Friday, November 16, 2007

‘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.

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