Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of the youth, by the youth, for the youth

We’ve shared stories and reports and even email chains on this blog. Now we’re sharing a thank you note. The writer is a believer in the Waukegan, IL (*C) cluster who opened her home during a recent weekend to an “intensive-format” training institute course (in this case, Ruhi Book 2, which helps build one’s capacity to carry out home visits and share deepening themes). The recipients are the young Bahá’ís who tutored the course. You can see that this was a weekend of the youth, by the youth, for the youth. You can also see how it empowered and inspired the participants, including some newly-declared Bahá’ís.

Just a note to thank everyone who made last weekend not only possible, but a success.

I appreciate so much our wonderful tutors’ efforts. Everyone enjoyed themselves.

We had very capable youth who handled everything so exceptionally well and made the event both fun and informative for our youth and even though we only had four or five participants in the training, it was definitely a success. I have to say from what my daughter told me, her friend (who has only been a Bahá’í for about a year), has expressed interest in studying more of the Ruhi books and has enjoyed herself very much and would like to come back for more intensives. . . .

We also had the pleasure of meeting __, who is a brand new Bahá’í [and who registered online], and this has been his first Bahá’í activity experience. He also said he was interested in studying more Ruhi courses. When I asked him how his day was, he said it was great and that everyone was so pleasant.

Another youth whose family joined the Faith a few years ago, enjoyed doing the Book 2 intensive. I think the fact that these study circles are being tutored by young people who are deepened and so loving is what makes a great impression on our young attendees.

My daughter told me that “Even though I had taken Book 2 before, it seemed like I was doing it for the first time.” She also enjoyed it immensely and is looking forward to doing more books. Even though my son could only be there partially, he enjoyed very much the time he spent with everyone.

I was wondering if it's possible to have an intensive youth study circle in our cluster at least one weekend a month for the rest of this Bahá’í year. Our cluster would certainly benefit from it and it would be wonderful to have some more young tutors by the end of this year.

My house is always available for your Bahá’í get-togethers and there is so much that still remains to be done.

With much gratitude and love for your sincere services,


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Engaging the youth (and disengaging the cell phones)

I really enjoyed reading this email announcement from the Nevada South (A)’s area teaching committee. They have organized what promises to be a wonderful event for the youth in their cluster. And here’s why: It is going to empower the youth to contribute in various ways to the Five Year Plan. It is a simple, short, manageable weekend that most people would feel they could be ready for and successfully complete. (I have sometimes felt as if I would have to take a grueling 3-month long special class to be ready to become involved in the teaching work—the organizers of this initiative are removing all such worries.) And finally, they have made a truly daring move: CONFISCATING CELL PHONES!

Dearly Beloved Youth,

On behalf of the Training Institute, we would like to invite you to the second SOUTHERN NEVADA SUMMER YOUTH INITIATIVE! We are arising to fulfill objectives of the Five Year Plan. This weekend will also be the starting point of our service. All participants will be accompanied to do home visits, host a fireside, or form a new junior youth group. . . .

Basic Information:

We will be gathering on: Thursday __ at 5 pm and finishing on Sunday __ in the early afternoon. We ask that you stay the entire duration of the weekend.

The Training Institute has made arrangements for the guys and gals to stay in separate homes. Please see below on what to bring.

Please arrive at: Las Vegas Baha’i Center by 5 pm on Thursday ___.

Age: All youth aged 15 to 25 are invited.

What to Bring:

Towel, swimming attire, toothbrush, toothpaste, casual clothing for 4 days, pajamas, toiletries, sleeping bag, laundry/garbage bag, pen, notepad, and your Prayer Book.

Meals will be provided. Chaperones will be in place in both the housing for boys and the housing for girls. Please bring $5.00 to buy your Ruhi book.

Cell Phone/iPod:

Please let your parents know that during the Youth Initiative your cell phones and Intelligent Pods will be commandeered and placed in the "tech box." If your family needs to reach you they will be able to call M or Y at numbers we will provide them. During certain breaks you will be able to use your cell phone.

The pre-requisite for the Youth Initiative is to have completed Ruhi Book 1. If you have not taken Book 1, please contact M to do an intensive course before this event begins. Also, you must have a willingness to devote time, energy and effort to the spiritual education of all.

