Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oregon in the Summer (Children’s Classes and More Children’s Classes)

Appearing below are accounts from 8 clusters in Oregon, ranging from A stage to plain old C (like the cluster yours truly is from), about their experience in putting to practice their training from Ruhi Book 3 this past summer. If there was ever something you wanted to know about starting, teaching, or expanding children’s classes, the chances are good that you’ll find it here somewhere. Enjoy.

Recruiting in Bend (C cluster) for a one week day camp began with the manager of an apartment complex where two Bahá’ís live. The manager read through several pages in Ruhi Book 3, took notes in case she got questions about the classes, and volunteered to take the flier announcing “spiritual education” classes to the two hundred apartments in the complex. Seven children and junior youth (7- 14 year olds) came on the first day. On each subsequent day at least one new child joined the group. The teachers were delighted at how receptive the children were to saying prayers and memorizing quotes.

Recruitment for a day camp in Philomath (A cluster) was done with simple written invitations taken to apartments and homes by the teachers along with the four children from an on-going Bahá’í class. The class location was in a nearby park. As a result, four new families sent their children (eleven total) to the camp. Six of the children were from Latino families. Following this camp regular home visits were made to each family, a children’s devotional gathering has been given for families, and weekly classes are continuing in a home.

A junior youth group in Medford (B cluster) saw a need and shared their desire to teach children’s classes. After consulting with the Auxiliary Board member and Area Coordinators, a Ruhi Book 3 Intensive was held. Eight youth and junior youth completed the course and immediately the participants planned and taught a children’s class—in conjunction with a Feast—to practice their new skills.

After reflecting and learning from teaching that class, they were deployed the following week to teach a portion of a class during Badasht summer school/family camp in Oregon. Again, learning took place and confidence was built.

A week after summer school, neighborhood children’s classes and a three-day day camp began at a family apartment complex. It was very successful and the weekly children’s classes are continuing into the school year.

Recruitment began the day before the day camp. Three people, including one of the junior youth, took previously prepared fliers and knocked on all 82 doors in the apartment complex. This team of three began by saying prayers—as much for courage as for success. The responses were such that their confidence continued to grow each time they knocked and spoke.

The parents seemed pleased to hear what would be offered at the day camp. One person had questions about the Bahá’í Faith and another said she didn’t really have a religion, but wanted her son to have a strong spiritual connection. She was invited to a study circle and devotional gathering.

The White Salmon, WA (C cluster) (sharing some areas in Oregon) has shared some of the elements that contribute to its successful weekly children’s classes.

  • Having classes in a grassy area in a park where everyone can sit in a circle on the ground.
  • Sending out a weekly email and calling everyone the night before.
  • Going to pick up children, if possible.
  • Splitting up the workload.

Another benefit to having the classes in the park was that a lot of other people saw what was going on— some intrigued enough to have their children join the class. One day only two of the regular children showed up, but seven others joined and that made for a full, vibrant class.

One of the best parts about these classes was their ease in planning. All one needed was snacks, a guitar, a little art, Ruhi Book 3 lesson plans, and the children. Nice and sustainable is the key. In fact, these classes are continuing into the school year.

Woodburn (C cluster) started its first neighborhood children’s class with more success than anticipated. Nine children (ages 2-9), one mother, and a grandmother attended.

Three of the children were from Bahá’í families while the other six were the children from three Latino families. Originally, the children’s class was to be held outside while a Book 3 study circle met inside. Because it was raining there were worries about where to put everyone in the small apartment.

The Ruhi Book 3 participants ended up in the bedroom, while the living room was used for children’s classes. Now the Book 3 participants will be able to practice with the children’s class.

Many other communities in Oregon were holding neighborhood children’s classes for the first time this summer. Lake Oswego (B cluster) evolved from virtue classes to using the Ruhi 3 curriculum. To begin with, the Bahá’í children invited a few of their friends from school to accompany them. There have been slightly different groups in attendance each time, but the trend has been towards non-Bahá’í participation: seven non- Bahá’í children and three non-Bahá’í parents have come.

As was experienced in Bend, often when invitations to children’s classes are given out to families in apartment complexes, younger children are accompanied by their older siblings. As more and more Bahá’í youth are trained as “Animators” the natural result is to form a junior youth group at the same time.

In Washington County North (A cluster) a team of individuals invited children and junior youth by visiting the homes at a manufactured home park where a Bahá’í resides.

With the help of a child who knew the Bahá’í resident, other children and junior youth were invited to attend a neighborhood children’s class and junior youth group. One week later, the team returned to these homes and—like the Pied Piper—had a trail of youth and children following behind as they went house to house inviting them.

The class began on a grassy, open area behind the Bahá’í’s home. All who attended this first session were non-Bahá’ís. The entire group played a name game and then the children were brought together to work on one of the lessons from Ruhi Book 3. The junior youth got acquainted and did a science project.

In Springfield (B cluster) home visits resulted in many young people accepting an invitation to attend a neighborhood class held outside the apartment of their Bahá’í host. On the appointed day the teachers set out to bring the children from their homes only to meet them coming, a slip of paper with the address in their hands, their mothers by their sides, and the glow of happiness on their faces! A children’s class of 7 and a junior youth class of 6 were formed.

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