How can Bahá’ís on a college or university campus most effectively teach the Faith? How can they most effectively contribute to the efforts in their cluster overall, including, if it’s an A-stage cluster, their cluster’s intensive program of growth? How can cluster agencies support the initiatives of Bahá’ís on campus? These are compelling questions, and we were exciting to receive the following insights that have been gained from a number of experiences on campus. Some key elements: individual initiative, on-campus teaching teams, flexibility, and regular communication with the core team.
The discussion was sparked from an initial question from a member of a Regional Bahá’í Council to all the Auxiliary Board members in the region:
A question has come up recently about youth groups and college clubs. In your experiences within your clusters, are there organizations, institutions and/or agencies responsible for campus clubs and/or youth groups? For example, there is a cluster in which weekly firesides are taking place at a local college. The person coordinating the firesides also hopes to involve all youth of the cluster, and wants to know how such an effort could be coordinated and supported. . . .
One Auxiliary Board member’s reply:
We've been experimenting with looking at college clubs as networks of teaching teams. For example, two friends on a teaching team live in the same dorm and develop friendships with and find new members of the community of interest from other residents of that dorm. They bring these seekers to regular events supported by the entire college club, but their focus is to nurture their interest through regular visits to those seekers. One member of the college club collects information about core activities, community of interest, and declarations and conveys this information to the area teaching committee secretary, much like a neighborhood coordinator might. The cluster institute coordinator is also involved with these campus associations as needed to provide refreshers or institute courses. In this way data is made available to and analyzed by the core team, which can then make recommendations as to where receptivity is being seen and how future activities can be planned.
We have been learning that colleges often cannot hold to the same cycle dates as the rest of the cluster due to midterms/major campus events that get in the way. For this reason we have been encouraging the Bahá’í Campus Associations to work on a different cycle, often with their own expansion activities being planned for more relaxed times of the year such as the beginning of the semester or right after exams. In this way, although the college students might be less visible to the greater Bahá’í community, by working in their natural environment and focusing on teaching their peers, we hope the sustainability of their efforts can increase.
These are just a few things we've been trying. I look forward to hearing other ideas!
Regional Bahá’í Council member:
This sounds very logical. Which universities in which clusters are involved?
Auxiliary Board member:
Most of this has been with one university. The other colleges in these clusters are less active, though we're working on that too.
The main challenge has been helping foster individual planning of teaching rather than trying to get everyone to do one activity. This can avoid college students feeling pulled away to support off-campus activities and therefore unable to focus on the many on-campus opportunities. It also helps reinforce for the non-college youth that just hanging out with college youth does not automatically mean you are serving.
One recent success: Teaching teams brought their seekers to a campus social event organized by the club. It was a place where the seekers could have a sense of community, and they were nurtured individually over the rest of the week. No teaching happened at the initial social event, yet most of the participants eventually became Bahá’ís!
Hope this is helpful!