With great joy we look forward to serving with you always!

With love,

Area Teaching Committee of Southern Nevada

Connecting an online registrant to the Local Spiritual Assembly

A growing number of individuals who investigate the Bahá’í Faith are taking the opportunity to declare their belief online. When someone makes this decision and “clicks on the button”, the friends at the national, regional and cluster levels work together to quickly respond to the new believer. Here is a story from a B-stage cluster in the South Central region where the friends at all levels did exactly that. What is also interesting is how the seeker response “regional specialist” is building the capacity of the Local Spiritual Assembly to respond to believers who declare through this channel. In this case, the regional specialist clarified what steps in the enrollment process had already occurred and which ones remained to be completed, as well as the similarities and differences with the steps for “hard copy” registrations. The Local Assembly, in turn, is eager to play its part in the process.

Dear friends,

Glad tidings that __ declared this evening!

__ showed up in my queue. I didn’t know if the local friends had already contacted her or not, and following the request of the Regional Bahá’í Council to contact seekers after 3 days in situations like this, I called the number she had provided. This evening I finally reached her. . . .

She has been moved by the imprisonment of the Bahá’ís in Iran, and is attracted to the fundamental verity of the Faith that all of humanity is one.

I asked if she had received information in the mail, knowing the National Teaching Office had mailed literature. And I asked if anyone in her town had contacted her. She said Yes for both—Terrific! She offered that this Faith is what she believes, and that she had been praying for God to open her heart.

Knowing that, I asked if she would like to hear an overview of the Faith right now? She said Yes. (She had already read quite a bit on line, but she liked the idea of hearing an overview.) We went through the main teachings, following the conversation of Anna in Book 6. When I asked if she would like to be registered as a Bahá’í, she said, "Yes I would."

How wonderful that her heart had been prepared in the last month, and perhaps her entire life!

We talked about books she could read, and I encouraged her to attend devotional gatherings and study circles in her area. I said that I would contact the Bahá’ís who had called her and inform them of her declaration.

So I next called S, and he expressed his joy that __ had declared. When I explained that I assist with seekers and online registrants in the region, and that I could complete the registration process, he said that he preferred that the Local Spiritual Assembly complete the enrollment. I made sure to clarify that a paper card is not necessary to sign, because the registration with her was done online, and my conversation with her covered the affirmation and countersigning process. I also explained that her name would show up tonight in that community’s eMembership queue, and that the Local Assembly could complete the enrollment process for her through eMembership. He said the Assembly would follow up with this.

Very sincerely,


Snail mail saves the day

As many recent postings on this site have shown, technology is an excellent tool when connecting with seekers. When that doesn’t work, however, it’s nice to know that “the old fashioned way” (in this case, snail mail) is also an option. Here is a brief report from the Southwest region about a seeker who contacted the Bahá’í community through the 800-22-UNITE phone line. The seeker response “regional specialist” reports:

Dear all,

__ called the 800-22-UNITE phone line. The local friends contacted her with an initial phone call. It was decided to set up a home visit, but when they tried to call her again the number was no good. She had left an address, so the friends sent an invitation via mail. She replied with her new contact information. A home visit was set up.

Here is an account of the meeting:

H and I are happy to report that we were able to meet with __ and her friend before this last Saturday. Both enrolled after hearing Anna's presentation. __ is going to be in another state for the next 4 months so we are going to try to get in contact with the Bahá’ís there. We are trying to get __ into a Ruhi Book 1 we have on Fridays and also have him participate in our monthly devotionals.

