Advocacy works to change something. It follows then, that someone, or some group, must change their position or behaviour in order to accomplish your goal.

Canadian policy activist Amanda Sussman, in her handbook, The Art of the Possible, outlines a constructive approach to engaging decision makers:

  • Identify common goals — find the win-win with your interests
  • Offer constructive and specific critiques — show you’ve done your homework
  • Explore options — often there are solutions that have worked elsewhere, proving your point
  • Understand their constraints — jurisdiction, timelines, and the viewpoints they need to balance
  • Present your solution — be practical and genuinely listen to their response

When Advocacy is Difficult

As a church you may fear sounding critical, or you may not look forward to difficult conversations with someone with whom you fundamentally disagree. How do you disagree well?

“Deliberately,” according to Tim Dearborn, formerly with World Vision International: “We don’t advocate against governments or those in power but for them. Our message to governments and those in power is the same as our message to the poor and the powerless and to ourselves: be all that God created you to be.”

In the city there was one pastor who was going to city hall to speak. There wasn’t a lot of really good information. He ended up saying to the police, ‘How can we work together on this?’ and we ended up finding out the police chief was not our enemy. We meet every month or two.

Gil Klassen, Cornerstone Church, Saskatoon, and member of Saskatoon ACTS, on their work to combat sex trafficking in the city

Partner for Impact

Generate a list of who might be an ally in your advocacy. Be bold and ask them to join you! Offer your church as a meeting place. Bring the people impacted and those working on the issue together. Invite other churches. Create critical mass.

Working with others can:

  • increase your influence politically or as consumers
  • combine expertise and fill knowledge gaps
  • engage a diversity of voices and influences on your issue
  • expand your community and be more fun!

Choose the approach best suited to the change you want and to your church. Sometimes you will take a quiet, behind the scenes approach. Sometimes you need to get public attention to get change. You can also join an existing campaign where others have figured out the strategy and now you bring your energy and gifts to help lift the campaign.

ADVOCACY TIP: Unless you do a lot of advocacy, you are not at risk of losing your charitable status. Charities (including churches) may take part in political activities if they are non-partisan, part of the charity’s purposes and no more than 10% of their budget. The definition of political activities can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency Website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca, search “charities political activity.”