Wednesday, November 28, 2007

35 Enter the Faith in Savannah in One Week

35 gets your attention doesn’t it? But this was the result recently achieved by the friends in the Savannah, GA (B-stage) cluster. By focusing on inviting junior youth already involved in Baha’i activities to become Baha’is and then visiting their parents to explain the process and obtaining parents’ signature son registration cards, this 94-member cluster grew by another 35 new believers - 30 children and junior youth, one youth, and four adults. Below are excerpts from an interview with the lead Auxiliary Board member for the cluster in which he discusses this accomplishment, what has happened since, and the lessons the cluster has learned from it.


We’ve been doing lots of home visits [since the project ended]. This weekend, for example, we took 12 of the junior youth out for pizza and then back to my house to show them what a Bahá’í home is like. We listened to the tape of William Sears talking about what it means to be a Bahá’í and then talked about it ourselves – that this is what we are, and we’re here to serve human kind. We showed them pictures of the shrines and talked about the central figures, telling them the story of the Báb which went over really well. One of the youth said “I’m going to go home and dream about this tonight.” And you know, she and another girl hosted devotions the next day.

What I learned is that the friends have to be very spontaneous in the service of these new friends. We have to not spend too much time planning to be with them, and just be with them. Even though there will be planning and sharing information required, we can’t spend too much time one that. These new believers need lots of personal time.


There are a couple of enrollment forms that are still out, but we haven’t aggressively pursued more enrollments. Given the number that have already declared, we think it’s very important to get this consolidation part right, and to not let our desire of being “successful” get in our way. It’s important because we have already have successful models of enrollments, but we’re in the process of creating a successful model of consolidation. We’ve learned that the teaching victory is not enough, that the consolidation victory will be just as important.


I don’t know if we really get it yet. None of us have a reference for anything like this, so we’re just learning as we go. We’re all excited, but we all have feelings of anticipation and feelings of some concern – of “Will we do it right?”

These new believers are in large part African American children. Our community is learning - really learning – what diversity is. We’re learning under fire, so to speak, which is sometimes the best way to learn.

We have also learned what an advantage it is to have the larger community recognize the Bahá’í community for being of service. We are now realizing the benefit of long and constant efforts to be a social force in the community. We’re reaping the benefits of it.

We now have a couple of distinct communities. One is a community that has been around for quite a while. And then there is a very large segment of the community that have been Baha’is for a very short period of time. A lot of us are realizing what a precious opportunity this is to make these new Bahá’ís’ experience a very enjoyable one. Often times we know of Baha’is who came into the community, but didn’t hang around, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.


Our parents were so excited that we barely got our opening line out - most couldn’t register their kids fast enough. It was like offering water to a thirsty person. The reality of it is that what we have done with these kids spoke for itself. We have been a clear servant of the community, and that is what facilitated these declarations. The parents wanted more than anything for their kids to be identified with these people who were doing these good things. We – the Bahá’í community – are seen as a good thing and people want their kids to be involved with a good thing. We’ve put ourselves in a very advantageous position. It’s like people feel that if these people are part of it, it must be pretty good. We’ve garnered the trust of the community.

When a person sends a kid to your classes for a year or more, they’ve already committed to the Faith. Their actions have made a commitment. We just had to have the courage to honor the commitment that the parents had made. That was what was so great about having the kids fill out the cards themselves and then saying to the parents “The only way your child can officially be a Bahá’í child is with your permission” – someone was acknowledging the parents’ import in the process. It was a way of honoring the family and the parent and the commitment they had already made to the Baha’is. It was a gift, and they received it that way.


[Advice I would give to another cluster is] go serve your community. Bahá’ís need to be visible. Service to your community will reap its rewards. It’s so important for some number of the wider community to be able to say “Oh yes, I know the Bahá’ís – aren’t they the ones that do such and such service”. And if you haven’t done a lot of service in the community, start children’s classes and junior youth groups as assistance to yourselves. Serving people’s most important resource just legitimizes all the grand and noble ideas that we have. Be visible when you’re doing the core activities.

Ready Soul calls 800-22-UNITE

This short story is a great example of the many souls out there who are just waiting to become Baha’is!

