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ACT for Youth

Engaging Faith Communities

Community coalitions tend to limit their outreach and partners to agencies they are comfortable or familiar with. For youth development collaborations, it is crucial to reach out to all community sectors. To engage community partners from all sectors for a youth development effort, leaders will need to articulate what's in it for these partners, and will also benefit from thinking through issues related to community collaboration.

Why Connect with Faith Communities?

Faith communities may share your vision. Many religious communities are committed to making the world a better place for children, developing youth leadership, and making a difference at the local level.

Faith communities are connected to youth. Many sponsor youth groups, and frequently these groups are active or interested in social change and community service. Congregations like these have a wealth of experience and connections to bring to your youth development initiative.

It's good to have Faith on your side. When you are lobbying for community policy change, it's good to have the clout and strong community ties that many faith communities bring to the table.

Shared values and goals. Youth development initiatives share many values and may share goals with faith communities:

  • Belonging and connection. Through community collaboration, we can create a greater sense of belonging and connection for youth in our community.
  • Building character. Together we can help youth develop values and character that will serve them now and as adults.
  • Opportunities for service. Youth development and faith communities all seek to provide meaningful opportunities for youth to make a difference through service and contribution.
  • Building community. By helping adults and youth connect in a positive way, we are building community for adults and youth together.

Talking Points for Engaging Faith Communities

Describe Who You Are Succinctly

"Our initiative brings local organizations together to make our community a great place to grow up. Through our initiative, adults and youth take action together to create a community that values young people and builds the skills they need for meaningful and fulfilling lives."

What's in it for the Faith Community?

Resources for working with youth: "Our initiative can offer new tools and resources for engaging youth in meaningful opportunities."

Intergenerational relationships: "Our initiative provides new pathways for strengthening intergenerational relationships."

Community outreach: "Participation in our initiative may help your faith community develop broad-based community connections, allowing for outreach through shared values and service."

Community clout: "As our initiative achieves success and visibility, our partners will build clout within the community."

Making a difference: "Our initiative provides a significant opportunity to make a difference in the well-being, health, and connectedness of young people."

Tips for Including Faith Communities

  1. Check the calendar. Do check an interfaith calendar before scheduling meetings and events at which you hope to have participation from members of faith communities. The Interfaith Calendar is one resource. (Be sure to read the fine print about when holidays actually begin.)
  2. Think outside the church. Do welcome and include all faith communities to your initiative -- not just majority denominations.
  3. Include lay leaders. Don't focus strictly on the clergy. Lay leaders, religious educators, and youth group leaders may be equally valuable and may have more time to offer.