negative spacePhoto Credit: Negative Space

I’ve had the immense privilege to serve God as both a pastor in a local church and as the leader of a non-profit. This has afforded me the unique opportunity to see how both sides think when it comes to engaging the church in social action. Commonly, churches are concerned with building the church and making disciples whilst non-profits want to reach a certain people group. Misunderstandings come when non-profits feel disappointed that the church doesn’t get behind their vision and churches feel like non-profits have an agenda for their money and their people. We are all Christians after all. Why can’t we just get along?

One of the key problems is that both churches and the non-profit sector have their own languages and agendas. They each have their own sub culture of the way they interpret, think about and communicate things. We actually need to spend as much time building relationships and understanding each others’ worlds as we do reaching the people we represent.

Here are a few tips on how you can build a great relationship and ultimately gain the support of your local church:

It can’t be all about you

Simply put, churches do not ‘have’ to support you just because you are a member of their congregation. Going in to meet your pastor with such a mindset will only make him or her suspicious of you. Aim to work in partnership. Ask your leader what their vision and goals for the church are and then show how working with you will help them achieve it. You have more in your hand that can help the church than you realise. Perhaps you could offer to train their staff in counselling best practices or what to do if they suspect someone is being trafficked. Or how to protect their congregation from paedophiles. Maybe you could help train the staff how to talk to the youth about tricky topics like sex and pornography. Write articles for their newsletters. When your leader sees that you are ‘for’ them they will be more likely to get involved.

Don’t expect the whole church to get involved

It’s important not to have unrealistic expectations. A church is not likely to build it’s whole ethos around your ministry. Unless of course God speaks specifically to them about this. Aim to start with small involvement and build it from there. If they ask you to share at a bible study, then do that and don’t get upset that they didn’t ask you to preach on Sunday. Relationships are built bit by bit. It is unrealistic to expect that every single person will get behind your cause. They haven’t all been called to serve in this way. That said, aim to find those who are!

Make it easy for the church to work with you

Churches are busy places and are usually just as understaffed as non-profits are. They don’t need extra work. If you want them to help you, make it easy. Have brochures ready for them to hand out. Have artwork ready that they can use. Have videos, infographics and photos with quotes that they can share on social media. Make it easy for them to support your cause.

Be professional

If you do get the opportunity to speak on platform, don’t blow it. Be prepared with media that is the same quality or better that the church is accustomed to. If they use video often, then have a professional looking video. If they use powerpoint, make sure yours doesn’t have spelling mistakes and reflects the culture of the church. If they have a young, grungy look then your slides should reflect the same look. Most of all, if they give you time, make sure every minute counts and don’t go over your time limit. Ever!

Tell stories

People respond to stories. Jesus told stories. In the non-profit world we get a bit caught up in facts and statistics. People disassociate themselves from stats. Tell stories instead. The average person sitting in church really does want to do something useful with their lives. Make sure your stories tell how they can make an impact and connect with the work.

Build inroads

Most people want to get involved and not just give money. Sometimes in the anti-trafficking sector we can be very secretive and exclusive, and for good reason. We want to protect our clients. Just make sure that you ministry isn’t appearing so secretive and protected that the only way people can be involved is to give. Have clear ways defined on how people can get involved. The number one question people ask after a presentation is ‘what can I do?’ Be ready for it!

Be thankful

Don’t just take their money and people and run. Send thank you letters or make follow up phone calls explaining how their congregation connected with your cause. Consider it an honour that they allowed you to be on their platform. Follow up with how you can help them further.

 

 Leanne2015 Leanne Rhodes is the CEO & Founder at Abolishion, an NGO that breaks the systems that keep people in sexual slavery.  Leanne resides in Romania and travels regularly across Europe to work with churches, governments and NGOs in the prevention of human trafficking. She looks forward to a world where no one’s basic right for freedom is sold for the highest bid. Learn more: www.abolishion.org