Just had a great phone conversation. This man is already a believer, just called the 800# because he wanted to know how to get signed up! Learned about the Faith in Singapore, where he was raised as Hindu. Has many Baha’i friends. Has been in U.S. for a year and a half and now is reading everything he can and is eager to become Baha’i and join a local community. Wife is Catholic, but each supportive of the other.

Says will sign the card as soon as it arrives.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Encouragement from the Assembly in Arlington

The crucial role of Assemblies in the Five Year Plan - mentioned by both the House of Justice and the National Assembly - is becoming increasingly clear as advanced clusters are coming to rely on these institutions more and more. That’s why we wanted to share this letter from the Arlington County Assembly (from the NoVA East, VA (B) cluster). What a great example of an Assembly planning for support of the Plan, assisting community members to step into the field of action, and clearly offering its support and encouragement! Included in this communication are a number of ideas and pledges generated by the Arlington community.

And if you needed any other reason to keep reading, the short note from the friend that submitted this letter says it all: “wow. . . i can see the changes in my old home community of arlington, virginia :))) the lsa rocks.”

Dearly loved friends in Arlington,

Your Spiritual Assembly sends each of you its deepest loving greetings.

[At the last Feast] the Local Spiritual Assembly shared with the community that it has decided to create two 3-month teaching plans from now through Ridván 2008. At the Feast, we asked the community members present to consult on which activities they felt were most needed in Arlington to achieve our Five Year Plan goals of increasing our community of interest within Arlington– those wishing to learn more about the Faith– and of broadening the base of our ongoing teaching activities.

Participants were also encouraged to submit pledges for specific activities they wished to undertake over the next three months. The Spiritual Assembly will be incorporating the suggestions and pledges from Feast into our community’s first 3-month teaching plan.

Those suggestions and pledges are listed below for your information and inspiration.

The Spiritual Assembly is hoping that you may have further ideas and suggestions for teaching, even those of you who were able to attend the Feast and may already have shared some ideas. The Assembly also hopes that each member of the Arlington community will feel moved to make a pledge to undertake a teaching activity of his or her choice over the next three months.

Should you wish to offer some form of service, the LSA is ready and eager to assist you. For example, should you wish to conduct a children’s class and you need someone to assist you, please let the Spiritual Assembly know and it will assist you in that goal.

Should you wish to go door to door to homes in a particular neighborhood, for example announcing a devotional meeting or the start of a children’s class, please let the Spiritual Assembly know, so it may assist you.

No service or activity is too small.

At the [next Feast] the Spiritual Assembly plans to share the 3-month teaching plan , so please send any suggestions or pledges to . . .

As our beloved Universal House Justice of told us:

“Now is the time for the friends to seize new opportunities to extend the range and influence of the Faith, to reach a new level of action in expanding the community and fortifying its foundations. It is indeed time for audacious action undeterred by a fear of mistakes, fired by the urgency of ministering to the pressing needs of humanity. Will the American Bahá’í community not see its chance to meet the challenge? Will its members not once again blaze a trail that can set in motion a myriad victories?”

We look forward to collaborating and serving with all of you as we expand our teaching efforts to emblazon the Name of Bahá’u’lláh in Arlington and win hearts for His Cause.

With much love,

The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Arlington

Suggestions and pledges from the community:

Institute Courses and Study Circles

  • Schedule a Book 6 in Arlington

Children’s Classes

  • Neighborhood children’s classes
  • Children’s classes at County site, e.g. TJ Community Center (where Fair is held)

Devotional Gatherings

  • Holding devotionals in your neighborhood or apt. bldg.
  • Devotional gatherings to support those in bereavement or grieving
  • Announce devotionals and firesides by using bulletin boards in mailrooms in your apt. or condo bldg.
  • Starting an interfaith meditation group, based on Baha’i perspective on meditation
  • Devotional in Ballston. Will contact [one friend] who is currently hosting a fireside in Ballston, to expand the number of devotionals in that area. Will host a fireside on the weekend that [she]will not be hosting one. The hope is that we can be a sustainable resource in Ballston.
  • Hold two devotional meetings
  • Each individual member of the Spiritual Assembly of Arlington has pledged to hold at least one devotional gathering before Ridván 2008.

