Wednesday, December 5, 2007

“If we’re ready, we’re ready, and if not, well we’re going to do it anyway.”

Below are excerpts from an interview with a member of the Area Teaching Committee of Savannah, GA, a cluster that recently saw 35 declarations in response to a project aimed at junior youth (and children) and their parents. If this cluster could do it, why not others? A-stage clusters don’t get all the fun, afterall!

The results of this project were quite impressive. Do you have any advice to other communities contemplating a similar plan?

One thing is that I think we were so into the institute courses and the practices that we forgot to teach directly, especially collectively. So [after encouragement from the Regional Bahá’í Council and Counsellor Andrews] we finally decided to just do it, even though we were scared to death. One of the biggest learnings we had is to just set a date [for action]. We set a date and said to ourselves “If we’re ready, we’re ready, and if not, well we’re going to do it anyway.”

Also we learned to just go with the process and don’t be too concerned with [being perfect]. It’s a learning environment, so just do it, and if it’s not perfect, evaluate and do it again. Of course we’ve been told that before, but like Counselor Andrews said - you can read all you want about swimming, but you can’t know how to swim until you actually jump into the pool. We just had to jump into the pool.

Another thing that a Regional Bahá’í Council member told us is that 10% of our work should be meetings and 90% should be in the field. So that’s kind of become a motto for us – “1 to 9″. We just look at each other sometimes now and say “1 to 9” to focus our priorities.

Another thing is the power and contribution and energy of our children and junior youth. . . They really add a lot to a community. The more work they do, the more they want to do.

It’s also important to include parents in the process [of children’s education], which we didn’t do for a long time. We should have started engaging parents much earlier. We didn’t want to let them feel that this was something that their kids did, but they weren’t involved in.

How did the core team and then the teaching teams themselves represent to parents what it means to register a junior youth as a Baha’i?

We had a lot of discussion about this. We wanted the children and the parents to be aware of the seriousness of the registering as a Bahá’í, but we didn’t want to put blocks or obstacles in front of them. We would first say something like “Your child has been attending activities at the Bahá’í center, do you know what the Bahá’í Faith is?” If they said no, we would give a short introduction of what the Faith is – basically the first part of Anna’s presentation. Then we would explain that if their child was a Bahá’í they would receive things from national, would be on membership roles, etc.

In the home visits we are really trying to connect with the families of the junior youth. One of our first goals when we meet with families is to explain in what ways they could be involved with activities - like bringing cookies for snacks one day, or even just coming in for a visit. We want to make it clear that they are a part of what is going on - that it’s not just us doing this for their kids. We come in and say this is who we are and what we believe in and let them know how they can be involved with their kids’ activities.

What has been the effect in the Savannah community?

We’re so excited – our small community has grown again by a third. . . We’re in this amazing learning mode. At first when this happened, everybody was really quiet and sort of awestruck. Everybody got really serious and we all were sort of thinking “Oh no, what do we do now?” But after the core group meeting, we’re just taking things as they happen - trying to do the home visits and trying to keep a really joyful attitude. And we try to keep in mind that this is just the first of many teaching projects, and of many expansion phases.

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