Chain reaction of core activities in Phoenix

Phoenix, AZ (A) hit the ground running when it launched its intensive program of growth and it just never occurred to anyone to slow down and catch their breath. A recent newsletter for the cluster had a lot of exciting news. For example, during their 6th cycle, the friends found 39 individuals who declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh, bringing a cumulative total of 387 enrollments since their IPG began. Just as inspiring is the steady focus on multiplying core activities. For example, during the cluster planning process, the friends realized they had a far greater number of people who had completed Ruhi Book 1 than there were devotional meetings (which is the act of service connected to the completion of that course). So one of the main areas of emphasis for the 7th cycle of the IPG was to encourage more and more of the friends to start devotional meetings—an initiative that is already seeing results. Finally, the believers have gained some truly intriguing insights about how all the core activities are mutually reinforcing and create a coherent pattern of growth and the foundation for a rich and vibrant community life. From the newsletter:

We have found in Phoenix that with the decentralization of children’s classes, doors opened for home visits, which led to weaving bonds of friendship with the greater community, especially in the three focus neighborhoods. These home visits further led to devotional meetings, study circles and more opportunities to engage in direct conversations about the fundamental verities of the Faith, which in turn led to additional devotionals and study circles. This has resulted in a sense of community in these neighborhoods and to the holding of the Nineteen Day Feasts and Holy Day celebrations.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Many deep moments of joy"

This is a new believer’s account of how he discovered the Bahá’í Faith—and how he plunged into active service after declaring. Woven throughout his story are many, many clear examples of the role of core activities and the institute process in both teaching and consolidation. This cluster clearly has many dedicated friends all working together to establish a coherent pattern of activity. But above all, it simply conveys the excitement of finding the Faith and the sheer joy of teaching.


After rejecting organized religion my entire adult life, I was made aware of the Faith late in 2008 by a wonderful woman, a longtime dedicated Bahá’í, who lives in my apartment building. My interest in the Faith was prompted by seeing how living the Faith infuses her life with joy and purity of spirit; discovering that the guiding principle of the Faith is the Oneness of Mankind; and very significantly, learning and being enthralled by the phrase "World Peace Is Not Only Possible, It's Inevitable".

After many conversations with my Bahá’í neighbor, much reading of books she gave me, and participating in various Bahá’í meetings, devotionals, and firesides with other beautiful Bahá’í people, I came to know that the next step I must take was to declare my belief in Bahá’u’lláh and my acceptance of the Faith, and I became a Bahá’í. . . .

Soon after declaring, I became ignited by a fire within me to teach the Faith to others. As someone who has worked to promote the causes of Peace and Love for several decades, I pondered over a personal question: how could I continue to be active in the peace movement, and still have time to work on spreading the Faith? The answer came to me in a startling but unequivocal way: that the best and most useful path for me to follow in advancing the cause of Peace was to concentrate my efforts on advancing the Faith! I realized that advancing the cause of Peace and advancing the Faith are, simply, one and the same thing!

Since that moment, I have endeavored to promote the Cause in many ways, perhaps most notably by holding a devotional gathering for the residents of our apartment building. This devotional, attended by a few residents, resulted in one neighbor expressing what seems to be a sincere interest in the Faith. This individual has attended some informal meetings at my apartment, at one of which another believer in our cluster shared Anna's conversation. Our neighbor has also begun attending weekly Ruhi 4 classes with me, and has been actively involved in the classes, asking insightful questions and showing enthusiasm about continuing their search for knowledge and truth. It is our hope that we will soon begin a Ruhi 1 class together, along with at least one other seeker, a class which I hope to be privileged to co-facilitate with another active and more experienced member of our cluster.

It is worthy of mention that we have arranged for childcare for our neighbor's child during the Ruhi class, childcare which of course is being provided by yet another dedicated Bahá’í friend in our cluster!

This teaching effort has brought me great satisfaction . . . but it should be noted that, remembering what I am learning in a by Ruhi 6 course on Teaching the Cause, I am not to be overly or personally invested in the outcome of the effort!

I am so gratified to be acting in service to the Faith, and have felt many deep moments of joy in this work. Personally, my life has been beautifully enriched by my acceptance of and involvement in the Faith, and I will be eternally grateful to God, to Bahá’u’lláh, and to the incredible Bahá’í who first introduced me to the Faith. It truly has been a transcendent experience, one I never expected to happen!

It is my hope that this story may provide inspiration to others. Contrasted with my previous nagging concern that perhaps all my work for Peace has been for naught, I am now full of optimism and excitement about the future of our world, because I now know that the Most Great Peace will come!

