Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tips on Starting a Neighborhood Devotional Meeting

This is a short story from the San Jose, CA (B) cluster about one friend who was accompanied by her cluster institute coordinator and an Auxiliary Board member in inviting neighbors to a neighborhood devotional gathering. Significant in the story and the tips these friends offer is the fact that several neighbors were so receptive to the Faith that the group felt they could have offered an overview of the Faith through Anna’s presentation “if [they] had been prepared to do so”. They join many other friends around the county in realizing that we must always be ready to meet the needs and level of interest we encounter by being prepared to explain the fundamentals of our Faith, no matter what we think our intention is in approaching a neighbor or acquaintance!

We met in the morning, prayed together, discussed what we would do and how. The Bahá’í friend whose neighborhood was the focus of the day’s activity was getting more and more anxious. With more prayers and much positive encouragement she felt good and we set out.

We visited 46 homes, 28 of which had people at home and whom we engaged in discussion. Of the 28, 13 were receptive to the idea of a neighborhood devotional and thought that it was a good initiative and were open to receiving a reminder visit on the night before the devotional. Of the 13, 3 were so receptive to the Faith that we could have actually engaged them with the introduction to Anna’s presentation right there if we had been prepared to do so.

At the start of the visits the Bahá’í friend was nervous and had a hard time even standing by the door as we introduced her and her invitation. By the end, she was engaging her neighbors and even teaching them on the spot as a response to their questions. Her resolve was indeed steeled through her experience and the confirmations she witnessed first hand. We plan to accompany her with the first devotional at the least, to offer a Book 3 lesson for the children, and to help her follow-up on opportunities for home visits to share the Faith.

  • Neighbors were immediately put at ease when she introduced herself as their neighbor right next door.
  • Neighbors were put at ease when she shared that the devotional would be at her home and not a church or such.
  • Neighbors responded very well to the portion of the invitation where we shared that the purpose of the devotional meeting included bringing the neighbors together and to help form bonds of fellowship between them and to foster community. Many stated that they did not even know their neighbors and that they wished it was otherwise
  • The most receptive neighbors were the Hispanics, and having a Spanish flier and a Spanish speaking person in our team was invaluable.
  • Receptivity is so high that we must always be prepared to offer Anna’s presentation. Even when the question “what is Bahá’í?”is asked, we can share the first paragraph of Anna’s presentation, with the quote, from memory as a response instead of using our own words to answer the question.
  • Next time we will review Anna’s presentation before we set out, even if our primary purpose is to invite them to a devotional meeting.
  • Even friends with fear and trepidation will arise if we accompany them effectively.

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