Monday, December 3, 2007

The Nuts and Bolts of Colorado Springs’ First IPG

We’ve already featured the Colorado Springs, CO (A) cluster’s first expansion phase which resulted in 10 individuals declaring their belief in Baha’u'llah, but we wanted to add some comments from one member of the Northwest Regional Baha’i Council’s Office of Cluster Advancement who took part in the project and saw it up-close and in action. After having described the preparatory planning/reflection meeting, she describes the nuts and bolts of how the program was carried out:

That Saturday a lot of people came from neighboring clusters and a whole youth workshop of 10 to 15 year olds from the Denver area. They came just for that day to be in teaching teams. That really bolstered the numbers for that day. They were able to form to 13 teams with 39 individuals.

The core team had really planned in advance and scouted out a neighborhood that’s within a mile of the Baha’i Center. . . and asked if it was ok if they could come through to meet people and tell them about the Baha’i Center. They had coded each apartment complex and figured a team in an afternoon could visit 2 of the apartment buildings with about 30 units in each building.

All these teams had packets with coloring books and crayons, invitations to the Center in English and Spanish, healing prayers and prayers for humanity, business cards about the principles and a packet of Anna’s presentation and in Spanish the presentation and some declaration cards. (Some of the materials can be seen (and are free to be used by all) at Over the week, they would refine it as they learned each day, which I think is the highlight.

They tried to make diverse teams - male and female, African American and White and Persian or Native American, racially, gender, and age wise, and also tried to have a Spanish speaker, although we were limited.

The teams went out in afternoon and knocked on doors to say we’re from the Baha’i community center down the street and wondering if we could tell you about the Center, and try to engage in a conversation and share Bahá’u’lláh’s message, and to get to know them, and share that the whole purpose is to build unity, through children’s classes and junior youth classes, and programs for adults, and prayers, and music - to work on overcoming prejudice. We asked - Is this something you feel would be helpful and is this needed in the community? Do you have children? If they were immigrants, we asked ‘is there a strong community here?’ The idea was to get to know them and to engage in a conversation to listen. Not everyone would want to engage. A lot of people would say, ‘thanks, I have a church.’ The first day we attempted 391 home visits. Of these, 137 were home and 96 were positive. The others weren’t negative, but just neutral. 38 actively needed follow-up.

The first two days were about casting a really wide net. From that process, some people will be really receptive. If we found someone who really wanted to listen, we wouldn’t worry about visiting the rest of the people on the list. We had lists for not home, not interested, has kids, etc.

We also noted if it was possible share Anna’s presentation. The team I was on the first day was able to share it in Spanish with one man. We had asked him about who lived in the apartment. He was saying there’s a lot of drug abuse. Then it was so natural to talk about the section in the booklet about the nobility of mankind from that booklet. So we shared it, focused on sharing the quotations. He was very open to that. He brought up a feeling of disconnectedness. So we brought up the section on unity. Then after a while, it was natural to say we could start from the beginning of the book. And after each section, we asked what he thought. There were a lot of people going in and out of the building. So we asked if he wanted to come to the Baha’i center 2 blocks away, so he walked back with us. We showed him the children’s classrooms. We finished the booklet and the last section is about becoming a Baha’i. We asked him, “Do you feel Bahá’u’lláh is the Manifestation of God for this time?” He said yes, so we asked, “So do you think you’re a Baha’i” and he said yes, so we got a declaration card and he signed. It was a wonderful confirmation for all the teams.

Each evening there was a fireside with music, drumming, prayers, and children’s classes at the time. The fireside was again just sharing Bahá’u’lláh’s message. Very few came. Most of the teaching came not at the firesides, and there were a couple every night, but most of the teaching happened in the follow-up visits in the home.

By Monday there were about 9 people who could go out in teaching teams plus a few remaining at the Center to pray. The teams scouted other new neighborhoods, but prioritized most of the teams on the follow-up visits. Children were excited coming to children’s classes in the evening. One lady said ‘you came at just the right time, it wasn’t a coincidence.’

Each night the teams would debrief and a couple people would compile the data, to determine who needed follow-up visits the next morning beginning around 10 o’clock. Looking at the list and considering who should visit them, looking at their needs. They decided that for all follow-up visits, someone local had to go along. The rest of the week was follow-up visits, prayer, and thoughtfulness on the needs of the seekers, and spending more time with the interested seekers.

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