Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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.

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