Firesides and Social Gatherings

  • Collaboration; building on existing activities
  • Informational socials (not necessarily a formal speaker)
  • Bicycling groups
  • Projects: group for sharing, supporting, informing each other about personal projects
  • Inviting/accompanying people to Baha’i events (e.g. at NoVa Center in Sterling)
  • Holding firesides or deepenings
  • Women’s social group (”Fun-omenal women”)
  • Men’s movie club
  • Working to teach the Faith by organizing the adult speaker series at the OWBS. This is like a weekly fireside for seekers, it’s just not in our community.
  • Hold two firesides as a result of a teaching team

Outreach for Teaching

  • Form one or two teaching teams
  • Door to door canvassing
  • Arlington County volunteer opportunities
  • Learn more about El Salvador’s culture
  • Follow up with the seekers from the Arlington County Fair
  • Systematic familiarization with one’s neighbor’s

Friday, November 16, 2007

Aurora IL03 - A profound teaching experience!

One team in the Aurora, IL (A) teaching project had a teaching experience that really brought home for them the power of prayer and calling on the Concourse. After participating in an intense, hour-long group session of prayer and calling upon the Concourse for assistance, they went into their assigned neighborhood to teach. The team of three began walking up the street just to survey the neighborhood a little bit and then work their way back by knocking on doors. They walked no more than a block up the street when they spotted a man across the street, sitting on his front porch and enjoying the afternoon sun with his dog. The man waved and said hello cheerfully, then motioned to them to come over as he asked with genuine curiosity, “What are you guys doing?” This was the opening for a profound teaching experience.

A two-hour conversation followed in which Anna’s presentation was shared. When the man learned that the teaching team was in the neighborhood to tell families about a virtues class for children, he told the team that he was a single father of two boys, ages 10 and 12, and was very interested in knowing about the classes and in learning more about the Bahá’í Faith. He said he had made an effort to learn as much as he could about different religions and wondered, “Why haven’t I ever heard of this Bahá’í Faith?” He asked question after question about Bahá’u’lláh and His teachings and nodded in agreement with everything that was shared with him. At one point the team asked if he would like to share some prayers with them, and he readily agreed. He read one himself and commented on how beautiful it was. A member of the teaching team said another prayer, and after this the man invited the teaching team in to his house for coffee and further conversation. By the time the team left at the end of the two hours, the man was asking, “Where can I find books about this Bahá’u’lláh?” The team’s offer to visit again was received with enthusiasm, and they will be following up with home visits in the days and weeks ahead.

This encounter alone was an amazing teaching experience, but there was more. Once the team left this individual’s house, they realized it was time to reconvene with the larger group back at the project headquarters. They began walking back down the street but got no more than two houses down the block before they encountered another man on a porch who was equally friendly and receptive. He, too, was very interested in learning about the Bahá’í Faith and indicated he would very much like to be visited again the following weekend so he can learn more about the neighborhood children’s class for his children and grandchildren.

In short, the teaching team was overwhelmed with divine confirmations throughout the afternoon. They had set out with the goal to do some direct teaching and never even knocked on a single door! Although it is too soon to tell what the results of these two initial contacts will be, the critical role that prayer and calling on the Concourse played in bringing the team into contact with these two extremely receptive souls is so obvious that it cannot be ignored.

‘Calling on the Concourse’ Led to great results!

Teaching teams heading out in AuroraThe Aurora, IL (A) cluster’s first expansion phase, spanning the first two weekends of November and entitled “Calling on the Concourse”, recently ended. Approximately 15-20 friends from around the cluster joined several neighborhood Bahá’ís, and, working in teaching teams, visited 157 homes over the first weekend of the project. Area Teaching Committee (ATC) member reported that 72 households were successfully contacted and that of those, 35 showed some level of interest and 37 said “no thanks”. 15 households showed enough interest to schedule a follow up visit in the second weekend. (Data on the second weekend is still being compiled by the core team, and will be shared when completed.)


The project was based around one ongoing children’s class in a Bahá’í home, with the target area of the teaching project stretching three blocks in each direction from this house. An Auxiliary Board member for the cluster, explained that several Bahá’ís lived in the “extended neighborhood” of the target area, and that “anchoring” the intensive program of growth on local Bahá’ís was an important strategy to facilitate follow-up efforts in the consolidation phase.

