Sunday, December 23, 2007

How Phoenix Made It Happen In Just 15 Days

It probably says something that the Phoenix cluster’s core team, in describing their first expansion phase as an A cluster, did not mention the 70 enrollments they achieved over 15 days (34 adults and youth, 36 children and junior youth) until page seven of a ten-page report. The focus, rather, was on the systematic planning and preparation that set the stage, the spirit that moved the community, the coordination and consecrated efforts as they moved to action in the field, and the lessons learned that they will use to make their next program of growth even better. We have posted the report here in full, and there’s not much that we can add to it, except to encourage you to read through to the end because it’s full of invaluable learning. (We will note, though, that it’s a pretty cool core team that adds a “You know you’re in an IPG if. . .” section at the end of its report. Maybe that says something too.)

Movement of the cluster from one stage to the next During the B stage of growth, the Local Spiritual Assembly of Phoenix made a decision to decentralize the children’s class at the Bahá’í Center. Soon thereafter children’s class teachers were trained in Book 3 and deployed into neighborhoods to start classes, thereby widening the circle of those interested in Faith. The neighborhood children’s classes became well established. Teaching teams were formed to support children’s class teachers in their efforts to make systematic home visits to participating families. The home visit campaigns led to bonds of true friendship and community building. Strengthened family relationships naturally led to the multiplication of devotional meetings. The outward-looking orientation quickly transformed the cluster, and teaching teams organically began to seek out receptive souls.


  • The objective was to keep the plan “straightforward and simple” and not have too many elements incorporated in the IPG: Find receptive souls and teach them
  • Priority goal: Directly teach the COI and other receptive souls
    • Method– wholeheartedly and intimately utilize Anna’s presentation in the seekers homes (4 definite and two tentative target neighborhoods were selected)
  • Secondary goal: Multiply core activities with the COI
  • A Collective Direct teaching day (with a review of Anna’s presentation) held six weeks prior to IPG launch prepared the nucleus of 8-10 teachers.
  • Core group (including: ABms, ATC, CIC, CCC) met twice during IPG planning phase”
    • To study the documents from the ITC Nov 28, 04, Sept 30 07
    • To plan the CRM (Cluster Reflection Meeting)
    • To outline plans and logistics for expansion phase
    • To select target areas (based on receptivity, strength of core activities, established collaboration of core group with teams)
    • To select virgin target areas (based on proximity to target areas)
  • Based on learning from other clusters, decision was made to launch the IPG on Saturday during the CRM, to capitalize on the enthusiasm and availability of the friends, and to avoid a second gathering in order to utilize the entire week end for teaching.

Numerical Goals

  • 24 new Bahá’ís (we begged Bahá’u’lláh for this one :-)) In the previous cycle Phoenix had 8.
  • 5 new children’s classes
  • 20 new Bahá’ís in Book 1 or other study circles
  • Increase the junior youth groups from 3 to 6

Materials Prepared – Teaching Folders in both Spanish/English

  • Anna’s presentation – in color, printed and bound in AZ13 (Phoenix)
  • Declaration and child registration cards
  • Color-coded teaching folders to match target areas with maps and materials
  • Devotional and children’s class invitations, prayer cards
  • Home visits forms (for systematic follow-up)
  • Directory of neighborhood COI locations and family members

Cluster Reflection Meeting & IPG Launch

  • Spiritually uplifting, high-energy devotions by African-American team
  • Skit performed by youth demonstrated the activities of IPG phases.
  • Break-out session groups studied and discussed activities of IPG phases.
  • 15 large sheets of paper were posted on the walls, allowing a visual perspective of the Expansion Phase, giving everyone the opportunity to participate in different ways, and put their pledges on these sheets.
  • Pledges were made by participants for each of 15 days of expansion phase.
  • Target areas for the 1st week-end of the IPG were discussed with teaching teams.
  • All the friends at the CRM were given the opportunity to join teams, form their own teams, or pray for the success of the teams.
  • Teaching folders (color coded by area) were given to teaching teams.
  • Immediately after the CRM, teaching teams were deployed in the field of action.
  • Teams were asked to return from the field after 3 hours for brief reflection.
    • A family affair: 14 adults, 7 youth, 8 children participated in teams Day 1.
    • 40 people attended, 27 people pledged.
    • Many teachers are mothers with young children; therefore to ensure their participation in the CRM, we invited an adjacent cluster to help with the childcare and children

IPG Launch First Weekend Review – Importance of Collective Teaching

  • Teachers gathered to pray, review Anna’s presentation, form teams, to review the teaching folder and data collection methods.
  • Doors knocked: 203, doors opened: 104, homes receptive 70, Declarations 4.
  • Witnessing victories and becoming courageous during the collective teaching days 1 and 2, friends additionally approached nearby virgin areas and made unplanned door to door teaching efforts; this proved to be very important to the success of the expansion phase.
  • As planned at the end of the first day, teams met to reflect, learn from experiences, and plan follow-up.
  • Teams shared stories and data with each other and the core group daily.
  • Teaching stories and victories were shared hourly amongst the core group and other teachers in the field.

