Sunday, November 16, 2008

One starts the conversation, the other shares the presentation

(Bangkok, 16 November)

Here is an excerpt from two very interesting reports from a teaching project held at a university in Bangkok:

"What we learnt most from our experience from going teaching at the University is courage, because this time we had to teach people who we did not know..."

After many prayers and planning, we broke into teaching teams and went direct teaching at Ramkhamhaeng University . This site was decided upon for several reasons: a higher number of people are available to approach, the student population tends to be younger and more open to new ideas, and the university is closely located to many of those who would be available for consolidation.

Our group of three went straight to an area of study Salas where many people were sitting. We sat down looking for small groups of one or two individuals. We saw a group of two young women, and without hesitation, walked up and introduced ourselves. We asked if they were free to listen for about 20 minutes about the Baha'i Faith. They confirmed, and we broke out Anna's presentation. We went through the first part of the presentation until we came to the time to ask our "checkpoint" questions. We asked if "the teachings they heard about would be hard to follow?" They answered 'no'. We asked "Did they believe that Baha'u'llah was a prophet of God for today?" They answered 'yes'. Encouraged by their responses, we then collected contact information and chatted for a few minutes. One of the young women hadn't slept the whole night as she had worked the night shift at a local mini mart so we said our goodbyes.

- Aa.

Last Saturday, we had a chance to go teaching at the Ramkhamheng University which we had a chance to teach two people. First was Mr. Salit. Since this was the first time that our team (I and Jit) decided to go out and teach total strangers, we were so nervous and scared. It took us a while to finally build up the courage to go up to strangers but finally we decided to approach Khun Salit. We planed it in such a way that one of us would be the one who starts the conversation and the other would share the Anna’s presentation. This time Jit went in first to approach him and I was the one who shared the Anna’s presentation. The sharing part went smoothly; he did not ask many questions, probably because he was shy. Afterwards we gave him a pamphlet to keep for further information and asked for his contact number...

What we learnt most from our experience from going teaching at the University is courage, because this time we had to teach people who we did not know at all which is something we have never done before and is very difficult. There were times when we got rejected or perceived as weird, but after a few times it gets easier, even though that day no one we taught declared, our hearts we filled with joy and happiness.

- Ar.

(Reported from the Bangkok Cluster Growth Committee)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Learning about planning and human resources

(IL, 14 November)

Here are a couple of key learnings gained in the Chicago, IL (A-stage) cluster:

Study circles can be very effective when they are in small groups, for example a 2 or 3 people including the tutor. It helps respond directly to a seeker’s needs, there is no time wasted in waiting to put together a group, and after the study circle has started, there is more flexibility.

Planning in the last few cycles has been first strategy based and second resource based. A key learning has been that planning should be resource based first and then strategy based as well. This is related to learning gained about teaching and the institute process. We have learned that if the friends participate in the institute process without being involved in teaching, it slows down the teaching work, just as we have learned that if people participate in teaching without also being involved in the institute process it creates challenges for follow-up activities with new believers. A balance of both is needed for growth, so the cluster institute coordinators are working with the tutors to strengthen the friends’ understanding of—and participation in—the institute process.

Friday, September 5, 2008

No development without emotional stirring, no achievements without sacrifice

Here is an anecdote about our role as individuals from a talk held by a prominent Bahá'í recently:

No development and spiritual transformation can take place without our emotions being stirred, and no achievements can be accomplished without sacrifice. The goal ahead of us is, to

1) prepare ourselves spiritually

2) do what is our own unique part with a pure motive

3) ask the Concourse on High for guidance and leave the rest to the Almighty

4) prepare ourselves to receive the answer when it comes.

Also be aware that time is short.
Try to make some time so that you can do more of the things that make your heart leap in your chest with the feeling of being part of something BIG - something much bigger than both little you and I, and six billion other souls can comprehend.

If it doesn't come to anything, you can safely suppose that it was not meant to be and perhaps does not fit into God's Greater Plan.

In general, what will benefit us most is to center our energies in whatever concerns the well-being of mankind.

(Some relevant passages from the writings:)

"Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self."

Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 87

"Forget your own selves, and turn your eyes towards your neighbor. Bend your energies to whatever may foster the education of men."

Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 9

Monday, September 1, 2008


Here is a concise book review of the recent important publication from the International Teaching Center, with a Foreword by the Universal House of Justice.

The book is for sale through Baha'i booksellers/Publishing Trusts. Pasted at the end of this blog is the text of the book's introduction.

CommuNIqué - Newsletter of the Bahá'í Community in Northern Ireland, 1 September 2008


"Attaining the Dynamics of Growth"



What a very moving document indeed, seeing the friends in different continents engaged in the same activities as ourselves, striving to present Baha’u’llah’s Message ‘’in a manner both forthcoming and inviting’’ (message dated 27 December 2005 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors). This document picks one advanced cluster from each continent, gives us an account of their activities as they advance the process of entry by troops and finishes with an inspiring closing analysis.

For anyone who usually doesn’t read the introduction to a document or book or other, I would highly encourage you to read this introduction ( by the Universal House of Justice) as it puts you in the right frame of mind. A glimpse of the introduction; at the beginning the Universal House of Justice tells us ‘’you will, we hope, not be content only to read the narrative but will try to identify the principles, qualities, and approaches that have made possible the progress achieved.’’

First is London. We learn about their Intensive Programmes of Growth, how the teaching teams played a pivotal role in moving the process, utilising study circles as environments for teaching, their challenges and glimpses of their growth. I very much enjoyed the stories too.
Next up was Norte del Cauca (Colombia). This is where the Ruhi Institute was born. We read about the mobilisation of the friends to teach, the multiplication of core activities, being more systematic in their Intensive Programmes of Growth. As their human resources were increasing one of their challenges identified was to empower the friends to acquire a greater consciousness of their responsibility to contribute to community life. Joyfully at the end of this case study we are once again reminded that all of theirs activities were spiritual enterprises.
Bihar Sharif (India). An amazing story of how the Bahá’í community transformed from the grass roots up through the acts of individuals, how they manage large-scale expansion and consolidation and in building capacity in the next generation (children and junior youth).
Tiriki West (Kenya). We read about how the local population was very receptive to the Faith but consolidation was a major hurdle and how it was then addressed. We learn about community life, teaching teams and the rapid expansion of children’s classes and junior youth groups.
Finally we visit South Tarawa, Kiribati (located in the South Pacific Ocean). This case study focuses heavily on the involvement of youth in the process of expansion and consolidation. There is also a lovely piece on reflection meetings.

After the five case studies we come to the closing analysis. The closing analysis is like the ‘ending of a good book’ and so I shall not spoil it for you. Needless to say, reading each case study carefully will enhance your appreciation of the ending.


If you are a US-Baha'i, the whole book is available (with a password) through the national website ( in PDF-format (a pretty large file, about 60 MB).

Attaining the dynamics of growth

Glimpses from five continents

Prepared by the International Teaching Centre

Baháí World Centre

April 2008


To the delegates attending the Tenth International Bahá’í Convention . 2

London, United Kingdom . 5

Norte del Cauca, Colombia . 15

Bihar Sharif, India . 25

Tiriki West, Kenya . 35

South Tarawa, Kiribati . 45

Acceleration of Learning . 55

To the delegates attending the Tenth International Bahá’í Convention

In just a few years, the intensive programme of growth has emerged as a powerful means for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith on a large scale. Leading the process of learning that impels progress are scores of clusters where the friends have, through painstaking, systematic effort, come to understand how best to implement the cycles of activity that constitute such a programme. So instructive is the experience of these clusters, we asked the International Teaching Centre to choose one example from each continent and prepare a document that would demonstrate at once the diversity of conditions in which the believers everywhere are labouring and the coherent vision that unites them as they advance the process of entry by troops. The document consists of five case studies and a closing analysis. It is inspiring indeed, and we commend it to your study.

While the case studies offer an impressive account of the activity in each cluster, you will, we hope, not be content only to read the narrative but will try to identify the principles, qualities, and approaches that have made possible the progress achieved. What should become clear to you is how aptly the friends and institutions in the clusters have managed to exploit the framework for action referred to in our 27 December 2005 message to breathe the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation into places as diverse as the crowded city of London and the tiny island group of Kiribati.

