I hope that as more groups purchase the Equipped for Life Course, they will be prepared to participate in more outreach events like polling tables. Having a strategic plan in mind and practical supplies on hand can help your event be a greater success. Speaking as the president of a Students for Life (SFL) group that does regular outreach, here are my ten tips:
#1: Code of Conduct Agreement
I highly recommend asking each volunteer to sign a code of conduct agreement prior to arriving at outreach so they know what sort of behavior is expected and prohibited. It can be as simple as a non-violence pledge and the information of an emergency contact. You’ll want to keep these forms in a folder or binder with you at the outreach site in case something goes amiss. It also makes it really easy to respond to angry pro-choice people that say we’re like people who bomb clinics. You can just say, “No, we aren’t,” but it’s more convincing to say, “No, we aren’t, in fact everyone from our club has signed a volunteer agreement stating that they are opposed to violence against abortion practitioners and their facilities.”
You will need to have volunteers sign up for shifts throughout the day, preferably that overlap by 15-30 minute intervals so you can switch out gracefully. Keep in mind that you may run into a situation where several volunteers at a time will be in the middle of dialogues, so try to have as many people scheduled at the event as you can without creating a crowd around the table.
I asked Rebecca Haschke from Justice For All to join me for a practical dialogue tips session at the 2017 Students for Life of America conference in D.C. so that we could spend the last part of the session doing a mock dialogue!
Josh Brahm – Tip 1: Ask Lots of Clarification Questions – 00:00
Josh Brahm – Tip 2: Don’t Make Arguments with Question Marks – 05:25
Rebecca Haschke – Tip 3: Listen to Understand – 08:03
Rebecca Haschke – Tip 4: Find Genuine Common Ground When Possible – 22:51
Josh Brahm and Rebecca Haschke – Mock Dialogue – 28:05
The Equipped for Life course has only been out for about four months, but we’re already getting a sense for how it’s helping the people who’ve taken it.
My favorite bit of feedback we’ve received is from Rachel Crawford, the president of the University of Michigan Students for Life group. (Full disclosure, Rachel is also coming on staff next year, so she’s not unbiased, but her students are.)
One of the main concerns Tim and I had while creating this course was that people would take it, but wouldn’t then do the next step of talking to pro-choice people in their lives or during campus outreaches. What has happened with Rachel’s club gives me some hope that that’s not going to be a common problem.
This is how Rachel recently described the impact of the course on her club during an interview for the Equipped for Life podcast:
This was my students’ first exposure to Equal Rights Institute. They’re unanimously coming back to me and enthusiastically requesting we have more outreaches.
We went out and did outreach all day on a Saturday recently. Even the shy and quiet students, after watching some of the course or completing the entire course, were coming up to me saying, “I’m really quiet and I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to have a conversation today. But I totally stepped out of my comfort zone, and I totally gave it a try, and oh my gosh, I’m so happy I did! Can we do this next week?”
All of these students were super-excited. And we had the fortunate ability to have this outreach in the fall semester. We’ve had about 30 new students joining our club this year. The new students are telling me that “the dialogue tactics are helping me understand the proper mood and tone of the conversation. They’re making me feel more confident about opening a dialogue because I’ve learned about body language or learned about asking more clarification questions.”
Then the more experienced students are like, “I’ve been reading apologetics books all through high school and I’m super-excited.” Those students are really refreshed by the materials and the actual content of the more advanced parts of the course.
I was asked to give an apologetics speech at the Students for Life of America 2014 West Coast National Conference. I was given a title, “I’m Pro-Life, But…” that I was allowed to do anything I wanted with, so I chose to respond to these four common statements and questions:
“I’m pro-life, but people tell me I come across like a jerk. What can I do about that?”
“I’m pro-life, but I don’t know how to convince people that abortion is wrong.”
Words truly can’t express how I feel after the training seminar and outreach we led for Students for Life of America staff. I’ve never felt this personally fulfilled in my professional life as I feel right now. God answered all my prayers in a bigger way than I could have imagined.
The outreach was AMAZING. The staff were all great ambassadors. 8 people went from pro-choice to pro-life in 3 hours! (As far as I know, that’s a pro-life record!)
This organization has access to 762 campus clubs, and they want to help those clubs learn to ask good questions with an open heart, listen to understand, and find genuine common ground when possible. I’m over the moon about this organization and the impact they’re going to have.
We’re going to change the perception of the pro-life movement. People in the future will know pro-life people by our love. I’ve never felt so strongly that I can be a part of something that will end abortion.