The Core Group During the Expansion Phase

  • Constantly being in the field with the teaching teams and contacting each other, the core group did not have time to meet in person until late on Day 2 to coordinate team schedules.
  • At that meeting the group created a 2-week schedule of direct teaching activities for follow-up during the expansion phase with receptive souls who were open and had asked for return visits (there were plenty!)
  • Core group maintained continuous contact by phone, email, text (and pigeons).
  • Core group shared teaching successes with cluster via email consisting of: 1) quotation from Writings, 2) Statistical updates, 3) Teaching Story.

The Core group only met in person twice during the entire phase!

Support from the Institutions

  • At the CRM the LSA thanked the core group for their efforts with roses.
  • Some Assembly members were teaching shoulder to shoulder with the friends in the field daily.
  • The LSA has been generously funding the teaching activities.

Support from the Community

  • Many friends prayed daily for the success of the IPG expansion phase.
  • Several have expressed interest in participating in the consolidation phase.
  • More friends began to participate after a gathering of momentum.
  • Nucleus of 8-10 people anchored teams in target areas.
  • 20 friends participated in teaching teams.

Involvement of Youth, Junior Youth and Children

  • These young Baha’is played an integral role during the expansion phase:
  • They served as record keepers, door knockers and praying partners.
  • Children opened the hearts of seekers by offering prayers for them.
  • Children were even encouraging their parents to go teach!

For the next IPG, make sure that….

  • We have a collaborative calendar to coordinate more quickly.
  • Teachers add their own initials to declaration cards in case thee are questions during follow up.
  • We provide a tutorial on filling out the declaration cards.
  • Draw on a larger number of the friends in the cluster to teach collectively.
  • Invite the new believers to join the collective teaching efforts.


  • New believer spreadsheet has been developed to systematically track follow-up for each new declarant during consolidation phase. Tracking includes: book 2 deepening themes heard, study circles attended, and core activities in which he/she participates.
  • Spreadsheet uploaded to online collaborative webspace for members of core group to view, edit and share data in real-time with teaching teams.
  • Consolidation to rely heavily on the direct teacher being paired with another Bahá’í in the cluster, thus drawing on pool of human resources, to arrange HVs for deepening themes and core activities.

General Learning - Expansion Phase IPG Cycle 1

  • The most important aspect of the efforts made by the Core Group and teachers was reliance on Bahá’u’lláh, and unity of vision, thought and action
  • Collective prayer is powerful: Friends were asked to pray the Tablet of Ahmad and the Teaching Prayer for the Western States daily during the entire expansion phase.
  • Due to limited resources, and the fact that we were in the field every evening, it was not possible for teachers to meet daily. The love and unity generated by intense teaching motivated us to keep in constant contact through phone calls and emails.
  • Anna’s presentation (printed and bound) is an invaluable tool. Stick to the concepts.
  • Anna’s presentation (AP) is highly effective. Experience demonstrated that once a seeker agreed to hear AP, approximately 8 out of 10 presentations led to a declaration. Even if the seeker initially seemed distracted, once the presentation began, the intensity of his/her focus was surprising.
  • Due to the success of the presentations, no Firesides were scheduled during the expansion phase. The Firesides were created on the spot and as a result of the questions generated from AP.
  • Confidence increases with experience. (thank you Bahá’u’lláh)
  • Be flexible about time — A good portion of these declarations took place during the daytime when the seekers had availability.
  • Be bold, inviting and forthcoming.
  • Two-to-three person team strategy:
    • As one person delivers AP, the others observe and pray silently supplicating Baha’u’llah to open the hearts;
    • No interruption of the teacher by the other members of the team;
    • It was our experience that there is a direct spiritual bond that develops during the presentation between the seeker and the teacher, and this bond should not be severed.
  • It is most effective to stick to the concepts in AP and not to deviate from them. (this was a huge learning and at times a hard lesson
  • Inexperienced teachers benefited from accompanying experienced teachers. One teacher said, “I could never imagine myself doing this! Now I can!”
  • During the IPG, just teach! Children’s class presentations, events, devotionals, are better left for the consolidation phase. We found it more effective to teach the COI and seekers individually in their homes. Focus was on intimate settings for Anna’s presentation.
  • Core activities were offered with the presentation.
  • Children’s classes are the “portal” for other activities.
  • Perseverance in the face of rejection & disappointment is the key to victories.
  • This is Baha’u’llah’s Plan. Many times we would go to see a particular seeker to follow-up and often they would not be home. We would continue “knocking and praying,” or “wander and pray” and would then find another receptive soul.
  • We must teach for the joy of sharing the Word, and be detached from the results.
  • Be forthcoming and inviting.
    • We’ve learned that the declaration card should be a part of the presentation.
    • After the presentation, the teacher asks “Do you believe that Bahá’u’lláh is the Manifestation of God for today?”
    • If yes, then the teacher presents the declaration card, reviews the concepts on the card (which have just been presented) and invites the declarant to joint the Bahá’i Community.
    • If there are obstacles the teacher takes time to allay concerns.
    • If the declarant has children they too are invited to register.

