Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sharing the learning in New York City

New York City’s (A) intensive program of growth has been moving from success to success. As of April 21, there have been 50 declarations in the latest expansion phase, up from 24 as shared in the story below! Just as exciting is the learning that has been generated from the experiences there. Here are some reflections from a Bahai there about some elements needed for a successful teaching campaign, including identifying receptive populations, teaching, consolidation, the role of the Area Teaching Committee, and what to do when your teaching partner says, "Yes, Baha'u'llah is from Bangladesh"!

How's everyone? You've all been in my thoughts lately as the teaching work has exploded here. You may have heard that we have had 24 enrollments in New York City over the first few days of our expansion phase.

Thrilling! I wrote up a few notes on the teaching work for an Area Teaching Committee based on my experiences here and in Dallas and thought I would share it in the hope that some of it may be useful. I've also attached some of our photos.

The stories have been unbelievably amazing. One team visited a home, and during the next follow-up visits the entire family declared. In another instance, a seeker recognized the Writings as the Word of God and declared—this individual wants to go on a teaching team with the person who introduced them to the Faith and share the message of Bahá’u’lláh with people in the neighborhood.

Receptive populations

Identifying a receptive population and neighborhood is essential to large-scale growth. Two factors have emerged from experience in the field that seem particularly helpful when identifying receptive populations and neighborhoods:

  • A sense of community. Does the neighborhood have common spaces and elements that promote community, such as sidewalks, playgrounds, shared courtyards, gardens, short driveways, trees, etc? Are people friendly? Are people out and about?
  • Suffering. Those that are in touch with the difficulties of life tend to be more open to new spiritual ideas.

You can help identify receptive neighborhoods by visiting a neighborhood and knocking on a few doors to share Anna's presentation. How did it go? Were people friendly? Did the people listen? Did they want to become Bahai?


Make an expansion goal based on your human resources, but be bold!

Every soul has the innate capacity to recognize the Manifestation of God. Trust and expect this.

Rely on prayer. Trust in Bahá’u’lláh.

Anna's Presentation appeals to the soul before the mind. It is the result of years of experience and we need to trust that it is effective and that it doesn't need a lot of additions. The two core concepts of the presentation are the Covenant and Bahá’u’lláh.

There are at least four venues for using Anna’s Presentation: door to door, firesides, with community of interest, and with friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers.

In a teaching team of two, one person prays, the other presents. The praying partner is incredibly important and should do all they can to allow the heart connection between the presenter and listener to develop, i.e. remain silent even if the presenter says, “Yes, Bahá’u’lláh is from Bangladesh!” (This actually happened.) Bahá’u’lláh will fix things and the important thing is the connection between souls.

Try not to leave literature behind. Instead, schedule a follow up visit. This may seem counter-intuitive but we are making real connections between hearts and pamphlets and booklets can become barriers. Leave prayer cards or small prayer books with new believers.

When you approach a person or home have your presentation in hand and open to the first page of the presentation. Simply ask if they have heard of the Faith. Whatever they answer you can just go right into the first page of the flip book.

Let the seeker read the quotes. The Creative Word works miracles.

Lower your threshold of what is required for an declaration. It only takes a moment for a soul to recognize Bahá’u’lláh. They have a lifetime to draw closer to Him.

Invite people to declare. For example: “It seems like you agree with these ideas and I’d like to invite you to join the Bahá’í community and work with us in creating unity and peace.” Have declarations cards, pens, paryer book.

Keep track of every door knocked on using the teaching team forms.

Note relevant details in the comment section: Did they have children? What interested them most? What was covered? Did they speak a language other than English?

In addition to knocking on doors of people who have not yet met the Bahá’ís, don’t forget to also visit seekers who are already participating in the core activities.

A typical day in the expansion phase

Morning: Pray, sing and be joyful!! Review Anna’s presentation, answer questions. Form teaching teams of two (ideally mix gender, ethnicity, age), plan where each team is going.

Afternoon: The teams go out and teach. People can be involved in many ways—they can pray, cook dinner, drive cars, etc.

Late afternoon/evening: Teams return to share learning and tell stories. Teams return forms and declaration cards to the Area Teaching Committee, which keeps track of everything.

Evening: Area Teaching Committee reviews data, organizes lists, and adjusts for the next day.


When a person declares they are given a small prayer book with the obligatory prayer so that they can begin saying it. They are not left with additional books or pamphlets at that time. Instead, we need to nurture the new believer through personal return home visits.

The teacher visits the new believer within 48 hours and begins sharing the deepening themes from Book 2 or the stories of Bahá’u’lláh or the Báb from Book 4. They pray together and study the prayer.

The teacher invites the person to begin serving the community by, for example, having a devotional in their home so that their friends and family can hear about the Faith, or to host or attend a children’s class. Many are also open to participating in study of Book 1.

Some new believers are particularly on fire and are eager to begin being involved in the teaching work right away.

In short: take the core activities to them and when they are ready take them to the community.

A plan of consolidation is based on the results of the expansion phase. Sort your declaration cards by children, youth and adults and plan your follow-ups according to needs.

Partner with your Institute Coordinator. Work with them when you need children’s classes, junior youth activities and study circles. Ask them when you need to take refresher courses for Books 2, 4 and 6.

The institute process comes to life with new believers. We see what the practices are for. New believers love it, and they want to be involved.

Area Teaching Committee roles

An organized and united ATC is essential.

Walk with people. Take them teaching. Help them experience success.

Stay in an open and learning mode.

Have enough forms for each team as well as prayer books and pens and supplies.

Collect all forms at the end of each day and start your lists. Lists are important. Keep lists of neighborhoods, buildings visited, return visits needed, seekers, new believers, etc.

Pray and be happy!

Lots of love,



Anonymous said...

Thanks for this comprehensive but straightforward description of both expansion and consolidaiton efforts in an IPG. What you have shared applies broadly to all clusters whether there is high receptivity or not.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouraging and helpful words! I agree whole-heartedly with the statement that it tkes only a moment to recognize Baha'u'llah. That is what happened to me 36 years ago in 1972, the year of the greatest number of enrollments in the American community to date. I declared in one hour from my first contact with the Beloved Faith. . .

Give the souls of the people you teach room to expand. Learn to expect the truest miracle of all . . .spiritual transfomration.

Let's break the 1972 record this year!