I would be happy to communicate with other new Bahá’ís, and with others who may be seeking a more effective and satisfying life path.

Follow-up takes continuous effort, unity and strength

One of the most inspiring trends in recent months is how the friends—wearing different hats, playing different roles, working at different levels—are learning how to work together to teach and to welcome into the community new believers. Here is a wonderful example from the Memphis Area, TN (A) cluster. In this case, an individual researched the Faith on the internet and registered her belief online. The seeker response “regional specialist” then contacted her. She describes how the process then unfolded:

__ saw an article in the paper that mentioned “Bahá’í”. She then looked it up and researched it on the internet. She was amazed to find the emphasis on the oneness of religion unity of all the peoples of the world. Soon after she declared her belief online. . . .

I called her to carry out the affirmation. So that I didn’t take up too much of her time if she needed to get off the phone, I opened up my call by asking, “Hello, how are you? Is this a good time to go through an overview of the Faith? The Bahá’í Faith is a world religion whose purpose is . . .” We talked for an hour and closed with a prayer.

After completing the enrollment electronically, the regional specialist then contacted the local Bahá’ís to enlist their help with welcoming her. She first outlined for them this individual’s needs and interests:

She is happy to be contacted by Bahá’ís who live near her.

I mentioned that in the next couple of days there would probably be a Feast near by. IF you can accompany here, this might be something that she could attend.

If there is a Bahá’í center in the cluster, I mentioned that she might be able to go to a program there this weekend.

Attending a Book 1 study circle.

Perhaps having her children attend a children’s class.

Very important, the regional specialist then made a direct request to the local friends:

If you will be able to call __ by Saturday, PLEASE call or email me so I know that she is being followed up with.

The local friends jumped into action. They got in touch with this new believer and connected her with numerous events. One of the local Bahá’ís reports back to the regional specialist:


Wanted to let you know that today __ attended a social gathering with other Bahá’ís. Tonight she will be out our house for our regular monthly fireside. Tomorrow night she will attend the Feast with her kids. We will also start Book 1 ASAP. Thanks for all the info and for the GOOD work you do!

In the spirit of accompaniment and encouragement, the regional specialist then responded:

Dear D,

This is fantastic news!

It seems to me that it’s not difficult to facilitate an enrollment, but it takes continuous effort and overcoming MANY challenges to do the follow-up work.

Your cluster has shown so much unity and strength, and responded so quickly with her and her family.

With appreciation,


A short while later, the Auxiliary Board member provided the following update:

Dear Friends,

As you know, __ received a lovely welcome to the Bahá’í community. She has now been introduced to the local friends and has been attending various activities and they are working to connect her with the core activities. This level of loving follow-up and integration is very exciting. The cluster institute coordinator has been in contact with her also. __ has been bringing her children to the activities also.

With loving regards,


So all the friends working together have helped ensure that a new believer was warmly welcomed into the community.

If you don't know, ASK

Many of us, perhaps because of our upbringing or background, are not completely comfortable talking about religion. Sharing one’s beliefs with another person may seem awkward when we first try it out. And we may be asking ourselves, “Is this person really interested in learning about the Faith?” “Does this person really want to become a Bahá’í right now?” “Am I going to offend them if I assume scenario A when really they are at scenario B?”

One of my elementary school teachers told us, “If you don’t know, ASK.” The problem is, many of us may feel that raising such questions is about as inappropriate in American culture as staring someone straight in the eye when you’re in an elevator together! HOWEVER . . . As the friends around the country build their capacity to teach the Faith directly, drawing from their experiences in the training institute courses and the field of action, they are learning that ASKING such direct questions really is an appropriate and helpful step in a variety of situations . . .

Let’s first look at an example from a cluster in the Central region. In this case, an individual had filled out a registration card and sent it to the Bahá’í community. The seeker response “regional specialist” coordinated with the friends at the local level to follow up with this person. Along the way, the question was raised about the individual’s intentions in registering as a Bahá’í. Here is how the regional specialist advised the local friends (note also the wonderful and natural way they describe the direct sharing of the essential teachings of the Faith):

Dear L,

M wrote about your recent phone call with __, who had declared, and your question about whether they intended to register as a Bahá’í or simply wanted more information. Thank you so much for keeping him informed about your conversation with __.

