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Elevator Pitch

When I was the Chicago organizer for the Climate Witness Project, I worked with many churches in the area to do advocacy initiatives focused on specific pieces of legislation.Our advocacy initiatives ranged from attending the climate march in Washington, DC to meeting with members of Congress. We also did local advocacy in our hometowns and with our Illinois delegation. Advocacy work is an important means for putting faith into action and for Christian witness. It’s not even necessarily about the end result of the advocacy work because the relationships formed with staff members speak volumes about the character of Christ and Kingdom priorities.

One particularly memorable advocacy opportunity was when several churches had come together to plan a meeting with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. We met multiple times as we came up with talking points about the legislation, assigned roles, and planned who was going to talk about what. 

The meeting was going to be in downtown Chicago at the Senator’s office. We were told that Sen. Durbin was not going to be available that day, and likely not even in the building. Instead we were going to be meeting with one of his staff members. This was fine, as we always had really good meetings with his staff. From my experience, developing working relationships with congressional staffers is essential for advocacy. Whatever trust can be built between you and the staffer can be used to accomplish common goals. 

It wouldn’t have happened without the relationship with the staffer.

One example of this was with a staff member of former congressman Dan Lipinski. Because of our good relationship with him, our church was asked to host a semi-private town hall meeting with the congressman to talk about climate issues. His staff was able to use the event for their promotional purposes and our church members had a fantastic opportunity to share their climate agenda with the congressman. It was a win-win but wouldn’t have happened without the relationship with the staffer.

About 6 of us attended the advocacy meeting.When we finished, we were heading to the elevator to leave the building, and Senator Durbin walked up to get on that same elevator with an aide. Since I was leading the group I thought, “I should maximize the opportunity!” So as we were riding on the elevator, I told the Senator that we were a group of evangelical Christians who cared about the environment, and then shared with him about a particular piece of legislation that we were advocating for. As he listened, I realized this was one of those 30-second elevator pitches in action! When I was done talking, Senator Durbin responded with, “Wow! You mean there are evangelical Christians who care about the environment?” This opportunity was a highlight of my advocacy work with the Climate Witness Project.

You may wonder ‘how can I prepare for moments like this?’  Start by taking Faith in Action: Practicing Biblical Advocacy.  This online course will walk you through preparing your message.

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