The teaching teams carried copies of a simple handout that listed information about the goal children’s class, as well as other activities such as ongoing devotionals, a book 1 study circle starting the following week, firesides on both Saturdays of the teaching campaign, and an open house for the children’s class on the first Sunday of the project. All of these activities were located within about a mile of the target neighborhood. The teams also used introductory brochures on the Faith and cards with a prayer for children on them, both available in English and Spanish.

The approach that several of the teams used in first addressing residents “was something like ‘We’re with the Bahá’í community of Aurora, and we wanted to let you know about children’s classes and other activities Bahá’ís are hosting in the neighborhood.’ This often gave a nice opportunity that led to direct teaching opportunities.”


The project was a “focused refresher” that incorporated elements of training and skill-building to accompany action in the field. The friends studied sections of Book 6 – particularly Anna’s presentation – and used roll-play to practice how they would react to various situations and responses they might encounter. Through the roll playing they were able to find the approach that was most comfortable for them and most likely to lead to opportunities to share further information about the Faith. The basis for the training portion of the project was the “Developing Teaching Skills” materials developed by the Broward County cluster, which the Auxiliary Board member modified for use in Aurora.

Both the training and action focused on utilizing the direct teaching method of “an open and bold assertion of the fundamental verities of the Cause” as defined by the Guardian. The focus on direct teaching was in response to the latest learnings from the International Teaching Centre recently shared by Dr. Penny Walker to area clusters. One ATC member explained that, “The talk that Dr. Walker gave was very important for us in the planning stages. The whole core team attended the talk. We met that night after it had ended, and took the Sept 30 letter, and re-wrote the entire expansion phase to reflect as much of those new learnings as we could.”


The element of prayer was also particularly important to the campaign. “The whole intensive program of growth . . . was focused on this idea [of focused prayer]. We encouraged the friends to bring mementos or pictures of loved ones who had passed away and we spent an hour in prayer calling on the concourse. After that hour, the same people I might have said that there was not a chance of doing direct teaching were walking out the door saying “Let’s go!” noted the ATC member . . . I think that hour of very focused prayer really made the difference. It prepared people for teaching.”

In addition to the immediate results in the targeted neighborhood, the project also had a wider effect on teaching efforts in the rest of the cluster. “As those individuals [who had come from other parts of the cluster] left and went back to their own areas,” explained a Teaching Committee member, “they started using the energy developed from participating in the teaching program to connect with their own friends and families and teaching picked up all over the cluster.


A particular success of the project was the support and participation of the Local Spiritual Assembly members of Aurora. This was achieved partly through significant nurturing of the Assembly members as individual members, not as an institution. Members of the core team visited Assembly members in their homes for several weeks proceeding the expansion phase. One ATC member noted, “we just explained the focus of the plan and its purpose, and answered a lot of the questions and concerns that they had. We also related it to the talk that Penny Walker had given, and to the learning from the Sept. 30 letter.” There will be another meeting with the Assembly next week to go over the list of contacts for follow-up and to review plans “on how to follow up and keep on track with these seekers – how to nurture them and move from their just being interested in the Bahá’í Faith, to taking part in activities and eventually becoming Bahá’ís.”


Though none of the community of interest attended the two scheduled events the first weekend, the teams found significant receptivity to the Faith and achieved some significant teaching encounters through initial contacts (see story Aurora—A profound teaching experience!). Hispanic households seemed to show particular receptivity, and Spanish speaking Bahá’ís and Spanish-language literature both proved to be important. Counselor Gerardo Vargas was of assistance in this respect (among many others) as he joined the project on the second weekend and accompanied some of the teams on follow-up visits.


One strategy that was identified as being helpful was writing up lessons identified by teams after the first weekend in a simple bullet format and handing them out to the teams at the beginning of the second weekend. This allowed the teams to review the lessons learned from the first week at a time when they could be immediately applied. These lessons are attached below.

Be yourself; just a regular person.

The learning is in the doing.

It takes time to warm up; figure out where to start

Teach with an open mind. It is difficult to “read” people accurately; nor is it known what their reaction is going to be by the way they appear, or who they are with. Have Faith!

When you pray for divine assistance with teaching, Bahá’u’lláh always comes through! [The Teachers knew this; and the confirmations were immediate].

Maybe for some Teachers having a standard introduction to get the conversation going is helpful. Canned” statements don’t work for everyone, but you should always have something ready to say. If you are shy or don’t know how to initiate a conversation, it is better to work with someone who can initiate conversation [sounds like “accompaniment” doesn’t it!].

