Abortion: From Debate to Dialogue

JFA's Flagship Training Program

Starting conversations about abortion is difficult.  Keeping those conversations productive is even harder.  For those serious about learning to dialogue, our flagship training program, called Abortion: From Debate to Dialogue, features skilled dialogue mentors who lead participants through Seat Work (seminar), Feet Work (outreach), with the goal of preparing them to have conversations in everyday life, what we call Repeat Work.

 

Through the Lens of Right to Life of Central California

THROUGH NICOLE'S EYES

Nicole is a good example of how JFA trains people and what those people can accomplish through that training.  Nicole participated in JFA’s flagship training program while she was a student at Focus on the Family Institute.  First, she experienced what JFA calls “Seat Work,” which included lectures, interactive role-playing, and interaction with mentors skilled at engaging pro-choice advocates in conversations about abortion.  Then she traveled with her class to what JFA calls a “Feet Work” experience, a campus outreach event conducted by JFA.  Through the Feet Work event, she engaged in many conversations with pro-choice advocates, and JFA mentors were nearby to help if she got stuck. 

During her second day of outreach, she developed the idea that she would try to talk to “just one more person,” but she talked to many more “just one more persons.”  When she boarded the bus, she committed to talk to just one more person, which for her was her mom.  She shared with her mom some of what she had learned about making abortion unthinkable through dialogue.  (We call this next step to talk about abortion "Repeat Work.")  

At the grocery store one day, her mom ended up encountering a woman trying to save money on her apple purchase in order to be able to get an abortion, and Nicole and her mom ended up helping this young woman choose against abortion.  They and their church rallied to her side to give her the support that helped her give birth.  So, Nicole went from knowing little about how to engage someone in conversation about abortion to being able to talk to those who disagree to being able to help her mom learn those same skills.  Together, they then helped to support a pregnant mom in crisis and to save a life.

Read Nicole's reflection here.

 

More Information about the Training Program 

This mentor-guided experience doesn’t just give you information, it gives you an opportunity to turn information into action. In our flagship program our mentors personally equip you, provide an outreach venue where you can practice, and walk alongside you to help you balance love and truth in your first conversations.  We emphasize learning by doing both in our seminar (interactive role-playing) and at our outreach events (real conversations).

The links below give more detail on each of these distinctives of the JFA Flagship Training Program, Abortion: From Debate to Dialogue.

"Don't Just Tell Me.  Show Me How."

We know that talking to people about abortion is one of the most intimidating and important things you will ever do.  That’s why our mentors are at the core of our training experience.

Our mentors are more than teachers - they’re friends.  As you experience each phase of the Abortion: From Debate to Dialogue program, your personal mentor will individually answer your questions and encourage you. 

Your mentor will model how to start conversations and keep them productive.  He or she will be there to debrief with you after your conversations and to pray with you, too.  After your first training experience, your mentor will still be available to you, personally, and will remain a resource for you as you take what you’ve learned back home to your own sphere of influence.

Hostility or Silence...Is There a Third Option?

One of JFA's distinctive features is our focus on the "Three Essential Skills:" asking questions, listening, and finding common ground.

ASK QUESTIONS with an open heart

Instead of making statements and lecturing people who disagree with us, we ask genuine questions with the intention of getting to know what people think and why.

Rebecca Haschke discusses abortion with Nate at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and he changes his mind.

 

 

LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND

Rather than listening just so we can come up with our next response, we listen to join people in their world.  We listen because we really want to know what people think.   

Catherine discusses abortion with a student during a "silent" conversation.

FIND COMMON GROUND WHEN POSSIBLE

When people think of abortion, they tend to think people have one-dimensional opinions about it - They’re either pro-life or pro-choice.  

When we take the time to listen and ask questions, we find that we agree on many particular facts, moral assessments, and even legal assessments.  Starting our conversations with common ground, and returning to common ground regularly, helps us discuss our disagreements more productively.

Our Executive Director, Steve Wagner, wrote Common Ground Without Compromise: 25 Questions to Create Dialogue on Abortion in 2008 as a letter to pro-life & pro-choice people to help them use common ground as the fuel for good conversation.  Get the book free.

Our Executive Director, Steve Wagner, wrote Common Ground Without Compromise: 25 Questions to Create Dialogue on Abortion in 2008 as a letter to pro-life & pro-choice people to help them use common ground as the fuel for good conversation.  Get the book free.

Do Pictures Help?

Some of JFA’s dialogue tools contain graphic photographs of the results of abortion.  You may wonder how it could be loving to show photos like these in public, because they may stir up painful memories in many people who have had experiences with abortion.  Considering that half of the women who have abortions say that they have already had one or more abortions (see page 8 of Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008), it’s likely that these women would have another abortion if they don’t see the photos or if no one convinces them to make a better choice.  

What would it mean to love these people?  What would it mean to love the unborn child who may be in danger?  We have found that one way to balance love for both the child and his parents is to share the truth about abortion with photos, but in the context of dialogue.  As caring ambassadors, we walk alongside those who are hurting from abortion.  We have found that within this context, the truth about abortion can be helpful to healing.  For example, Lori Navrodtzke, Manager of Client Services at Hands of Hope (and Silent No More Regional Coordinator), wrote in her reflection, “My Experience with Justice For All,” that working with Justice For All helped her continue to heal from her abortion experience.  She said, “I have learned that I do not need to put ministering to those who have been involved with abortion on the opposite side of the fence from presenting the truth about abortion.” 

"Can't Have One Without the Other"

 

SEAT WORK - The Seminar

Abortion: From Debate to Dialogue (ADD) is a five-hour seminar that teaches you to be a good ambassador for Christ. You will learn to create dialogue on abortion and give good reasons for the pro-life position.  While we call this “Seat Work” (there are short lecture segments), JFA mentors use role-playing and small-group interaction to keep you actively engaged throughout the seminar.  

The goal is simple: Help you feel competent enough to start a dialogue with someone who disagrees with you about abortion. 

While we encourage you to continue your training with us at a campus outreach event (our dialogue tools make it easy to start conversations about abortion), we understand that not everyone can attend.  In those cases, we always give you an alternate Feet Work assignment that you can complete on your own.

FEET WORK - The Campus Outreach

Training continues on a public university campus where JFA, at the invitation of a campus club, uses one or more of its visual tools to create a debate about abortion on campus.  These tools include a museum-quality exhibit that’s two stories high, an 8-foot version of the same exhibit, free speech boards, and poll tables (“Should Abortion Remain Legal?”).  As ADD seminar participants, you become volunteers at the outreach, and you have one job: Turn the debate about abortion into a dialogue.  

To begin, you shadow your mentor for a half-hour or more, listening to her begin conversations and dialogue with college students.  When you feel ready, you start your own conversations by asking students questions like, “What do you think?” or “Have you seen pictures like these before?” or “I’m a volunteer. Would it be helpful if I gave you an explanation of the exhibit?”  

We encourage you to debrief with your mentor throughout the day after your conversations.  At the end of the Feet Work training day, JFA mentors will challenge you to do something in the coming week to repeat what you’ve learned. 

REPEAT WORK - DIALOGUE IN DAILY LIFE

Training begins with Seat Work, where you learn the skills to talk with those who disagree with you.  It continues with Feet Work, where you join JFA mentors at a campus outreach event to put your skills to the test in real life, in real time.

The next step is Repeat Work, where you continue life-saving dialogue about abortion in everyday life. 

Once you have experienced Seat Work and Feet Work, Repeat Work is no longer scary or out of reach.  Through ADD training, you can gain an amazing new ability...the ability to change hearts and save lives.