Immediately apparent from the description of all five clusters is the degree to which the friends have relied on the power of divine assistance; this has fortified them in the field of action and enabled them to persevere in the face of inevitable difficulties. Equally evident is the sense of purpose that animates their endeavours—a purpose complemented by the attitude of learning they have espoused. Even more striking, however, is the way these attributes are perpetuated in the body of believers as it grows in size, for in all cases they have come to characterize not only individual action but also the community’s as a whole. So focused is the collective energy of the friends as they carry out the central tasks of the Five Year Plan, whether in taking individual initiative or participating in organized campaigns, that they are catching the first glimpses of what it means for their powers to be multiplied in unified action.

In reading the case studies, you will note how the approaches adopted and the system of administration employed serve as means for facilitating the dynamics of such unified action. In every cluster, fellowship and support are the watchwords in this respect. Whether they are paying a visit to a family’s home to draw them into a conversation about the Faith or helping one another to perform acts of service as part of their study of the institute courses, it is the joy of accompanying other souls on their spiritual journey that motivates the believers.

This same motivating force guides the institutions and agencies operating in the cluster in their efforts to administer the intensive programme of growth. Clearly the complexity of the coordination schemes in the five clusters varies to some extent. Yet, irrespective of the level of complexity, the administrative mechanisms in place represent a response to the desire of an increasing number of friends who are eager to express the ardour of their faith in action; these provide them with the support needed to participate in teaching teams, to host devotional meetings, to conduct children’s classes, to form junior youth groups, and to establish study circles. That the institutions and agencies involved are able to maintain such a responsive form of administration testifies to the high degree of organizational skill and flexibility they have attained.

In the closing analysis, the International Teaching Centre examines the strategies being employed to transfer the experience gained in advanced clusters, such as the five described here, to those in earlier stages of growth. The effect of such transference has been remarkable. What sometimes required several years for the friends in one cluster to accomplish can now be learned in another in a relatively short span of time. Often within a matter of months, as pointed out by the Teaching Centre, a dynamic pattern of activity, reflecting the equal emphasis placed on the twin processes of expansion and consolidation, can be established. Invariably, the believers take immediate ownership for the programme of growth, and unity of thought is soon reached. As they begin to put into practice what they have learned through the study of institute courses, especially related to direct teaching methods, they see their efforts confirmed and preconceived notions about the lack of receptivity fall away. Their commitment to the process of growth is raised to higher and higher levels as they are drawn into decision making at the reflection meeting. Plans laid down by the institutions and agencies serving the cluster become increasingly effective as their ability to interpret the experience acquired by the friends is gradually sharpened. They are able to think strategically, to set priorities, and to use resources judiciously. Moreover, they identify believers capable of shouldering added responsibilities in pursuit of plans and channel the energies of growing numbers in service to the Cause. The community thrives as it lovingly embraces new believers. In short, the process of capacity building in the three protagonists of the Plan accelerates at a tremendous rate. It is this development that heartens us most and which gives us confidence that the potential of the Five Year Plan will be realized.

The Universal House of Justice

Ridván 2008

"I become better friends with people when I have spiritual conversations with them"

Here are some inspiring and helpful stories about teaching methods and observations (red color added).


CommuNIqué - Newsletter of the Bahá'í Community in Northern Ireland
1 September 2008 CE



These are actual quotes from people involved in activities in the “Northern Lights” Cluster. They are shared with us by the Area Teaching Committee. These aren’t “Dear Friends, We must….” exhortations—these are the real thing, in “handy bite-size chunks”!

1. How did a new believer come to recognize Bahá'u'lláh?

“We met someone at a social occasion who seemed very interested in the Faith so we arranged to visit her the following week to tell her more.
We went to her house and used ‘Anna’s presentation’ to explain the Faith and covered up to the story of the Báb stopping along the way for discussion.
Soon after she came to our place and we continued the presentation with her. After the presentation we asked her what she thought about it. She said she was deeply affected by it. We asked her if she believed in Bahá'u'lláh and she said yes. We then explained that as Bahá'ís there are laws we all follow and an administration that we must obey. She accepted and declared.
We learned the power of ‘Anna’s presentation’ to help seekers recognize the station of Bahá'u'lláh.”

