Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The power of the neighborhood

Here is an update from East Valley, AZ (A) summarizing some of their recent experiences and insights gained. Many valuable lessons have been learned from the friends’ efforts. One particularly important area of learning in this cluster has been how to create a strong, vibrant community life at the neighborhood level. This has required planning, accompaniment, human resource development, and commitment. And it has enhanced many of their other teaching efforts as well.

Importance of empowerment: We have found that where we see signs of new believers taking ownership of their community life, such as neighborhood Feasts and devotional gatherings, neighborhoods are stronger and more vibrant. This is generally a result of their tutor or neighborhood coordinator accompanying and empowering them in the field of service.

Teaching teams: Where there are strong signs of neighborhood teaching teams, it has been easier to sustain growth at the neighborhood level. Efforts are being made to strengthen teaching teams, as well as neighborhood coordinators . . . .

Seeker response: This cycle we saw an increase in declarations from people that have contacted the 1-800-22UNITE phone line or the national Web site. Of these declarations, all of the people have joined regular patterns of community life. Because of the systems of teaching developed within the neighborhoods, we are now able to do what we were unable to do in the past with regards to seekers that contact us through these channels. As soon as a seeker response notice is sent to the Local Assembly, the secretary of the area teaching committee will arrange a meeting to share Anna’s Presentation with the seeker. In almost every circumstance, the seeker will declare and will quickly be connected to a study circle.

Junior youth groups: This cycle saw an increase in the number of junior youth groups across the cluster. This was due in part to a youth initiative held a few weeks before the launch of last intensive teaching effort. The youth have been far more involved in the teaching work than they were previously. Youth are slowly arising to serve the cluster in various aspects of service, particularly within the avenue of junior youth groups. Cluster agencies accompanied youth to develop plans based on their own initiative, and accompanied them in the field.

Data collection: The core team and the neighborhood coordinators learned this cycle the importance of collecting data as opposed to simply reporting data. This is central to all activities, and the collection of data encourages accompaniment as individuals engage closer and closer to the field in all their endeavors. It has also encouraged more accurate data collection, as information is verified and tested in the field.

Devotional gatherings: Devotional gatherings decreased in number, but there has been an increase in attendance by members of the community of interest. This is a result of neighborhood devotional gatherings, where individual believers are inviting their friends, families or co-workers to their neighborhood devotional. This will be one of the primary approaches for the next teaching effort.

Moving: Various conditions have forced a number of new believers to move out of the cluster. In some instances, it has been difficult to track down new believers at new locations, but most individuals who have moved within the cluster are located within a few weeks of their move, particularly if we have already been following up with them after their declaration.

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