When It Comes to School Choice and Church-Based Advocacy, What About the Congregants?
Be it a demanding schedule or the politics of the issue, there are times when it’s not practical or plausible to get a particular pastor completely “souled out” for school choice. In these situations, its best to go straight to the people: convince the congregation first and give the pastor space and time to engage later. Below are some helpful tips to engage congregants when the pastor has yet to jump on board.
- Offer the church something that they would like or enjoy
I offer ice cream. This is especially effective during the summer months. In exchange for free ice cream, ask the church if you can have an opportunity to either give the congregants information about school choice or have them complete an information card. Typically, setting this up requires visiting the church and speaking with the front office receptionist. This person will usually put you in contact with the church’s special events coordinator. Dealing with the events contact will most likely be much easier than trying to schedule a meeting with the pastor.
- Follow-up is CRUCIAL
Within two weeks of connecting with a congregation, I have followed up with everyone who signed up. I reference giving away the free ice cream and let them know that they’ll be receiving a magnet in the mail with the names and faces of their legislators. My first follow up is always done by a telephone call or a text message. This is the first step in building and nurturing a relationship with members of the congregation.
- Line Up Another Event
After the congregation has enjoyed the free ice cream and you’ve followed up and sent them a refrigerator magnet or something that creates more good will, within 1-2 months, it’s best to schedule another event. By this time, you can set up an event that includes information on school choice and something fun for participants. I have found that most who show sustainable interest usually enjoy events that involve their children being entertained. So, I do workshops that will involve fun after the workshop concludes.
So far, this approach to grassroots work has proven to be much more effective in building and sustaining relationships with advocates and it has significantly reduced my stress levels when it comes to dealing with pastors and school choice.