Don’t expect others to approach you [while sitting in the Coffee Shop or in the market for example]. Interject yourself into the mix; sit/stand near or next to potential contacts. Be strategic about your approach.

If someone refuses to speak with you about the Faith, or refuses to accept literature, acknowledge it kindly and wish them a great day.

The quality of each teaching encounter is far more important than the quantity or number of contacts made. The Teaching Teams should reflect on the importance of follow-up with contacts and seekers and the process leading to enrollment.

Each contact or seeker has their own unique needs. Teaching plans must be tailored to those individual needs. Building a relationship is very important. Sustaining the contact will be very important.

BE PREPARED to teach the Cause at a moment’s notice; and take advantage of teaching opportunities that suddenly arise.

Be BOLD and confident; don’t hesitate, knowing that Bahá’u’lláh is with you always.

The prayer for children card is a seeker magnet! If 2 languages are needed, have both with you! Put local contact info for ATC on the back.

It takes a lot of energy and stamina to do intensive teaching campaigns, know our limits. Teaching on a daily basis should be part of our lifestyle!

Involving children and youth on each Team proved to be an asset!

Each day that we connect someone to the Faith, will become easier and easier to open our mouths and teach! The more you teach, the bolder you become.

During the Fall Season, mid week visits did not seem to work! Many of the seekers are very busy with family, and work. Weekends are better.

Teaching all those interested - Anna’s presentation in Hindi?!?

I like this story from the New York, NY (A) cluster so much. Maybe it’s the straightforward and loving way the author invited these seekers to join the community of Baha. Maybe it’s the resourcefulness the friends show in meeting the needs of a diverse humanity to deliver a Summons and a Message which “were never intended to reach or to benefit one land or one people only.” Maybe it’s just because I had no idea there is actually a real “Little India” in New York, and am pleasantly amused by the thought of someone in a small New York apartment giving Anna’s presentation in Hindi. . . Either way, keep at it, Queens!

We had a wonderful amazing day of teaching today in Queens. Baha’u'llah is AMAZING!!! The day began with the table teaching crews doing their thing in Jamaica and then in Little India/Jackson Heights.Lots of great proclamation/ teaching opportunities and lots of follow ups to do!

Tonight, my wife and I hosted the fireside at our place tonight with 4 Baha’is and two seekers all related to India in some way. One seeker was of Indian descent from Trinidad, had gone through book 1, lots of home visits, including 2 Anna’s Presentation visits. The other is Indian, speaks no English, met us on the street during the last expansion phase at the Little India teaching table and came to the fireside that night at the Indian restaurant. I’d finally gotten friends in India to send me a few books in Hindi, which he’s been reading, and [other Hindi- speaking Baha’is] have been following up with him regularly. After lovely opening devotions, I did Anna’s Presentation with another friend translating into Hindi. Studying the quotes through translation was amazing — in fact the whole translation process made everything extremely clear. Wow.

At the end I invited both to declare and they did!!! It was so simple and so wonderful and such a confirmation. We then had a wonderful discussion of what it meant to be a Baha’i, Feast, the Fund and the institute process. She and I are going to start a Hindi/English Book 1 with this new Baha’i as soon as we can get a Hindi Book 1 (any suggestions on how to do that are welcome). We then met up with another friend for dinner and a late night celebration. Everyone was so happy and excited.

This is such a confirmation on what can be achieved when we focus on a receptive population, take bold steps, and then follow up consistently with loving and genuine care. The Queens Baha’is are wonderful and absolutely thrilled by this whole experience. Doubts about the Plan have been transformed into certitude.

Tomorrow our focus is on the Latin friends. Tables will be in a Spanish speaking part of Jackson Heights with a Spanish-friendly fireside at our place in the evening.

Much love to you all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

LSA: “We have never seen such vitality”

The Local Assembly of Brookfield WS (B) share the excitement they are experience in advancing the teaching work in their locality. Two of the Assembly members are serving as facilitators of the on-going study circles described below.

We are happy to report that our seekers in Ruhí Book Four are well versed about the Faith and actively teaching and supporting the faith. We feel and hope that they will soon sign their declaration card! Our non-Bahá'í friends participants in Ruhí Book One, have also shown great interest in learning about the Faith and have asked their facilitator to increase the number of meetings from once a month to twice a month!