Since __ did take the initiative to complete the registration and send it in, even if they did not intend to become a Bahá’í, I would like to encourage you to take a more direct approach. It would be great if you could have a conversation with them not unlike Anna’s conversation with Emilia in Book 6. In this way you can better determine if they are open to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.

The Regional Bahá'í Council has a music CDs and some copies of a children’s book in this person’s mother tongue. If you think that these would be helpful in your interaction with them, I will be happy to mail one of each to you.

I look forward to hearing how this follow-up initiative works. Your special efforts in this area are sincerely appreciated.

Loving Bahá'i regards,


In other words, it doesn’t hurt to ASK.

On a similar vein is this very concise insight from South Bay, CA (A). In this case, the question relates not to a new declarant, but people that you meet for the first time who may—or may not—be seekers.

We need to get better at determining, in our initial contact with people, whether they truly are interested in learning more about the Faith. We should clearly communicate to the person that it is ok to say they are not interested. That way, we are not wasting each other’s time.

Now let’s go ride an elevator and stare someone in the eye. . . .

"I can't wait"

We just had to share this brief email message from a new believer in the Central region: “I love being a Bahá’í. I love everything about this Faith. I can’t wait until I get to study Book 6 and learn Anna’s presentation so I can better explain the Faith to people who ask me.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When a new believer enrolls, they tell everyone they know about their experience

Here is an update on the second expansion phase in Kentuckiana, KY (A), and again, it is very exciting. The friends discovered 10 people who declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh. And now, this cluster has an organized and dedicated follow-up plan that is seamlessly connected to their teaching efforts. The friends are rapidly learning and immediately applying their new insights.

__ reports of their home visit:

Two of us went to visit __, a new believer. When we arrived at his home, there was another man who we had never met before. After greeting and an opening prayer, we decided that, although we had come to share deepening themes with __, we instead should share Anna’s presentation with the new person. So we asked the new believer, to help me share Anna’s presentation as well as to translate. So __ and I shared the whole presentation, while the other teacher was the silent prayer partner. And this new person declared! After spending more than an hour together, we left the place with joy and a spiritual feeling. . . .

The above report shows how important it is to do follow-up home visits as soon as possible with the new Bahá’ís. When a new believer enrolls, he or she tells everyone else they know about their experience. This is a crucial time to be nurturing and to be there. Though the original purpose of this home visit was deepening, the teaching team was flexible and we discovered another receptive soul.

So, if you haven’t scheduled a home visit, do it today! Then report back to E what happened so we can keep the database up-to-date and make sure none of the new believers slip through the cracks. If language differences make it difficult to communicate, please let us know what language they speak so we can provide materials for them in their language.

The last ten days have required a group effort and many Bahá’ís participated that haven’t served on teaching teams before. We made great progress during the expansion phase. Now it’s time to follow through and show the new believers how the Faith works in our daily lives.

We are asking each team to please return all lists and forms to E. Also, please return your teaching binders to J if you aren’t using them, or give them to the friends who will be carrying out consolidation. Also pick up the deepening theme folders from J. The area teaching committee will meet to discuss how the expansion phase went and figure out how to assist the teams in their consolidation work over the next two months.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"We respect your leadership and protection"

Seekers and new believers come to the Bahá’í Faith from all kinds of backgrounds and in all kinds of situations. It is important for the friends to be sensitive to the particular situation of any seeker or new believer that they meet. Each encounter will have its own special requirements. In the following story, a youth reached out to the Bahá’í community via the internet. The Seeker Response “regional specialist” who followed up took great care in her approach, making sure to involve from the very beginning this youth’s parents, and to be completely open and respectful to them. Here is the regional specialist’s report:

Dear S and B,

With exceeding joy and happiness, I’m writing to inform you about my conversation with __ tonight.

I had previously talked with her mother, who had indicated that I needed to talk to her father as well before doing anything else.

I was finally able to reach her father. This is how the conversation went: “Who is this?” I gave my name. “Who are you?” “I’m a Bahá’í in __.” “What is Bahá’í?” When I gave an explanation, my focus was on unity and our shared belief in Christ. . . .

