Last February the good people at Choose Life Marketing reached out to Secular Pro-Life to ask if I would give a keynote presentation at their conference for staff and volunteers of pregnancy resource centers. They specifically asked if I would talk about how pro-life Christians can “build bridges” to more secular demographics.
Frankly, I was a little hesitant. Secular Pro-Life’s mission largely revolves around making a secular case against abortion online and among our own social circles. We’re mostly focused on debate. How much crossover is there between our work and the pregnancy help “arm” of the pro-life movement? What can I say to people with vastly more experience than I have in this field?
On the other hand, another part of our mission is to create space for non-religious pro-life people to do anti-abortion work. An invitation to talk to pro-life Christians about exactly that is a great opportunity.
So I said I would make it happen. Specifically, I told the conference organizers I would discuss how to build bridges to three audiences: (1) abortion-vulnerable women, (2) ambivalent Americans, and (3) non-traditional pro-lifers.
SPL’s team did a lot of research before I even started to create slides. We interviewed directors of pregnancy resource centers and experts in post-abortion healing. And as I came up with the primary themes and takeaways of my talk, I ran them by friends of mine who are Christian to make sure what I’m trying to say is actually translating to my target audience. They gave me crucial feedback that helped me hone the message in a way to make it as easy as possible for the conference attendees to hear.
Ultimately we had way more content than we could fit into an hour talk, and I had to keep practicing, honing, and trimming the slides until we got it within the right time frame.
Overall our team put a ton of hours into creating this brand new, from scratch presentation — and every minute was worth it.
I got a warm introduction from Melissa Ohden, who was emceeing the multi-day conference. I stepped on to the stage (I love speaking on stage) and launched into our work for a live audience of a couple hundred people. And I could see their reactions. People were taking pictures of my slides, and nodding, smiling, and leaning over to comment to each other. They were very engaged, laughing at all of the jokes and — incredibly encouraging to me — bursting into applause mid-presentation several times.
I spoke rapidly and enthusiastically, pacing and gesticulating all over the stage for an hour, until finally I concluded “Okay, that’s everything, that’s all I’ve got. Thank you.” And before I could walk off stage, the room rose in a standing ovation!
That would have been delightful enough, but once I was off stage, a line formed to talk to me. Lots of hand shaking and even hugs as they told me what SPL’s presentation meant to them. Even better: my presentation had been the very first keynote of the day, which meant that from the time I wrapped it up around 10:15 a.m. through all the other sessions, the cocktail hour, the plated dinner, all the way to about 9:30 p.m., people kept stopping me in the hallways or as I was walking to my table or as I was sitting down to other breakout sessions, and just over and over telling me how much the presentation meant to them, including not only encouraging them but also, importantly, challenging them in the way they think about this issue and their work.
It was absolutely fantastic. One of the best days of my job to date.
We did get our own recording of the entire presentation, and in the coming weeks (as time and volunteer availability allow), we will be spinning parts of it off into shorter more digestible content. Meanwhile I hope to make “Building Bridges” a recurring work for other PRC-based audiences. We had several people ask for our contact info to do just that, and I can’t wait.
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