Ruhí courses have been indeed a great source of achievements for our small community. Our community has always been involved with teaching the Faith, but we have never seen such a response and vitality before. Because of Ruhí courses, we became much closer with each other and are able to include non-Bahá'í family members and friends in our midst easier and without a perceived formality.

We have decided to sponsor an inter-institutional meeting with all the four existing Local Assemblies in our cluster to share with them our vision for the process of the advancement of entry by troops, while at the same time, we hear their thoughts and visions. We hope by this meeting, we are able to assess our cluster’s strength, define better our needs, and enhance a fresh wave of collaborations between the Assemblies.”

~Local Assembly of Brookfield, WS

Preparing for an IPG 101

The Contra Costa County East, CA (A) cluster is one of a number of clusters that have recently begun first intensive programs of growth (we’re cheering for you, CA-NC-09!). Though we are eagerly awaiting (and will later report) news of their successes, we also wanted to share the commendable strategies this cluster used to prepare for its first IPG. The well-concieved efforts focused on building concrete skills, preparing for action, and increasing coordination and collaboration within the cluster, and undoubtedly increased the effectiveness of the campaign. Other advanced B clusters will find many valuable and useful ideas here.


Given the recent expansion of children’s classes and junior youth groups, the cluster held its first gathering of teachers and animators. The gathering allowed 28 people engaged in these paths of service to come together, share stories and learn from each other. The key themes were outreach and making the classes more effective. The Auxiliary Board members presented the elements of the Intensive Program of Growth in a way that the teachers/animators could understand its connection to their service. Some were inspired by the outreach stories and decided to form teaching teams to increase class participation.


Achieving “critical mass” of believers through the sequence of courses, the time was opportune for the tutors to re-consider their roles as teachers of the Cause, rather than trainers of Baha’is. This was the theme of the recent tutor gathering. The tutors engaged in an exercise in which they envisioned strategies for teaching alone in a hypothetical remote town without any Baha’is. They considered how they would start core activities, invite neighbors, balance their time, and train others to take over as their capacities were reached.

Then the tutors had a direct experience with neighborhood outreach. Twenty-one tutors split into six teaching teams, did role play, prayed together, and ventured into a neighborhood to extend invitations for an upcoming children’s class. Afterwards, as the teams returned, there was a great spirit of enthusiasm, and many stories were shared. This exercise helped to build confidence in this type of outreach. Several people were inspired to do this during the upcoming expansion phase. One person, who was filled with energy and excitement, said that if she knew beforehand that she was going to be teaching, she would not have come to the gathering, but now she is planning to start up a junior youth group in her neighborhood using a similar approach. Another person felt initially that the team should not mention the Baha’i Faith at all when making the invitation. The team consulted and decided that honesty required that they make it clear, at a minimum, that this is a service offered by the Baha’is. As she gained experience with the invitations, she felt more comfortable speaking about the Baha’i Faith in a natural way.


The Area Teaching Committee decided that, rather than forming ad hoc teaching teams at the reflection meeting, some preliminary assistance would be necessary to identify team coordinators and possible teams. Through a series of contacts, a list of 19 teams were identified, most of whom were already serving together. The team coordinators met with the Area Teaching Committee to learn about teaching teams, the Intensive Program of Growth, and the plans for the team workshop at the upcoming cluster reflection meeting. This was very effective. An Assistant from the San Francisco community attended the reflection meeting and noted how smoothly the process of forming teams went.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Confirmations Abound in Establishing a Neighborhood Children’s Class

“Yesterday was the first time, after about 6 years as a Baha’i and serving on every type of committee from the National Summer School, to the Center Board, Teaching Committees, LSAs, etc., that I really felt like I was doing something that was going to make a difference in the world and not just talking about how to do it, what needed to be done, who was going to do it.”

Is there any better feeling than direct action? Many of us can probably relate to the sentiments expressed by this tutor from the Cincinnati, OH (*C) cluster who spearheaded an invitation campaign to start a neighborhood children’s class. The story below gives some background on how this project developed, and describes the many confirmations that these friends witnessed when they took the move to ACTION.

