Wheeling Walks Training Manual

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Chapter 11:
Working with Faith Based Organizations:
The Special Role of Faith-Based Program in the Community
Gaining Support of Faith-based leaders
Recruiting Faith-Based Organizations’ Volunteers
Getting the Congregation Involved

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The Special Role of Faith-Based Program in the Community

Faith-based organizations hold a special place in most communities.  Not only do they minister to the spiritual needs of the community, but they also minister to the physical, social, psychological, and economic needs. In addition, many conduct health programs or have incorporated health messages into their traditional programs. 

Faith-based institutions are a natural venue for health-related programs because they:

  • Are well-respected institutions, known for their concern for the well-being of their members and of the community as a whole.
  • Provide existing infrastructure and related resources for health programs.
  • Offer the opportunity to reach large numbers of people.
  • May be seeking to involve the community with their organization.
  • Foster a spirit of lay leadership and volunteerism.
  • Share, with health educators, the ethic of responsibility for self and others.

Walking programs at faith-based institutions can be a terrific way to reach community members with the campaign message and broaden the reach of the campaign. The campaign message can be incorporated into faith-based services, education classes, or other meetings.


Gaining Support of Faith-based leaders

The first step is to seek support of several key leaders in the faith-based community.  Their support will lend prestige to your campaign and may help recruit other faith-based leaders.

Meet with the faith-based leaders to explain the campaign and gain their support.  You can choose to meet with the leaders as a group or individually.  Schedule this meeting approximately five months before the campaign begins. A long lead time for these programs is necessary because:

  • your campaign may be the first walking program the faith-based organization has supported and it may take time for some to accept that they can play a role in promoting health through walking,
  • involvement may need to be approved by a church committee, and
  • many faith-based leaders plan their sermons/messages well in advance. 

Leaders could help recruit other churches and synagogues by co-signing a letter to send to all pastors and rabbis in the community (see Appendix 11A) or by talking directly with pastors and rabbis.

Faith-based leaders are very busy, so it is important to carefully plan and organize all meetings and requests, and to not ask too much of their time.  However, leaders’ support can help recruit other faith-based organization to the campaign, making it worth the time and effort.


Recruiting Faith-Based Organizations’ Volunteers

Individuals within the faith-based organizations should be recruited as volunteers.  The success of your faith-based activities depends on dedicated volunteers.

 Involving Faith-based Volunteers

  • Recruit one volunteer from each group to serve as a contact. Ask the faith-based leader to identify an active, dedicated and dependable person.
  • Once a volunteer from each group has been identified, invite them to join the campaign. Meet with them one-on-one or in a group.
  • Explain the campaign and distribute campaign information. 
  • Discuss the volunteers’ role in the campaign.
  • Review the Calendar of Events and urge the volunteers to participate in the planned activities.  In addition, ask for their suggestions for other programs.
  • Discuss the campaign timeline.
  • Inform the volunteers that your staff will work to provide media coverage for their planned events.

Getting the Congregation Involved

There are a number of activities that can be conducted by faith-based organizations to promote the campaign message.  There are six activities described below.

Bulletin Inserts

Many organizations have a weekly bulletin that is distributed to each person attending the service. An effective way to reach the group is with a message in the bulletin.  The organization may create their own insert using the campaign message, or use a flyer or insert created by the campaign staff.  (See Appendix 11B)

Church Newsletter

An article about the campaign or a Calendar of Events can also be included in the church newsletter. 

Walking-Related Sermons or Announcements

Ask faith-based leaders to incorporate a health message into a sermon.  A sermon combining a spiritual and physical health message can be an effective way to motivate participants.  For example:  A Wheeling pastor presented a sermon on “Walking with Jesus”.  This message was very effective and inspired the congregation to participate in a prayer walk immediately following the service.

Speakers

A guest speaker is another effective way to inform the congregation.  Arrange for a speaker, from the campaign’s Speakers Bureau, to talk with a youth group, women’s group, or prayer group.

Testimonials

Many faith-based organizations have a tradition of personal testimonials from members.  This is an especially effective way of encouraging others to make positive changes in their own lives.  Encourage members of the congregation who walk regularly and have benefited from walking to share their experiences.

Sign-up Drive

Many of the churches that participated in WHEELING WALKS chose to have a sign-up drive.  On a designated Sunday, all participating churches tried to recruit walkers to the campaign. One person within the church was designated to gather registration information and forward it to campaign staff.

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