Candidate forums

Freedom for Faith is resourcing churches to host candidate forums in the Queensland, NT, WA and Federal elections. If you are interested in being involved, please contact us on [email protected]

A candidate forum is an event held a few weeks before an election where the main candidates for a specific electorate are invited to speak to a group of people and answer their questions. These events are frequently run by issues groups (environment, housing etc) or the local chamber of commerce, and are about getting a specific demographic of people together and giving the politicians the opportunity to speak directly to their concerns.

A candidate forum for local churches allows politicians to specifically hear the concerns of the Christian community, and give specific and direct responses. The best result is when all the bible-believing churches in the electorate work together to host a single event, and invite all their members to attend.

Politicians want to win our vote, and the only way they can do this is by having a mechanism to hear our concerns, and to tell us what they are going to do about them. Christian concerns are unlikely to be reported accurately in the media, so politicians genuinely do not know what issues need to be addressed to help them win our votes. Equally, there is no way of politicians speaking back to the Christian community to tell us that they have heard and what they plan to do.

Candidate forums are not “being political”. Instead, they are an opportunity for the Christian community to have an influence on politics without being partisan, or preferencing one party over another. All Australians are expected to vote, and we need to decide who we are voting for. At a forum, all candidates get the opportunity to explain to us why they think they best represent our concerns and values, and we can individually make up our minds.

Read our short case study on the 2023 NSW election

Why run a candidate forum?

There are many direct benefits to holding a forum

Pressure on specific issues

If there are specific issues that we want our politicians to have a good answer for, the best way of achieving that is to give questions on notice to all candidates. By giving the questions a couple of weeks ahead of the event, it gives candidates the chance to speak to their head office and push for a policy position that they can give at the forum. This is especially powerful when there are lots of forums asking the same question.

For example, by coordinating candidate forums in over 1/3rd of all electorates in the 2024 NSW election, churches were able to get clear commitments from the incoming Government on “conversion therapy” legislation. Those commitments are the foundation of the current positive negotiations (read more here)

Highlights Christians as a demographic in that electorate

Politicians know the census details about faith groups in their electorate, but they do not know how that affiliation translates into church membership and action. By bringing a large number of Christians from the churches in the area, we can demonstrate how many people are strongly motivated by their faith. This will help politicians get an understanding of the electoral importance of our issues.

Shows Christians are winnable and losable

The belief that Christians consistently vote for conservative parties significantly undermines our political influence. If the Coalition believe that they cannot lose us, and Labor believe that they cannot win us, then neither side needs to pay attention to our issues.

Candidate forums show all parties that Christians are a demographic that they can legitimately seek to gain votes from, and teach them how to do it. This puts our issues on their agenda, and makes them consider what policies to put forward to try and win our votes.

Church and pastor relationship with MP

One of the most encouraging outcomes of candidate forums is when the candidate or MP gives their contact details to the local minister and offers to help in any way. The relationship built between church and MP bears a wide range of fruits: the ability to ask for a meeting quickly, having concerns taken more seriously, even help dealing with problems with Government bodies, or applying for community grants.

One of the most important outcomes is the potential to develop a truly pastoral relationship with your local MP, where the minister cam meet with them, encourage them, pray for or even with them, and have the opportunity to witness to them about Christ.

Strengthen Christian engagement with politics

The average Australian feels like they cannot have any impact on politics, and so does not try to engage. The average Christian is no different. By showing our people how they can make a real difference in politics, we strengthen their engagement, and encourage them to think about important issues like religious freedom.

How can Freedom for Faith help?

Freedom for Faith has experience helping churches run candidate forums. It is important to us that the events are run by the local church and owned by them, and not a “Freedom for Faith” event. So we want to give the church complete control over the process, but also help to make it as easy as possible to run the event.

Freedom for Faith provides ongoing support to the hosting church, including:

  • How-to guides for each stage of the process.
  • Support contacting and inviting candidates, keeping track of responses and following up
  • Suggested questions coordinated with main denominations
  • Suggested outline and structure of the event
  • How-to guides for many aspects of the event
  • Help promoting the events including suggested PPT slides and newsletter texts, and help communicating with other churches in the electorate

At each phase, Freedom for Faith will email the organising minister or church contacts and let them know what they need to do next, and give as much help as possible.

You can see a couple of examples of our support resources here:

What is the process?

Every election and every event is a little bit different, but the basic timeline of organising an event is:

3 months prior to event
  • Confirm hosting church
  • Build a coalition of churches willing to support the event (FFF can help contact churches in the electorate)
2 months prior
  • Invite candidates (FFF provides invite text and contact details and support following up)
  • FFF is engaging with Parties’ campaign HQs to help them prepare candidates and engage with the forums
1 month prior
  • Advertise the event in all surrounding churches (FFF provides resources and help contacting churches)
  • Chase up any candidates who have not yet confirmed (FFF will do contacting in coordination with the church)
  • Finalise running plan for event (FFF provides templates and advice)
Event day
  • The event should be run about 2-3 weeks before the election, depending on pre-poll patterns.
  • FFF is available to help with last minute questions or planning.

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