I then told him, “Sir, my understanding is that your daughter is interested in the Bahá’í Faith. Since she is a minor and living in your home, neither I nor any other Bahá’ís will speak to her or invite her to anything without you and your wife’s permission. We respect your leadership and protection. We have no clergy, but there is an administration. So if I don’t sound like a preacher, that’s why.” I then offered to help arrange for a few Bahá’ís in their town to meet with him, his wife and their daughter. We chatted a bit more.

Then he said, “I’ll put my daughter on the phone. You can speak with her. It was nice talking with you.”

So now I have spoken with both of __’s parents. I am so thankful to Bahá’u’lláh for guiding me on what to say. No credit goes to me, only to the Blessed Beauty and for everyone’s prayers.

When __ got on the phone, we rejoiced in finally reaching each other! It was a happy moment. Since it was already late evening, I suggested that we talk a little now and speak again another time soon. Before talking about the Faith, I explained to her how important it is that she be transparent and open with her parents, and that the Bahá’ís in her town, and I, would be too. Her parents must give permission. I also asked her to think about the idea of local Bahá’ís coming to visit, since I am in another part of the region.

Please continue to pray for this youth, her parents and me.

Accompanying Local Assemblies to respond to online declarations of Faith

As more and more individuals are taking the opportunity to declare online their belief in Bahá’u’lláh, more and more local communities are learning how to respond to this growing population of “online registrants”. We are delighted to share an email conversation between one of the Seeker Response System “regional specialists” (who are the first responders to online registrants”) and a secretary of a Local Spiritual Assembly. It clearly and cogently outlines the key elements of the enrollment process and the various roles of the friends at the national, regional and local levels. It is also a wonderful example of empowerment through accompaniment. We’ve left in some of the “technical jargon” in the messages, because it is very relevant to Local Spiritual Assemblies who may in the near future have a new believer who enters the Faith through this channel in their own localities.

1. Regional Specialist to LSA:

Dear __ and __,


My name is __ and I serve the Seeker Response System for this region. As you may be aware, the National Spiritual Assembly has recently re-instituted the ability to declare one's belief in Bahá’u’lláh via the internet. At this stage in the process, when we receive such submissions, I contact the individual in order to affirm their belief in Bahá’u’lláh's Station and ensure they understand they are joining the Cause. . . .

Mr. __, who lives in your community, recently submitted his declaration online and we spoke by phone today. He indeed understands he is joining the Faith and at this point, the Office of Membership & Records simply needs your Spiritual Assembly's electronic "countersignature" to finalize the enrollment. I will forward the file to your community's eMembership program where it will reside in the "Pending Members" queue, awaiting your follow-up. An automatic email will be sent notifying you of this. Please note that there is no need to enter in new information into eMembership (as a typical enrollment), as this will create a duplicate file.

In order to expedite the process, we ask that you complete this precious soul's enrollment process promptly and see to it that he is accompanied in the path of service to the Blessed Beauty. Should you need assistance or are unable to get to his file in eMembership, we'll be happy to finalize the enrollment for you at the National Teaching Office. Please let me know if you have any questions - we are here to assist and you may contact me by phone or email.

With warm Baha'i greetings,


2. LSA reply to Regional Specialist

Dear J,

Thank you so much for such wonderful news. I have looked at the Pending File in the Membership record. The question I have is whether the LSA needs to approve or can I go ahead as the Secretary and Enroll Mr. __?

M and I know __ personally and were in a deepening class together and our community has tried to be as warm and welcoming as possible so I can state that from my interactions and experiences with him, he does have a very deep and good understanding of the Faith and knows what it means to join. Of course I cannot tell you how excited I am. Thank you again for giving us such wonderful news.

I look forward to hearing back from you about what to do with regards to his enrollment.

Warm Regards,


3. Regional Specialist reply to LSA

Dear M,

Thank you for your quick response!

The way the online registration and handling process is designed - at this point - is that once the affirmation has taken place (which I do by phone and in the future may work through a designated believer in the cluster), you may then simply go ahead as Secretary and finalize the enrollment.

