Friday, June 13, 2008

Fresh learning about consolidation

Action and service bring fresh learning. And the friends in Gwinnett-North Fulton, GA (A) have just generated an avalanche, nay an ocean, of learning about consolidation from their experience in the latest expansion phase of their intensive program of growth.

Dearly loved friends,

We would like to share with you the learnings of the expansion phase of our 8th intensive program of growth. These insights were collected and compiled with the friends who were engaged in teaching during the three weeks of the expansion phase.

For reading ease we have separated the learnings into distinct categories or stages for greater clarity. May these be a source of inspiration as we harness the momentum of the victories so far achieved and continuously recommit our energy to teaching, consolidating and inviting ever greater number of believers into and under the protection of His Cause.


· Understand the overview of the three phases of the process: Expansion, Consolidation and Reflection.

· The importance of attending the teacher’s training: This is where you learn how to present Anna’s presentation, address personal fears, learn how to ask open ended questions and learn how to approach people in their homes.

· Know the human resources before entering the teaching field: Who will be able to teach children’s classes and animate junior youth groups in the consolidation phase? If the teacher him/herself cannot, who will be able to accompany him/her so that there is a smooth transition during the consolidation phase?

· The importance of knowing each teacher’s commitment to the expansion phase as a way of better directing human resources to the teaching locations, as well as for pairing purposes

· Pairing up teaching teams of two individuals, either male/female or female/female.

· Create teaching teams that stay together throughout the expansion phase.

· The importance of spiritually preparing oneself before going out to teaching.


· When we first approach a door, our spiritual preparation is key: how we feel in our hearts.

· Saying something such as “I have a very special message to share with you” sets a different tone and relationship with the person at the door. It creates a more receptive air.

· Having a woman be in the front and knocking on the door seems to create more of an opening for people to open the doors of their homes

· It is good to approach the door while holding Anna’s Presentation handbook in such a way that the name Bahá’í Faith is facing the person as he or she opens the door. This way it is clear that the two Bahá’ís approaching the door are not attempting to sell anything, but instead will be asking the person in the home about her/his interest in listening about the exciting news of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh.


· It is important to offer Anna’s presentation with no fear of making mistakes, allowing one’s heart to open and the spirit of the Concourse on High to flow through and make its presence felt. One gentleman’s response to a presentation was “I feel the sincerity”.

· Enrollment and declaration may not take place at the same time. There may be a declaration of faith, but the enrollment may happen later during the visit or at another visit.


· During Anna’s presentation there are four places where one can feel comfortable to pause and open the space to invite the person listening to the presentation to become a Bahá’í. As we invite people to declare their faith in Bahá’u’lláh we should listen to our intuition and not hesitate.

· When inviting someone to declare we must remember that what is on our minds transfers to the person. Let us trust in Bahá’u’lláh and His plans, rather than following our minds, which may be saying, “They are not ready” or “They would want to know more about the Faith before they declare”. We cannot make that decision. We don’t know what Bahá’u’lláh has prepared for these souls.

· To become a Bahá’í there is a two-part process: the declaration of faith—at which point they are a Bahá’í—and then enrollment. People can declare their faith whether or not there is an enrollment. We need to sensitive to situations such as an individual feeling self-conscious for not knowing how write well or worried about their visa status in the country.

· It is important to learn and to continue practicing how to invite people into the Faith.

· At the end of each visit, it is important to keep track of whether the individual or family has declared or showed interest for a revisit. It can then be determined whether there is the potential to start a children’s class or junior youth group. All of this information can then be shared with the neighborhood lead, and human resources can be mobilized to start the core activities.


· Be aware of potential scheduling challenges. Ask directly when would be a good time to visit, e.g., during the week, during the weekend, etc. Exchange phone numbers.

· As revisits begin, activities for both new believers and seekers need to be set up, such as devotional gatherings, Book 1 study circles, children’s classes and junior youth groups, all according to their needs.

· At this point, the teaching team evaluates the continuity of the visits and organizes a smooth transition to the friends who will be carrying out the consolidation visits to prevent loss of contact with the new believers. So it is crucial to ensure that at least one of the initial contact teachers is present for the revisit and the handoff to the person who will follow through with the consolidation process. Here teachers are encouraged to seek the support and participation of other members of the community, as well as consult with the neighborhood leads.

· Begin children’s classes for children who are elementary school age and junior youth groups for those that are middle school age.

· As a Book 1 study circle and or devotional gathering is taking place at a home with children, bringing another person or youth to offer a children’s class at the same time has been a very successful approach.


· Communication with the neighborhood leads is essential to coordinate follow-up with the seekers and new believers.

· It is important to track both declarations and people who have expressed interest in learning more. The latter are part of our community of interest and should have the same attention as those who have signed a declaration card.

· Neighborhood leaders are encouraged to keep track of the activities in the neighborhood and to ensure that the neighborhood is getting sufficient attention. In some clusters, there have been friends who have offered to move into neighborhoods where expansion was taking place as a way of ensuring a Bahá’í presence there and to support ongoing efforts.

· Experience from clusters in other parts of the country has shown that it is best for revisits to take place between two and five days after the declaration.

· Identify both who will be doing the teaching and who will be carrying out the consolidation work. As noted earlier, arrange for a smooth transition for the second group to take over. It is important to assess the extent to which each teacher will be able to participate in the consolidation process.

· Bahá’í institutions can review pledges made by believers at the beginning of the expansion phase and engage them in the consolidation work.

· The institutions can look at available human resources, including who has required language skills, to match teachers to requests to start core activities.

· When children are registered, their information and their parents’ information, as well as who will be teaching the new children’s classes, should be shared with the regional training institute.

These are the main insights from the recent teaching activities. Here are the results: During the expansion phase there were 29 teachers engaged throughout the three weekends who knocked on approximately 350 doors. There were 8 adults and 14 children and junior youth who enrolled as new believers. There were 28 requested revisits which have been set up.

So far, 4 study circles have been established with 4 participants, with the potential for another 5 study circles to be formed. There are 4 neighborhood children’s classes that have been formed with 12 children attending. 3 additional classes will soon be formed. There is the potential for 1 junior youth group to be started with 5 participants.

We want to be more proficient in the art and science of what we are doing in order to promote a culture of continuous learning as we seek to be better orchestrated and coordinated in our efforts to foster entry by troops. Our collective understanding is growing and our skills and abilities are being more fully engaged and strengthened.

As we know, the intensive program of growth is a three-phase process. The first part is the expansion phase, which involved the three weekends of intensive teaching. The second part is the Consolidation phase, which usually takes from two-and-a-half to three months. The third part is our reflection on the two previous phases, capturing and systematically planning to apply our learning in the next expansion phase.

Our cluster is presently in the initial weeks of its consolidation phase. It is a very unique and rich period where we connect with new believers, revisit seekers, offer Book 1 study circles, begin devotional gatherings, and establish children’s classes and junior youth groups. Furthermore as we are engaging in these activities more enrollments will naturally arise as we lovingly and revisit the individuals and families who have expressed an interest. It is also during this phase that we have the bounty of sharing all of the skills we have been developing while advancing through the sequence of Ruhi courses.

Timing is everything as we deeply engage in the beginning stages of the consolidation phase. As we move forward let us involve other members of the community and engage them in teaching, learning Anna’s presentation, starting a study circle with new believers and or seekers, establishing a children’s class or a junior youth group. Let our faces, rain or shine, be seen in the neighborhoods. See you there!

Much love,

Your area teaching committee

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