  • If a seeker is open, but does not declare right away, do not give up. Eight seekers declared on the second visit.
  • Some teams prayed for each other though not physically present, and were successful in their efforts to confirm souls. For example, one teacher didn’t have a partner on her way to a follow-up visit, so she called her cousin for prayers, and the seeker declared.
  • Though the bodies were exhausted at the end but the spirits were soaring and ready for more…
  • Declarations –34 Adults and Youth (and 36 children registered) during the expansion phase.

“Not infrequently, the consolidation phase gives rise to further enrolments as the family members and friends of new declarants accept the Faith.”

Declarations will continue through the consolidation phase:

Two days after the expansion phase ended, a mother requested that her family hear AP after a devotional they all attended. In this way 1 more Youth declared, and 2 more children and one junior youth were registered!

Declarations of 34 Adults and Youth

  • Anglo - 5
  • Cuban - 4
  • Mexican - 10
  • Sudanese - 2
  • African American - 2
  • Liberian - 5
  • Native American - 6

You know you’re in an IPG if…

  • In the middle of Anna’s presentation, you notice your sweater is on inside out.
  • You discover you’ve been using your red fine tipped children’s class marker as lip liner for two days.
  • You walk through a store, staring at people, thinking “I bet that is a receptive soul!” and run into a display.
  • You forget to eat.
  • You can’t sleep.
  • You wake up at 3:00 am dreaming of the eyes of the new Baha’is and how to consolidate them!
  • You forget to change your child, and realize it in the middle of a presentation.
  • You are so intense about getting your teaching materials out of the car, that you leave your trunk open in an apt complex for hours, and no one steals anything.
  • You loose your cell phone, and go teaching anyway, hoping Baha’u'llah will lead you to your team. (He does)
  • You leave your computer case standing in the middle of a parking lot in your hurry to meet your team. (it’s still there when you discover it’s missing- Baha’u'llah is on overtime)
  • You trade your mini cooper in for a van to take seekers to devotionals!
  • You buy an umbrella, but are so excited you forget to use it, and all of your prayer cards have water smudges . . .
  • When you make a left onto on coming traffic because your thinking about teaching but, by the grace of God no one hits you!
  • You catch yourself saying Ya-Baha’u'l-Abha to strangers.
  • On your way to a devotional at the apt complex, on a mission to pick up coffee and cookies, and while calling to ask for directions to the store, you have an accident with another car, and Baha’u'llah blessed you with only “mini” damage : a hole in your bumper ;)
  • You find out a pipe is leaking on your new stove, and you cut your water off in the house and go teaching anyway.
  • Your three year old wakes up and says, “teaching mommy, teaching!”
  • All of your shoes are ruined from the mud, and you don’t care.
  • Your Local Assembly cannot get a quorum because too many members are in the field teaching.
  • When people think you and your teaching partner are sisters, and they keep commenting on the closeness they feel between you two!
  • Your teaching partner calls you that she will be a little late because she left home still wearing her slippers and had to return for her shoes!
  • You become familiar with where you can go to the bathroom near the apartment complexes where teaching is going on
  • The most health conscious member of your team suggests going to Jack in the Box for a bite to eat.
  • Reliance on Baha’u'llah becomes natural for the first time in your life.
  • You do your normal “daily work” in the wee hours so you can spend more time teaching the next day.
  • When your family dinners consist of take out, frozen dinners or rotisserie chickens w/ bags of salad
  • When your family asks when will you cook a meal again?
  • When the words like “Yeah, Let me get that combo# 2 with 2 tacos, to GO!!” become a part of our vocabulary!!
  • When the TV is on and very loud, the child is playing loudly, distractions abound, and you have to use the restroom, BUT you hold on, pray and finish Anna’s presentation and the seeker signs their declaration card.
  • You and your children’s piano teacher decide to cancel two lessons so you can both be in the field more.
  • You use your dash board to dry out wet declaration cards.
  • A handful of almonds for lunch seems normal.
  • You go to a teaching day with two grandchildren. You only take one home, and don’t realize you’ve left the other in the field until your daughter calls you, saying, “Where’s my other child”?
  • Your car breaks down on the way to collective teaching! When you call your partner she says, “park it, I’ll come and get you.” So you leave your car and go teach!
  • You are walking around looking for your ancestors in the strangest places
  • You realize that those in the field teaching with you are becoming your closest and dearest friends!

