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Get Your Church Involved in Bread’s 2010 Offering: 10 Tips
by Robin Stephenson, Ricardo Moreno, Tammy Walhof, and Larry Hollar
“The water for which we thirst is God’s grace, but God gives us the job of hauling it with our own buckets.” —Evelyn Underhill
Looking for ways to get your church more involved in this year’s Offering of Letters campaign? Here are some tips we’ve found effective in our organizing work throughout the country:
Create relationships with other groups in your church. See if you can get some cross-pollination. For example, if you get Sunday school kids working on letters to send to their Congress members, they will show them to their parents, which might encourage them to get involved. If your church has an art group, work with participants to create an art and social justice program that could accompany education about this year’s Offering of Letters. You could display the art during the letter-writing workshops or on a table or bulletin board in the church.
Don’t get discouraged if you only get a few letters. Tammy remembers that during one congressional visit with Bread members, a staff person told them, “We’ve had a lot of mail on that issue.” When Bread folks asked how much mail, the staffer said, “Oh, at least 20 letters!” The Bread activists were surprised to hear that 20 letters counted as a lot, and found that very empowering. Each letter is considered to represent several constituents back home.
Have coffee with your pastor or priest. It’s always good to make sure she or he knows when you’re holding an Offering of Letters. They may want to use that weekend to prepare an advocacy-focused sermon. Ask them to write a letter themselves. If you’re having trouble with pastoral support, tell your pastor why you think the Offering of Letters is important; get feedback on how he or she sees the church’s role in advocacy.
Consider giving your pastor or priest a copy of Art Simon’s book, How Much is Enough. Follow up later to get his or her reaction to it. Sometimes a good dialogue is the beginning of a collaborative relationship. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a lot of input. Sometimes it takes time.
Start a series of adult forums or a book group on the biblical basis for hunger justice. Hold meetings prior to your scheduled Offering of Letters. Bread has ideas about books that make good accompaniments to the OL campaign, so ask your organizer for suggestions. Or use the Christian Study Guide in Bread for the World Institute’s 2010 Hunger Report to prepare for the Offering. The study guides are easily structured and contain great activities. Invite the pastor to attend. Hold a poverty simulation night or a hunger banquet.
Try a gimmick. Provide fresh baked bread, a homemade cookie, or a pen (Bread has pens) to letter-writers. Or make stickers on your computer that say something like, “I wrote a letter to speak up for the most vulnerable.” Sunday school children might want to work on a craft to give away, such as bookmarks containing justice-themed Bible verses. Get creative.
Invite someone who can share a story. Individual stories put a face on hunger and poverty and are much more powerful than policy talk. Or create a three-minute play with others on your outreach/justice team to convey the story. Plays can educate and catch the attention of the parishioners. Get the youth group to act something out.
Personal pleas. Talk to friends before the Offering and ask them to write a letter and invite a friend to do the same. Make it as personal as possible.
Prayer. Ask your taskforce to pray in the weeks approaching the Offering -- that God may work through your hands and your community.
Most of all, remember that you are doing this in relationship with God. You are living out your faith by advocating for the poor and hungry, as Christ calls us to. It’s the action that is important. Find comfort in the words of Isaiah:
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:9-11).
Robin Stephenson, Ricardo Moreno, Larry Hollar, and Tammy Walhof are organizers with Bread for the World.
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