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):
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. . . .