The dust has settled, and the echoes of laughter and conversation heard from the Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet and Conference have faded. The banquet boasted a total of nearly 500 guests, including by some accounts the largest turnout of young people to date. College and high school students, young professionals, young parents, local pro-life leaders, seminarians—the pro-life generation showed up like never before.
Inspired by the witness of Pope Saint John Paul II, this year’s theme was “A People of Life and for Life: The Next 25 Years of Evangelium Vitae.” In the spirit of this theme, I invite you to meditate on the possibilities of the next 25 years. What are our goals? Who will be leading the charge in that time? How are we preparing our pro-life workforce to one day take the reins?
There are five categories of action that current pro-life leaders should take to embrace and develop the next generation of leaders, our young pro-life activists: recruitment, delegating responsibilities, development and training, welcoming new ideas, and creating leadership opportunities.
Recruitment of volunteers, members and leaders is vital to pro-life organizations. I was thrilled with the turnout of passionate, young pro-lifers at the banquet and conference. Their presence at the two-day event was no accident. So how did it happen? While it sounds too good to be true, we just invited them! One of the best ways to recruit people, especially young people, is with personal invitations, whether in person, via text, phone call, email, or a direct message over social media. We need more young laborers in the vineyard, and if we want them to come, we must invite them.
Another way to recruit college students, recent grads and young professionals is to use social networking apps—it’s fast, free for everyone, and reaches a massive audience. Showcasing your organization with pictures of events, emphasis on your goal for public policy or service, and an established belief that ties it all together is critical in leveraging social media to attract upstanding young people.
So you recruited a group of interested young people. Now what? Young people don’t want to attend a meeting once a quarter and call it good. We want opportunities to engage with other people, to create something with our hands, to affect change in our communities. Help members find a meaningful role in your organization by delegating active roles and responsibilities so they can start making a difference in a way that naturally invites them back.
Many of us engage in ongoing professional development annually—pro-life activists need that same development. We want our leaders and our members to be subject-matter experts. Depending on your organization, goals, and responsibilities, you might encourage trainings on topics like Catholic social teaching, social media, abortion apologetics, recruitment, or leadership. Conferences and summits, like the Bishops’ Pro-Life Conference, provide state-of-the-art training and education to produce well-rounded pro-lifers. If you’re a leader or the friend of an avid pro-life activist, consider investing in them by sponsoring the costs associated with training.
As your member base grows, and as new leaders emerge, young blood will bring new ideas. Fresh eyes can pinpoint areas of strength, as well as areas for improvement. Embolden young pro-lifers to provide their input. Listen for ideas, and resound those that are exceptional. Embracing new ideas doesn’t have to happen all at once either! Take small steps and implement new ideas gradually. You’ll tap into your young leaders’ talents, and ensure the sustainability and health of your organization.
Last but certainly not least, find or create opportunities for young members to lead. Give young activists an instrumental role in an annual event, for example. This doubles as an opportunity to develop a young leader and pass on institutional knowledge about the organization.
A good leader at the top of the ladder is always reaching to those below, offering a hand and building them up. Building the future of the pro-life movement starts with our young people. Recruit them with personal invitations and with a strong social media presence. Give new and seasoned members roles and responsibilities. Invest in their ongoing development as pro-life foot soldiers. Embrace fresh ideas with an open mind. Create leadership opportunities that will form and inform your members. Don’t forget to pray with them and for them! And when it’s time, you’ll have a smooth-running engine that is built for the long haul.
There is a swath of passionate young people ready to dedicate their time and talents to being pro-life witnesses. They are waiting for an invitation. And with the fresh success of the Bishops’ 2021 Pro-Life Banquet and Conference to encourage us, we will be working to recruit an even bigger crowd of the young pro-life generation at next year’s banquet and conference Sept. 23 and 24, 2022.