Build partnerships with local churches

Engaging with local churches is essential for effective pro-life activism. Since most pro-life people are also church-goers, promoting your events through local churches is one of the most effective ways to draw new participants.

This engagement can take the form of bulletin or pulpit announcements about your pro-life efforts, tabling in the church vestibule, hosting pro-life events at a church, inviting clergy to speak at your events and more.

And this engagement doesn’t just help you with your pro-life mission. It will also help local churches to their mission of proclaiming the pro-life message. Use the tips below to build effective partnerships with local churches.

Be a “booster,” not a “burden”

You will be far more successful engaging involvement from local churches if you adopt the attitude of a “booster” rather than a “burden.” Consider the difference between these two approaches to talking to “Pastor Bob” by an eager pro-lifer:

“Pastor Bob, this is supposed to be a pro-life church. But we’re not doing anything active! You have to tell everyone at this church to come to the pro-life rally next week, or I’ll know you’re not really pro-life!”

“Pastor Bob, I know the pro-life mission is important to you. Next week there will be a pro-life rally that would be a great opportunity for our church family. Do I have your blessing to spread the word?”

Do you see the difference? In the first example, the eager pro-lifer is placing a burden on Pastor Bob, and trying to guilt him into taking action.

In the second, the eager pro-lifer is affirming Pastor Bob’s commitment and providing an opportunity for that commitment to flourish.

Whether reaching out to your own pastor or the pastor of another church, adopt this attitude of being a helper, of offering an opportunity. Rather than heaping more responsibility on your pastor, be the person who takes the weight of responsibility off the shoulders of an overworked pastor.

You’ll find this approach far more effective!

Partner with Protestant churches

Protestants and Catholics share many core beliefs and have worked together in harmony in the pro-life movement for decades. But the institutional structures of these two faith communities are very different, and that impacts how pro-life activists partner with these churches.

For a Protestant church, getting to the pastor is key, and that usually means going through his secretary. A direct phone call is best for getting attention and results.

Even better than the secretary would be a personal friend or acquaintance of the pastor. If they can make contact and broach the subject of promoting your event or serving as a guest speaker, he will be all the more likely to support your efforts.

Some Protestant denominations will also have a specific pro-life or pro-family ministry, or another outreach effort along those lines. Directors of those ministries would be excellent contacts as well.

Partner with Catholic churches

As noted, Protestant and Catholic churches operate very differently. Working with the Catholic churches can be a bit more complex due to the bureaucratic nature of the diocesan structure.

Even many lifelong Catholics aren’t sure who to talk to to get results. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with some offices, officials and terminology to cut through the red tape.

The Respect Life Director: The Respect Life Director runs the Respect Life committee or office and they need to become your best friend at the diocese. You may find Respect Life under the umbrella of Peace and Justice or Family Life in your diocese. Look over the diocesan website or make a phone call to find out who to contact about pro-life activities.

The Respect Life director has the ability to get information into every parish in the diocese. This is your gateway to bulletin announcements in every Catholic church in your area.

The Catholic Conference: You may also benefit from working with the state Catholic Conference to promote your pro-life work. Your state’s Catholic Conference is a church agency representing the dioceses within a state in order to provide for the coordination of the public policy concerns of the church.

The executive director of the Catholic Conference, usually a layperson, serves as the liaison between the world and all of the bishops in your state. He will know what the bishops want and are capable of, and will be able to help convince them to support your pro-life work.

You should be able to get the executive director’s contact information on the conference’s website. Give them a call and offer them the chance to be involved with your event.

Promote your event in bulletin announcements

Bulletin announcements and pulpit announcements are solid gold for drawing people out to your event—perhaps the most important promotional action you can take.

Deadlines will vary by church, but we recommend submitting your bulletin announcements two Fridays before the Sunday you wish the announcement to run. Since this is a free service, there’s no reason not to have an announcement in every church bulletin you can.

Be sure to follow up on sending your announcement with a phone call. If there are a lot of churches you need to reach, consider breaking up the list and having multiple members of your team make a handful of calls each.

Also consider requesting for your event to be announced from the pulpit as well as inclusion in the bulletin. A pastor words of encouragement have an incredible positive impact on participation by church members.

Don’t be discouraged!

In working with local churches, remember that church institutions typically move slowly, and it may take time for the pastor or those working with him to come to value the opportunities you’re presenting to them.

If you don’t get immediate results, keep trying. And try to focus on the positive — on the pastors and church congregations that want to work with you, rather than those who are reluctant. And remember to accompany all of your church outreach with prayer.

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