez, executive director of "The Center for Changing Lives," Chicago: "It doesn't matter where we work, what we do, how many degrees we have or where we grew up. What matters is having the willingness to serve God in the most unusual places." Invite your congregation to list "unusual places" where they can make a difference. Then work with them to make it happen!

  8. Most importantly, give generously to the Human Relations Day offering. Ten dollars is helpful, but if you give up a movie or a meal out, you can double your gift. Your support is vital, especially in these difficult economic times. To learn more, please go to

Barbara Dunlap-Berg, creative resources editor, United Methodist Communications

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