If any of these apply to you then perhaps you are in an IPG! These are actual incidents, but the names have been deleted to protect the intoxicated.

Final Thoughts, Summary & Teaching Story

The inaugural expansion phase of the Intensive Program of Growth in Phoenix, AZ was replete with divine assistance and confirmations from the Concourse on High. Triumph of the Cause during the expansion phase was evident. The Bahá’is in our community stood unified in serried lines and each played a role in His victory.

At the beginning of the expansion phase very few teachers had either experience direct teaching with Anna’s presentation or confidence in their ability to direct teach. Now transformed by arising to teach, these same individuals are confident instruments who have been imbued with the joy of teaching, never again to be the same!

Many successes were had but there is time for just one courageous teaching story. As the IPG approached the teacher made several attempts to share Anna’s presentation but was not given the opportunity. At a bus stop, to a mechanic, to any soul with a hearing ear the teacher offered to share the Message. The expansion phase began and the teacher fervently desired to teach the Cause.

“On the first day of the expansion phase I was offered an opportunity to share the Faith. As this was my first time sharing Anna’s presentation I was full of anxiety. During the presentation the seeker’s soul was attracted and she declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh!”

Later this teacher told us, “I was too scared to present her with the declaration card!” Over the course of the fifteen day expansion phase this teacher tried to re-visit her friend six times but she was never home. On the very last night of the expansion phase long after all the other teachers had gone home exhausted, she attempted one last visit.

“I did not have anyone with me so I called my ever ready teaching partner, but she did not answer her phone so I called my dear cousin. He answered and said he would pray and be my partner. As I walked toward her home I did not beg Baha’u'llah for anything. I was filled with such gratitude for even being able to be approach her home. I thought, Bahá’u'lláh, if she signs her card wonderful, and if she doesn’t that is wonderful too!”

The teacher’s resolve was tested, and a final victory in the expansion phase was achieved.“My friend was decorating her home for Christmas because her father was planning to visit and this left her feeling sad somehow. We spoke awhile and prayed together then suddenly her mood changed. I reminded her that she had declared her faith in Bahá’u'lláh. She agreed and smiled. Then I presented the declaration card, reminded her of her right to participate in elections and to receive communications from Bahá’i Institutions, and she signed! We hugged and I promised to visit her after the New Year.”

Our collective experience in our first expansion phase is aptly captured in the words of the Blessed Báb.

“Heed not your weakness and frailty; fix your gaze upon the invincible power of the Lord, your God… Arise in His name, put your trust wholly in Him, and be assured of ultimate victory.”


Teaching blog said...

Phillipe Copeland Says:

January 9th, 2008 at 10:43 am edit

I should probably read the report before asking this question, but I’m wondering what learnings there were in Phoenix about teaching specific populations, in this case African Americans. If there were, or really learning in this area from any part of the country I’d love to hear about it.

Teaching blog said...


Please accept our apologies for not responding to your comment for so long. I think each member of the core group thought another member would be responding.

As yet we don’t have much learning to share about teaching specific populations though we will soon. In Phoenix, during the expansion phase just 2 African Americans declared. The ethnicities of the new believers is included in the report above.

Recently, a teaching team was formed to focus specifically on teaching African Americans in metro-Phoenix. As we learn about teaching specific populations we will be sure to post it to this teaching blog.

D. Himes Jan 23, 12:52 AM

Teaching blog said...

Dear Phillipe, in regards to your question, we have found that using Anna’s presentation, and focusing on tying the hearts to Baha’u'llah, is equally effective with African Americans as with any ethnic group. I our initial presentation, we try to stick to the concepts in Anna’s presentation to Emilia in book 6: the Eternal Covenant, Baha’u'llah’s life, suffering and transforming influence, the Bab, Abdu’l Baha as the Center of His Covenant, Shoghi Effend, the laws as a sign of His “loving Providence,” and the Divine Institutions. We have also found that offering services (children’s classes, devotionals, junior youth groups and study circles) in the neighborhood is well received even by middle class African Americans. I hope this helps,
Sincerely, Marilyn Sanchez

Jan 14, 12:15 AM