How did it all get started? Recently, in Norwood, Ohio, in OH-05, a group of friends interested in the spiritual development of children gathered to plan and practice effective children’s classes in which the mention of God is made and His praise glorified, using the Words of Baha’u'llah. Several weeks later, at a Tutor Gathering, perspective children’s class teachers came together in Cincinnati, also in OH-05, to pray, practice inviting neighbors to bring their children to classes offered by the Baha’is for character development and reading and to go out to invite.

The teachers decided that Saturday mornings (10:30 to 11:30 am) would be a good time to offer their class as a service to the neighborhood families. To start, the teachers decided to invite children from 1st through 3rd grade.

A week before the invitations, to test the receptivity of the neighborhood, a tutor stopped her car a block from her home to talk to several women watching their children play on the front lawn of an apartment complex. The women all agreed to send their children to the Bahá’í class and gave the tutor their phone numbers. Later in the week, after many prayers, a community center run by the City of Cincinnati was approached for space. The director offered the space, free of charge, and further offered to schedule staff to open up on Saturdays, even though the center had previously been closed on Saturdays.

On a brisk Saturday afternoon over 70 people were given Baha’i prayers for children and invitations to a Baha’i children’s class by 5 people in two teaching teams. There were no rejections, and people made every effort to assist the Baha’is in their project. The parents of 15 children offered their names and phone numbers and expect to bring their children. All the Baha’i participants noticed that by actually initiating a Core Activity, they discovered that the receptivity of people around them was much greater than they had imagined. They affirmed that they felt assured and confirmed throughout the process.

There happened to be a Diversity Fair scheduled on the same day the teachers chose to invite the neighbors. On the way to the Fair, a member of a local church took the prayers for children and the invitation and asked if he could copy them to share with all the members of his congregation. Three Head Start teachers asked if they could promote the class at their fair booth. A member of a civic organization recognized one of the Bahá’ís, asked for the Baha’i’s contact information and said genuinely that he would do everything it takes to promote a class for children for reading and character development put on by the Bahá’ís. An aunt plans to attend along with here nieces and nephews. Parents and family members were encouraged to attend with their children.

Project Teach the Cause: Developing (and Using) Teaching Skills

This is the story of one training/teaching project undertaken in the Cleveland, OH (B) cluster. It is an example of the increasingly common trend of developing B-stage clusters undertaking collective teaching projects in preparation for advancement to A-stage as “practice” for upcoming intensive programs of growth. This strategy both acquaints the community with basics of a cycle of growth and helps cluster entities become more aligned and coordinated. (Although, as the member of one community undertaking such a project commented, it is important to remember that while we may be refining our collective skills, teaching is never “practice” for the individual hearing the Message of Baha’u'llah for the first time. Point taken!)

A small group of believers gathered in the Cleveland, OH area recently to spend four days focused on intensive consultation about the teaching work. The workshop is designed to increase the teaching skills of individual believers and empower them to teach more effectively. It incorporates a number of components necessary to the development of teaching skills, such as: 1) learning teaching themes and presenting them; 2) making an individual or team teaching plan; 3) the act of teaching itself, and 4: sharing teaching experiences and learning from them. The workshop includes teaching themes from the Ruhi Institute’s Book 6 and skill building activities developed by the Magdalene Carney Bahá’í Institute and lessons learned through various Institute initiatives.

The twelve sessions of the program were organized to be covered in four (4), eight (8) hour days (Friday through Monday). Three sessions were covered each day.

Emphasis was placed primarily on memorizing the elements of each session’s theme and then memorizing the narrative for the same themes. Participants found it easier to memorize overall, when they could remember the key elements of each theme.

Each session had repetitive components:

  • Readings – quotations from Book 6
  • Sharing – Experiences and outcomes of prior teaching plan
  • Preparation – Studying in pairs a new presentation / Bahá’í theme
  • Practice – Taking turns presenting the theme to the group
  • Planning – Review of contact list/ add new contacts/ write action plan
  • Praying – Daily for contacts / seekers

Teaching was done primarily during the afternoons, usually around 2:30 or 3:00 pm following study and practice in the mornings and lunch. The later in the day or even early evening was better for Fridays and Mondays, as these are usually work days for most people and they are not home during the day time. On Saturdays, more people are out and about and the teaching work can start earlier in the day, particularly if there is an event scheduled which brings people out of doors. During the four day period 98 contacts were made. At least one person attended a fireside and one new children’s class was started.

