Over the last few months, many exciting developments have been taking place in Phoenix, AZ (A). The friends there have learned a lot about how to effectively use firesides. In addition, they are increasingly starting to orient their efforts to the neighborhood level—in planning, in data collection, in core activities and other gatherings such as Nineteen Day Feasts. All of these are helping them nurture and empower new believers.
During the last intensive program of growth, there were 3 declarations at firesides. Each of these 3 firesides was organized by a believer working closely with a member of the core team.
Each of the new believers is studying Ruhi Book 1. Also, 2 of the new believers carried out the practice component of Book 1 and organized a devotional meeting at the home of their tutor, who is a new believer herself. When they were asked about the program besides the prayers, one of them shared the last page of Unit 2 about what prayer is, how we have to meditate on the words of the prayers. “I think this is so important. Before, I would just read one prayer after another. Now I know I have to reflect on each one of these words.” . . .
A neighborhood-level Feast was also recently held, with 25 people attending. During the consultative portion of the Feast, a children’s class was conducted.
Some of the more recent insights gained are as follows:
We are learning about firesides. The experience is that firesides are most effective in an intimate setting (ideally, a one-on-one meeting) where Anna’s presentation is shared. We also learned to confirm tutors before holding firesides.
We need different strategies for each individual neighborhood, as growth is organic. Holding teacher reflection meetings twice quarterly helps the teachers learn from each other’s experiences.
Neighborhood-level Feasts and devotional gatherings create a sense of community and Bahá’í identity. New Bahá’ís need to be accompanied in the planning of these activities.
Accompaniment and empowerment of new believers is an ongoing process and most be a continual priority.
The core team must continually define, strengthen and accompany the teaching teams to ensure success. When not accompanied, teams can become discouraged and may not follow through.
Collecting data at the neighborhood level makes the task much more manageable, but we are still learning how to be efficient. New believers need to be involved in reporting and collecting data.