How to Organize a COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall Meeting, a Planning Guide

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on

Town hall meetings are convenings that present the general public with an opportunity to discuss shared concerns, to pose questions that are of public interest, and to inform communities about emerging issues.

IFYC’s research has revealed that town hall conversations in religious communities remain an effective tool for answering critical questions that communities have about the virus and vaccines. As various communities consider the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and navigate the physiological and psychological toll of the virus, town halls can be a space wherein community members can be presented with resources and accurate information, as well as engage in conversation to shape their own perspectives.

Step-by-step Guide to Plan a Town Hall Meeting

Phase 1: Identify Your Audience

There are a wide-range of issues and concerns that communities have with regard to COVID-19 vaccines. While some concerns are related, many are particular to the history, geography, and identity of the community itself. Consequently, your town hall must center the voices and experiences of those in your community. Here are some questions to consider as you begin planning:

  • Who do you want to engage in this conversation? Are there particular sub-groups or individuals in your community that are priorities for you?
  • What will be compelling to these communities about joining this conversation?  How do you frame this as an inviting opportunity?
  • How can these ideal audiences work with you to plan the event, so they feel invested from the start?

Phase 2: Enumerate Your Objective

Be clear about your intention for the town hall. Time will be limited, so setting a clear objective is crucial. We recommend selecting 1-2 topic areas per town hall. As you narrow down your issue area, here are some common objects:

  • Provide medical expertise
  • Offer information around vaccine accessibility
  • Debunk myths
  • Create space for reflection, questions, and conversation

Your chosen objects will inform your speaker’s list and the format of your town hall.

Phase 3: Choose A Facilitator and Guest Speaker(s)

We recommend that you choose a facilitator that is well-respected in your community--a pastor, a community organizer, a teacher, or a doctor. This will ensure that there is buy-in from the community and a trusted messenger alongside guest speakers. In deciding on guest speakers, you should consider your objectives. Ask yourself, “Who is the best person to deliver information about [issue area] to my community?” Once you decide, take time to equip these individuals with the goals and audience information to be an effective partner to you. 

Phase 4: Choose Format

As COVID-19 restriction ebb and flow, we encourage you to adhere to the latest CDC guidelines when deciding to convene in-person or virtually. Below is a mock schedule that is universally applicable:

11:45am - 11:55am - All speakers are prepared to begin the event and logistical issues have been resolved.

12:00pm - 12:10pm - Facilitator welcomes everyone into the space, sets ground rules, provides format, and introduces speakers.

Note: We recommend clearly establishing ground rules prior to launching the discussion. Setting the right tone will be crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of the conversation, as audience members will enter the conversation from different perspectives. To avoid any appearance of judgement or coercion, we suggest adopting some or all of the commonly used ground rules below:

  • Use “I” statements
  • One person, one mic
  • Embrace curiosity
  • Acknowledge the difference between intent versus impact
  • Seek to understand

We encourage you to reference the ground rules throughout the discussion as reminder for all that are present.

12:10pm - 12:40pm - Speaker(s) are presented an opportunity to share their story and/or experience.

12:40pm - Audience members are presented an opportunity to pose questions to panelists.

12:55pm - Facilitator wraps up the conversation

Phase 5: Debrief and Next Steps

Once the town hall has concluded, setting time aside for a debrief will present you a chance to discuss salient questions and/or concerns that came up during the town hall. The insights gleaned can inform your next town hall and/or shape the information that you distribute to your community in the coming months. Consider individuals that may benefit from individual follow-up – were there questions posted or opportunities raised in the session that you could engage proactively on a personal level?  


If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

It is incredibly empowering to know that by protecting yourself, you can protect so many other people.  The Lord gave us the knowledge and people we need in order to defeat COVID-19.
"99.8% of U.S. deaths are of the unvaccinated. If you heard of an airline of that percentage dying, whereas a 0.02% on another, you’re switching flights." -- Dr. Jimmie Smith, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia.
As a scholar of religious studies, I frequently use critical race theory as a tool to better understand how religion operates in American society.
Inspired by their faith, four LDS students built new study resource that has revolutionized how hundreds of thousands of aspiring physicians study for their exams. "It really started because we just wanted to help people," one said.
We're now in one of the holiest seasons of the year for one of smallest and oldest religions in India -- one with a long history in the United States.
Organizing on-campus vaccination clinics, calling thousands of students, hosting informational webinars with medical experts – these are some of the ways in which IFYC’s Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors (FIVA) have been raising awareness around the COVID-19 vaccine on campuses and high-need communities across the nation.
Last year's winners, listed below, created a range of initiatives, from virtual retreats and criminal justice initiatives to book clubs and racial equity workshops.
Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
What will the campus chapel, and the chaplaincy, look like more than a century from now? Let the adventure begin.
The issue is not the presence of religion in the public square. Instead, the question before us is how to express those religious commitments within in a pluralistic society.
We don’t know what the year 5782 – as it is in the Hebrew calendar – has in store for any of us. But we have the power to act in a way to do right by each other and bring a little more peace and love and joy into this profoundly broken world.
The following interview features Dr. Toby Bressler, senior director of nursing for oncology and clinical quality at the Mount Sinai Health System and vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association.
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
After 9/11, there was increased intentionality in widening interfaith relations to include a broader number of faith groups and discussions. Twenty years later, it is not unusual to see interreligious conferences, joint advocacy efforts and disaster relief teamwork involving faith groups ranging from Adventists to Zoroastrians.
Twenty years later, we at IFYC, like so many others, collect the shards of memory, recollecting, reconstituting the trauma and horror of that day. And the sacredness is in doing so together.
As we approach this significant anniversary of 9/11, we must work to infuse the day with purpose and pluralism. Pay it Forward 9/11 is bringing people together to do 20,000 good deeds for the 20th anniversary.
In the first month since 9/11, The Sikh Coalition documented over 300 cases of violence and religious discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S. and has since grown to become the largest Sikh advocacy and civil rights organization in the country.
“If you were to quiz these students on what happened on 9/11, they think they knew what happened, but nobody really explained it to them,” Lisa Doi said. “I had to think through, how do you teach this history to somebody who doesn’t really remember it?”
My prayer is that for as long as we remember 9/11, that we will take time to listen to the stories of loss that break our hearts, and join together in finding ways to heal the division, violence and hate that continue to tear apart our world.
It has been 20 years, but the pain of that day is still present in so many places.
20 years after the 9/11 attacks, four remarkable people took profound suffering, loss and grief and “somehow managed to not center enemies. What can we learn from that? How can that be a teaching to the culture?”

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.