Lessons learned include:

  • When you pray for divine assistance with teaching, Bahá’u'lláh always comes through!
  • Don’t expect others to approach you. Interject yourself into the mix; sit near or next to potential contacts. Be strategic about your approach
  • You can’t “read” people; nor is it known what their reaction is going to be by the way they appear, or who they are with.
  • “Canned” statements don’t work for everyone, but you should always have something ready to say.
  • The quality of each teaching encounter is far more important than the quantity or number of contacts made. Follow-up is important.
  • Each contact or seeker has their own unique needs. Teaching plans must be tailored to those individual needs.
  • Be BOLD and confident; don’t hesitate, knowing that Bahá’u'lláh is with you always.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Perseverence leads to victory!

We received this story from a college-age youth in the Minneapolis, MN (A) cluster (which happens to be in the process of launching it’s first intensive program of growth. All the best, MN-27!) and the title he suggested could not be more true. The friends in cluster after cluster are learning first-hand that unflagging persistence and a willingness to reflect, adapt methods, and then keep on trying is an indispensable element to any successful teaching initiative. Important in this story, as the author pointed out, is the variety of ways friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers can come to inquire about the Faith. Also interesting are they ways that youth find to teach other youth (Facebook, anyone?).

I have a friend from high school who is now going to the University of Minnesota with me. A year ago when our family was having devotionals once a month, I had invited him every time but he always said “No, I don’t do God or religion, but thanks for inviting me.” When I joined up with the Baha’i campus club this year, I invited him to our Conversation Cafes each week, where we talk about various topics in an informal discussion supplemented by quotations from the Writings on that topic, but he always declined, giving the same reason, that he was agnostic and wasn’t interested in religious topics. I always replied back with a “that’s cool, no worries.”

Anywho, my most recent status on Facebook was “Shameem is 01110100 01100101 01100001 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111″ which is binary code for “teaching.” I get a message from this agnostic friend from high school which said, simply, “teaching, eh?”. I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, because this friend is a total nerd. ^_^ Anyway, I replied back with the following: “Haha! Nerd! You went and decoded it! Course, I’m a nerd too for translating it into binary in the first place. Yeah, I was having a discussion with a few classmates about the Baha’i Faith and teaching them about my religious views. We got real deep into spiritual matters, it was a great conversation.” He replied back with “No offense, but what is this Baha’i Faith, and what’s going on with you & it all of a sudden?”

Let’s hear it for confirmations and perseverene! After over a year this guy finally shows interest in learning about the Baha’i Faith, and interestingly enough, it was through something as geeky as binary code. It just goes to show that there are many, many, many ways to connect a person’s heart with Baha’u'llah. I’m excited, because now I get to have a dialogue with this friend about the Baha’i Faith, and luckily for us, we have activities on campus every single night of the expansion phase, including a holy day celebration! Yay!!! Hurray for teaching! Or should I say, Hurray for 01110100 01100101 01100001 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 !!!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The arts in Study Circles? Yeah, we’ve got that.

Sometimes it seems that in our busy Baha’i lives, one of the things that we would like to do, but just can’t seem to find the time or energy to actually accomplish, is integrating the arts into our study circles. But this tutor from the Cleveland, OH (B) cluster thought of a great way to use haiku (that’s five syllables, seven syllables, and then five syllables again, for those of you who don’t remember) poetry to reinforce concepts and draw out the creativity of her Book 7 participants. See the email she sent to the study circle about it and then look over a few of her own attempts, written at 2:00 a.m.! (don’t you just love the five syllables of “IPG’s launching”???)

Dear Friends,
I was so inspired last night that I woke up in the middle of the night doing Haiku related to section 4. I figured I’d share a couple of them with you (groan……) just to get you started. We’ll begin next week’s session with your contributions and remember it is within your ‘capacity’!

Also for the folks who missed this Monday, we studied Section 4 and the homework is to write a Haiku poem about anything in Sections 1-4. Choose something that inspires you, that summarizes your learning, whatever strikes your fancy—the important thing is to try.

So here are my 2:00 am musings:


Section Four can help
Open the door to service
Capacity’s core

Realities are
Your potentialities
Discover you can!


Forty Percent Gone
The Five Year Plan ascending
IPG’s launching!


Ridvan looming large
Passion is in the teaching
Who will sign their card?