Knoxville, TN (A) is moving forward! This report, several excerpts from which we have shared here, is a stellar example of operating in a learning mode. The friends are analyzing the information they are regularly collecting, consulting about progress made and current needs, and creating goals and specific plans of action to meet those needs. Especially exciting is the breakthrough that has been made in relation to consolidation. There is now a wider and deeper understanding among the friends about the necessary elements of a sustainable follow-up process and the human resources needed—for which they have a well-organized system. Finally, it is thrilling to see how the various Local Spiritual Assemblies in the cluster are arising to support the teaching efforts and the close working relationship between the LSAs and cluster entities. Go Knoxville!
At the end of this 13th cycle, the area teaching committee analyzed the rate of retention of new believers in the cluster over the past year. The following aspects of each cycle were reviewed: 1) how many of the new believers for the last 3 cycles have remained connected to the community, 2) how many are consistently in Ruhi classes, and 3) how many are receiving home visits and being knitted into the fabric of community life from an organic level. The findings were clear: during cycle 11 there was a 30% retention rate; during cycle 12 there was a 40% retention rate; during cycle 13 so far there has been a 90% retention rate. . . .
The ATC feels that this increase is due to a greater knowledge of what consolidation truly is. There is a much clearer understanding of the importance of immediate follow-ups with new believers. The core team has learned to continue visiting people, even when they are not home or seem disinterested. It can be said that one the greatest lessons from this cycle was the importance of being persistent and not giving up. Often, when new believers were not home or did not answer the door, it was simply because they were busy with their life, jobs, or children, not because they were disinterested. The friends never stopped visiting new Bahá’ís. They remained consistent in visiting the new Bahá’ís and seekers on a weekly basis and did not lose faith or hope in them.
Appropriate time was allocated for Ruhi classes based on the needs of the new believers. There are 3 “shifts” that volunteers who wish to assist with the process of consolidation can choose from: weekend, daytime weekday, and early-evening weekday. There is at least one core team member always available during those shifts to lovingly accompany a community member who wishes to home visit with a new Bahá’í.
Committed human resources key:
During this cycle, the home visits and follow-up processes were sustained better than ever before with the help of some motivated and dedicated community members who have become firmly involved in the organized teaching process. There were members from each Local Spiritual Assembly in the cluster to assist with teaching and consolidation. Additionally, there were members of the Sevierville community (one hour away) who traveled to Knoxville to assist with home visits every week.
Goals set based on reflection and experiences:
After consultation and careful review of core activities in the cluster, it was decided that the first goal to reach this cycle is to improve the number of devotionals held in the cluster, both quality and quantity. The core team has been encouraging and empowering the community in this aspect of the 5 Year Plan since the Reflection Gathering, where there was a special presentation on what a devotional is and how easy it is to have one in your own neighborhood. As a result there were 10 pledges of people who are going to try and hold regular devotionals this cycle.
The second goal for this cycle is to increase the number of people visiting new Bahá’ís, both to share the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2 with them and for general home visits. This was discussed at the Reflection Gathering, and some of the youth talked about how fun and easy it is to share deepening themes with new believers. A number of people volunteered to visit new Bahá’ís and share these deepening themes.
Close institutional collaboration:
The area teaching committee secretary and the cluster institute coordinator have been visiting local Nineteen Day Feasts and Local Spiritual Assembly meetings to help create and foster loving fellowship and a humble environment of learning. It was helpful for all parties involved to be on the same page as far as what the goals and needs are for the upcoming cycle. Everyone was able to learn from one another’s suggestions and had a feeling of love and a better understanding of what the organized, systematic, and cooperative efforts of an IPG cycle are.