Taking Action and Creating Change
How Church and Society's "Creating Change Together" toolkit can help you and your faith community put your faith in action!
In my January blog post, I considered the question, “Should Christians Be Political” and concluded that we are obligated, based on our tradition as United Methodists through our baptismal vows and Social Principles, to be active in politics. I know that political engagement can seem overwhelming and difficult, but I would like to walk with you through two fairly simple yet highly effective actions to begin your political engagement using the General Board of Church and Society’s own resource, “Creating Change Together”.
While we cannot visit decision makers in person right now, we still have the ability to be effective change creators through writing and calling our decision makers. It is important though that before we prepare to write those emails and make those calls, that we know our own story and the story of the change we are wanting to create. By formulating our story, we are able to communicate why we care about an issue and what we want to change. We can use our stories to demonstrate how these policies will affect our lives and our communities.
Effective advocacy is rooted in what we know best: our faith, our stories, and our hope for a better future. Take some time to prepare your story so that you can personalize your interaction with your elected officials, though many campaigns and organizations will also provide you with something called “talking points” or guidelines about what to say when calling or writing your legislators.
Two of the quickest ways to engage with decision makers is through making a phone call or sending an email. These are both simple yet effective ways of engaging and making a bigger difference when many calls and emails are received regarding a specific interest area or piece of legislation. Legislative offices pay close attention to how much engagement they receive for both sides of an issue, so not only is it important for you to call or email, but it is important to engage your family, friends, and congregation as well. One way to increase your impact is to coordinate or participate in a call-in day. Rather than a trickle of individual calls, a coordinated burst of calls, emails and tweets on the same day can amplify your message.
Calling your decision makers is one of the easiest ways to raise your voice and share your story with those in leadership. In the Calling Decision Makers resource guide, there are six simple steps to making a call that will have an impact. You always want to make sure the caller knows who you are, so begin your call by identifying yourself and letting the staffer who answers know your location, especially if you are a constituent. The biggest impact with your elected officials is made when they are contacted by the people they represent. To create an easier calling experience, take some time to write out a script for yourself using the guidelines in the resource guide. Writing out a script always helps me ensure that I cover everything needed in my call quickly and efficiently, while also ensuring that I do not leave anything out. Key aspects to remember when making your call is to: 1) identify yourself as a constituent, 2) quickly identify the reason for the call, including sharing a bit of your story and motivation for calling, and then 3) closing the call with appreciation and request for a response. Making a call to your decision maker does not have to be a scary prospect when you break it down and prepare for it using the simple steps in the resource guide, but if making a call still makes you uncomfortable, take the time to write an email instead!
Writing is a powerful form of advocacy and can be a more comfortable way to share your story. It allows you to control and craft your message to clearly and succinctly connect your personal experience and faith values with a call to action. Using the Writing to Decision Makers resource guide can help you craft an effective message. Most elected officials can be easily contacted through their websites, but you may also have the ability to send an email through an organization that you are connected with, like the Action Alerts from Church and Society. Contacting your decision maker through email is a less stressful way of engaging and allows you to take time to consider what you have to say. The two most important things to consider when writing an email is to focus your “ask” or what you are asking the decision maker to do and to make your message personal. This is the time to make your email stand out by including your personal story and how what you are advocating for will have a direct impact in your life. Stories are the heart of advocacy and what changes the hearts and minds of our elected officials. Your decision makers may not remember all of the data and statistics around a given piece of legislation, but are far more likely to remember a story that made an impact.
These are just two simple ways that you can start to engage in advocacy from your very own home. You do not even have to get dressed up! Take a moment today to consider what might be occurring in your own community that you would like to advocate for and live into our baptismal vows to “…accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves…and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.” Make a call or send an email today!