As you see his file in the Pending area, please use this. (Some friends have been confused and entered in a whole new file for the registrant, creating a duplicate entry.) The Assembly may of course reach out to __, welcoming him to the community. But there's no need to wait for extra visits or affirmations to be conducted. In other areas, there have been upwards of 1 new registrant a week for the past month. Hence, working through a quick enrollment process (over the course of 2 or 3 days) is crucial. Deepening, and particularly using Book 2 themes, will obviously be important, but we need not hinge the enrollment on these taking place prior to finalizing his status.

I hope this answers your questions as we learn about the process by working through it. Once you finalize __'s file, I will receive an auto email. Of course, if you have other questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes,


4. LSA to Regional Specialist

Dear J,

I went ahead and approved the pending enrollment. I hope it all went through. This is very exciting news for our community and I am so glad to be educated about this streamlined process. It is so much better.

Please confirm it is done and there is nothing more needed from my end.

Warmest Regards


5. Regional Specialist to LSA

Dear __ and __,

This truly has been exemplary of how the processing can go! And yes, once we understand just how it's designed to work, it is very simple. As our new believer stated, "I think the process is so genius and straight-forward!"

This time around, nothing is needed on your end, apart from accompanying him as you would any other new Baha'i according to the Framework. These new online registrants do come into the SRS database, and in time, you'll be able to see them alongside the seekers. For right now, we're ironing out the kinks and learning the processes at the regional level. As others come in around the cluster, I'll keep you in the loop and may give you some to affirm (as I did over the phone), while I handle the technical aspects.

In this case, __ was well known to you both and has himself done much deepening / study / participating. We will however get folks who have only briefly encountered Bahá’u’lláh's teachings, while never having met a Bahá’í. We handle them the same way: rapid affirmation on my part (or your part), rapid enrollment processing, and then systematic deepening and involvement in the core activities. For this, the ATC or your LSA could delegate a team to do the home visiting.

On a side note, because __ is from a sensitive country, his file is making a slight detour to the Office of Membership & Records for clearance. So there may be a slight delay before he shows up as a full status member. This is standard protocol and we all have done everything appropriately on our end. Where this is not the case, the full enrollment will be instant.

So, thank you dear friends, and hopefully we'll have another one soon!



The learning deepens the second time around

One of the most interesting teaching efforts to study are those clusters that have launched intensive programs of growth and are now on their SECOND cycle. In the first cycle, most of the time the focus of the reports is naturally the joys and delighted surprise of the friends as they discover what it is like to share the Message directly and see with their own eyes the receptivity. But it is in the second cycle that the friends start experiencing more fully some of the other aspects of the IPG, particularly that it is a long-term process. The requirements—and possibilities—that emerge when one looks at things from a long-term view are much vaster than a one-time teaching project. That is what is reflected in this brief report from Kentuckiana, KY (A), with teaching teams sharing their experiences from their second expansion phase. They have embarked on a commitment to a very diverse and receptive community, and are already seeing exciting results.

One team met with a gentleman who declared his belief in Bahá’u’lláh today. He has a wife and two children who weren’t at home, so he wants the Bahá’ís to return soon and share the Message with his family.

Wow! Another team met with a family, and the mother and 3 children enrolled in the Faith. Another child who was visiting wants to become a Bahá’í also, but the teaching team will need to visit with his parents first.

Another team met some wonderful friends of __, who enrolled during the first expansion phase. This demonstrates how important it is for us to keep going back to this neighborhood. It will become easier and easier as we get to know more residents, and, more importantly, as they get to know us.

Everyone’s prayers and support are needed. If you wish to be on a team, call any of the coordinators and join in. You can do direct teaching, make home visits, help set up devotional gatherings in the homes of the new believers, help with children’s classes, be a silent prayer partner, etc. It’s not too late to participate!

Emergence of "the big picture"

With each cycle of an IPG, the friends gain more and more insights from their experiences: This approach works well, that approach doesn’t work so well. A is good and so is B and C, but when you put A + B + C together, things get really sustainable. And so on. This recent report from Phoenix, AZ (A) contains a lot of these types of insights (the one on children’s classes is particularly interesting). But what is really exciting is how the insights are collectively over time crystallizing into a “big picture”. And that big picture is how all the elements of the Plan are resulting in the emergence of a new community life and the empowerment of a growing number of new believers.

