The pro-life movement is filled with some of the most passionate, cause-driven people I know. And that’s because there is no other social justice issue our nation faces where we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that 3,000+ human beings are going to die tomorrow. Not only do we know that they are going to die but their deaths are written down as an appointment on a calendar. Most of these babies are scheduled to go through one of the most horrific deaths possible – dismemberment.
It is when this truth sinks into our hearts as well as the reality of all these innocent lives being lost, the pain and loss their mothers go through, and the tragic loss to our human family that many of us pick up the pro-life banner and join this cause for Life.
There are so many ways you can capture this passion to impact your school and your peers. But what is the best strategy to do this?
A mission-driven organization with cause-driven people.
You probably already have a mission statement for your pro-life group – that is not the kind of mission that is intended here. The kind of mission intended above is about how you view your campus and your peers – this is the Mission Field that your group has been placed in. It is made up of all kinds of people, with their own experiences, beliefs, backgrounds, races, socioeconomic statuses, and on and on. Your mission is to impact these people positively, convert them to a pro-life position, help those who are facing an unplanned crisis pregnancy, and offer hope and healing to those who have already gone through with an abortion. Your goal should be to take all that passion for the pro-life cause, all of those cause-driven people in your group, and help them look at your campus and your peers with new eyes.
Most students will be on campus for four years – that is equivalent to a long term mission abroad. Four years is ample time to make a lasting impact on a community – but it really depends on how you approach your mission field, how you prepare for it, the relationships you build, and what you do with the time you have been given. The beauty of establishing a Students for Life group on campus is that after your four years are up there are people there to carry on the work when you graduate.
If you were only cause-oriented, you wouldn’t have to worry about what other people think. You could do whatever event that you felt created the most talk or made people angry and aware. I saw this play out at a university in Massachusetts when PETA came onto campus with a pop up event showing bloody images of animals in meat houses on a video screen in the cafeteria, literature dropping, and then leaving campus. The students were enraged but most of the anger was at the activists – not at the conditions or treatment of the animals. Even students who were vegetarian or vegan were upset with the event.
So, how do you approach your campus as a mission field?
Learn your campus culture. Are there campus life and commuter students? Are there times of day when students congregate in one area or another? Do you have a childcare center on your campus? What are the most attended events on campus? Check into any reports from the university on the student population to help gain a big picture of who is on your campus.
It takes time to learn your campus culture but it is important to know who it is you want to reach with the pro-life message and what events or messages may be the most effective. Missionaries spend time learning the language, culture, religion, and mannerisms before they engage with a community. You can do the same thing with your campus! If you haven’t stopped to really take stock of who the people are on your campus, it’s time to take some time at your next meeting and really figure that out.
Build Relationships. What other organizations exist on your campus? How active are they? Are there any who may be like minded and could partner with you? Are there any that you should reach out to, even though they may oppose your pro-life position, to create a dialogue and relationship?
In the sales world there is a concept called The Rule of 7 Touches. This is a principle of exposure and relationship that says that it takes 7 personal touches with a buyer to secure a sale. This concept can be applied when you are selling a cause as well – which is basically your roll on campus to be an ambassador of Life and win people to the pro-life position.
You need to ask what are the 7 touches it is going to take to win people on my campus to Life? Are there different kinds of touches I need to make with different people or campus organizations? The answer of course is yes!
For instance, if you want to build a bridge with the pro-choice women’s center then you will need to start out with a personal meeting with the director and go from there, finding common ground, and alerting them about women’s issues you come across on campus through your pro-life outreach.
Again, you are going to be here on campus for about 4 years. You have time to invest in the people around you. Oftentimes we have an expectation that this event or outreach will sway everyone to our side and we become disappointed when our peers aren’t jumping over the fence to join us. However, at each point of engagement you have with people you are moving them along the pro-choice / pro-life spectrum. You just may need to talk to that same person 7 times at 7 different kinds of events – tabling, movie night, campus display, chalking, diaper drive, speaker, etc – in order to win them over.
One big issue on campus when it comes to relationship building and sharing the truth about abortion is the worry about offending other students. This has become a larger issue just over the last couple of years, and it is important to recognize the reality, without letting it cause you to shrink away from the truth. There is a balance here and you need to strike it for your group and for your campus.
There is a time and place for events that stir up controversy and we shouldn’t shy away from controversy, but if we want to be mission oriented we do have to consider and weigh the cost of our outreach. If you have engaged in knowing your campus and reaching out in relationship, then when you do an event that creates controversy you will have more students willing to dialogue with you. They will feel like they know you and if you have been consistent with showing your campus that this is not just a cause for you, but a mission and that your campus is the mission field that you are serving in love, they will be willing to listen to you.
Don’t go solo! If you are trying to make a plan for campus outreach that includes reaching out to specific people groups get advice from organizations who are already doing that kind of outreach. Also, call your SFLA Regional Coordinator for insight as there may be successes that other groups have experienced that you can replicate. You may sometimes feel like you are alone on campus but the truth is there are over 930 pro-life groups across the country and a whole team at Students for Life who are behind you and can help you leverage all of our combined knowledge to help you be as effective as possible.