Building Partnerships
Working with the Faith Community

Updated: 6.1.06

Communities of faith have broad and rich traditions, texts and teachings that call for congregations to be sources of care, service and justice. Throughout history, people have also turned to faith communities for physical sustenance, credible information and solutions to life's everyday challenges. Today, one of the most pressing challenges facing families is health care coverage.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Covering Kids & Families are working to inform faith communities about free resources and materials available to them to help inform their members about the availability of low-cost and free health care coverage through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). By working together to get the word out, we can get millions of kids the health care coverage they need.

Get Involved!

Reach out to religious organizations to involve them in the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to spread the word that low-cost and free health care coverage is available for many families--even working families. As parents get their children ready for the school year, Covering Kids & Families encourages them to put enrolling their kids in Medicaid or SCHIP at the top of their back-to-school checklist.

How to Use This Guide

The Covering Kids & Families Communications Team developed this guide to help facilitate interfaith participation in this national grassroots effort. Here, we provide Covering Kids & Families grantees, coalitions and organizations with tips and templates to get started. We have also developed this guide in conjunction with the Interfaith Toolkit.

Steps to Involving the Interfaith Community

The following is a step-by-step approach to engaging congregations and religious organizations in the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign.

Step 1: Do your homework

Understanding the religious community is essential to effective outreach. While the names of organizations vary by state, in general, there are three types of organizations:

Local congregations: Local congregations (e.g., synagogues, churches, mosques, temples) may be the easiest to make contact with and have the potential to get the information out directly to members. However, it takes more effort to reach congregations one by one.

Governing bodies: A governing body governs all of the congregations of a specific religious tradition in your area (e.g., a presbytery, a Lutheran synod, an Episcopal or Catholic diocese, a United Methodist conference, etc.) The governing body is a useful first point of contact since each has a mailing list of area congregations within its tradition.

Councils: Most traditions have state or local councils that relate to area congregations such as synagogues, churches, mosques and temples. For example, Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Councils and Boards of Rabbis will relate to area synagogues. Interfaith councils have broad outreach to a range of religious organizations for an inclusive approach, but may not reach every congregation of a particular faith tradition.

All three types of religious bodies play an important role in outreach. The Internet is a great resource for researching the governing bodies and councils in your community.

Step 2: Compile a list of congregations and religious organizations to target

Keep in mind income eligibility and target congregations and organizations with members whose children are more likely to be eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP. Also target those that have special programs for lower-income populations, such as Head Start, food pantries, emergency services, clothes closets, and child care programs. While eligibility varies by state, on average, a family of four earning up to $38,000 a year or more may be eligible for these programs.

It can be helpful to start with personal connections. If you belong to a religious congregation, ask the leader about the best ways to engage your fellow congregants and reach other congregations, councils and governing bodies. Your leader may be willing to make introductions to colleagues from other congregations, or may be able to put you in touch with governing bodies or councils. If you do not belong to a religious congregation, talk to your friends and colleagues until you find someone who can introduce you to their religious leader.

You can also find the names of congregations, governing bodies and councils in the Yellow Pages. Look under "Churches," "Temples and Synagogues," "Mosques" and "Religious Organizations."

Step 3: Make contact

Call each individual congregation, tell them about the campaign, and ask for the name and contact information of the person you should follow up with. The summer offers many unique opportunities to reach eligible children and families through faith communities, including summer programs such as vacation Bible school and various service projects. Lay leaders, including religious educators, are good contacts because they often conduct outreach programs for the congregation and organize adult education, so they are knowledgeable about how to reach members.

Step 4: Tailor the template interfaith letters

Template Letter to a Leader of a Christian Congregation
Tailor this template letter to invite leaders of Christian congregations to become involved in the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign. The letter includes sample ideas for participation.

Template Letter to a Leader of Any Faith
Tailor this template letter to invite leaders of non-Christian congregations to become involved in the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign. The letter includes sample ideas for participation.

Template Letter to a Head of a Christian Organization
Tailor these template letters to invite heads of local Christian organizations to participate in your Back-to-School Campaign. The letter includes sample ideas for participation.

Template Letter to a Head of a Non-Christian Religious Organization
Tailor this template letter to invite heads of local religious organizations to participate in your Back-to-School Campaign. The letter includes sample ideas for participation.

Step 5: Send out Interfaith Toolkit

Covering Kids & Families has assembled Interfaith Toolkits to assist in your outreach efforts. They include newsletter articles, a reproducible church bulletin insert, a campaign fact sheet, a snapshot of Covering Kids & Families free materials, a sample bookmark and flier, and a materials order form. Tailoring the Toolkit is easy:

Order Interfaith Toolkits

Step 6: Follow up

Do not wait for organizations to initiate conversations. Moving the relationship forward is your responsibility. Call your contacts two to three days after sending out the Interfaith Toolkit and secure their participation (e.g., distributing materials or using the bulletin insert or newsletter). Make participating easy. Answer questions within 24 hours and offer suggestions on easy ways to get involved.

Step 7: Tell Covering Kids & Families what you are doing

Covering Kids & Families is compiling a list of the activities taking place during the Back-to-School Campaign to share with the media, organizational partners, and families. Make sure your information is included. Complete the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School participation form or enter your information online at the Tell Us What You Are Doing section of the Web site.

Step 8: Continue involvement

Making initial contact and sending out Interfaith Toolkits is only the beginning of what can become an ongoing relationship between you and the faith community. While the Back-to-School Campaign is officially held in August and September, informing families about health care coverage is important year round. Build relationships with your interfaith partners in the following ways:

If you have any questions about Covering Kids & Families interfaith outreach materials, please contact the Communications Team at (202) 338-7227 or