When the teaching teams understand coherence and have a unity of vision for building a spiritual community and are accompanied, they will begin to have systematic action in the neighborhoods and cluster at large. For instance, one team began devotionals with the purpose of inviting seekers to a Book 1 study circle. This has resulted in 8 seekers and 2 Bahá’ís in a regular study circle! Another team started with children’s classes, and then eventually organized devotional gatherings with the parents of the students. . . .

Forming neighborhood or “Book 2 teaching teams” (who visit new believers and share the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2) is an effective way to help those friends who haven't yet found a particular path of service to arise.

We have tried very hard to hold regular neighborhood Feasts. This has allowed for consistent and improved quality of the Feast, and has been a success.

One new approach to children’s classes: Instead of offering to families to start a children’s class (and then looking for a teacher), we did the converse. We looked for an individual in the neighborhood who wanted to teach the class (with accompaniment from the friends). So she is helping organize the class and is studying Ruhi Book 3. In this way we are empowering the neighborhood from the beginning by raising up people of capacity. While we are of course also serving the neighborhood by offering the classes, our greatest service is the empowerment of new believers. We plan to do the same in other neighborhoods.

When holding Holy Day observances in the neighborhoods, this helps strengthen the community as a whole.

We have decided to build on existing strengths in the various neighborhoods. For example, if one neighborhood has a strong devotional gathering, we will work to strengthen other core activities around it.

Austin just explains it clearly and with love

Boy, I THOUGHT I understood what this Five Year Plan and all these IPGs were about. But leave it to the friends in Austin, TX (A) to show me how much more I have to learn! We’re sharing here a brief article from their most recent newsletter. It gives the most elegant, the most natural, the most simple explanation I have ever seen of what we’re supposed to do during the expansion phase of an intensive program of growth.

I think the true test of how well you understand and have internalized something is reflected in how clearly you can explain it to others. And the friends here have perfectly done so—as well as being loving and encouraging and empowering. They are truly showing that everyone can find a part to play in the expansion phase and it’s not complicated or mysterious at all.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Expansion Phase

Q. What should I do during the expansion phase of this cycle?

A. As someone you know (or don’t know) if they would like to hear what the Bahá’í Faith is about.

Q. What do I say?

A. Say:

1. God is unknowable; Manifestations are like mirrors

2. Bahá’u’lláh is the most recent Manifestation

3. The purpose of the Bahá’í Faith is . . .

4. Bahá’u’lláh

5. The Báb

6. The Covenant and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

7. Spiritual laws

8. Let them know how to join our Faith

(See “Anna’s presentation” for details.)

Q. Where do I do this?

A. Anywhere—in a fireside, in a study circle, after a devotional, with a coworker, with family, with a neighbor, in a neighborhood, with a long-time friend who may know something about the Faith but has never heard an overview of the essential facts about the Faith.

A wonderful resource for teaching is [link is on blog on “Resources” section on right margin]. This has many resources in many languages.

Of course your area teaching committee will provide resources and locations for collective direct teaching on the weekends of the expansion phase, however, this is but one path for teaching during this time. Please share with us your thoughts, plans, experiences or resources that have been helpful to you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Search Tool Added to the Blog!

Looking for a particular story on this site, you can’t remember exactly when it was posted or what labels it had, you just remember the name of the city in which the story took place or a particular phrase in the story?

Yesterday, we would have had to say, good luck (Ha Ha Ha), because there would have been no way to find what you were looking for other than clicking on every single story, one by one. In the early days when we had just a few dozen stories on this site, that would have been manageable. But, as with teaching, growth creates the need for new approaches and resources. And since you all have been teaching and teaching and teaching and then sending tons of stories of your experiences, this site has GROWN over the months big time!

SO AS OF TODAY there is now a “Search” tool on this blog (at the upper right corner). This allows you to search the content of the entire blog, including the resource links at the right. Type in any word or phrase, and all the stories that contain that word will come up. Enjoy!