2. Accompaniment

“I was asked to join a study circle and assist in the accompaniment of the study circle participants.
All the participants naturally become friends during the study circle and with one new friend we would meet up and talk about spiritual things, study a prayer, go to the cinema and other social events.
This new friend had many questions about the Faith and was investigating it, so naturally I offered to share a presentation of the Faith which he was very happy with. I shared ‘Anna’s presentation’ in my own words and with a booklet beside me for prompting.
Importantly I believe I made it clear to him that Bahá'ís believe in Bahá'u'lláh as the Manifestation of God for today and that if he wished to join us in building a new world he was very welcome.
I learned during and after the presentation that he knew the Faith was global and was for everyone.
He said he was still investigating the Faith. Being direct and clear with people gives them the opportunity to make informed decisions. I will accompany him in his investigation of the Faith.”

3. Making lists to help me be more systematic

“My teaching team met prior to the expansion phase. At that meeting and after I made a list of people I wanted to share the Faith with and what I needed to do with each individual.
I decided to visit a new friend with the intention of raising our conversations to a spiritual nature. It was excellent. We talked about the importance of work, family, building healthy relationships and much more. Time flew by as we both really enjoyed sharing our thoughts. I explained that many of my thoughts and views are inspired from the Writings of the Bahá'í Faith.
He was impressed to hear that as Bahá’í we try to serve mankind. This led into me sharing about the core activities. I explained and gave him the vision of what study circles are for and invited him to join one.
He said he would like to. I am learning that I become better friends with people when you have spiritual conversations as you then begin to understand better their thoughts and views on life. People are more than happy to hear about the Faith. I wonder if I am sometimes hesitant!
He is my new friend and naturally I plan to home visit him and meet up at social events. I’m sure also that sometime soon I will share ‘Anna’s presentation with him’. He is on my list of people who want to do a book 1 and as a trained tutor I am working on inviting others to form a study circle.”

There are many more examples of progress and learning in the Area Teaching Committee’s newsletter. The Bahá'í Council recently asked the ATC to make it available to the Friends throughout NI—please read it, you’ll enjoy and learn!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Experience inviting to a study circle

This happened just last week. Since then, two more newfound seekers, another Chinese girl and a Polish man, expressed their wish to join the study circle to learn more about the Faith! We will be having our first meeting this Sunday.

We were a mixed gender team who had invited a (Chinese) friend of ours to a devotional/fireside last December which she said she had enjoyed. Since then, she had been busy until June finishing her thesis. On Friday we invited her in a message through Facebook to know what the Baha’i Faith is about, since we hadn't had the opportunity to really tell her about it. We said that, in brief, the Baha’is are engaged in building a new world civilization, and ultimately transforming the present one. We are learning to apply the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh in our personal lives and social relations in order to build a peaceful and just society. We then invited her to learn about the Faith on Sunday at a team member's place.

When she came, we gave her most of Anna's presentation. She said that she was generally not religious, but she turned out to be very open and commented positively on what we said. Then we had dinner, and afterwards brought out Ruhi book 1 to give her a taster. We briefly told her its purpose, opened the book to the first exercises of unit one, and did three of the questions. Then we skipped to the part on prayer and answered the first couple of questions together. We asked if she would be willing to participate in a study circle starting next weekend, to which she agreed, and even suggested we have it at her place!

Musical fireside using 'Anna's presentation'

This is from an inspiring post (slightly edited) on Chantelle's blog:
Note the discerning use of arts and media as a means for attracting hearts when presenting the sacred Message of Bahá'u'lláh:

[I] had an incredible experience back home, we had a musical fireside the second Saturday I was back at my house, and [my father] who's not a Baha'i brought along his new tenant who had shown an interest in the Faith when she saw the newspaper article in his office with my massive face on it saying "Baha'i baby."
- "Are you a Baha'i?"
- "No, my daughter is, she just got back from Israel, she can tell you all about it."
So we organised this event, with her in mind, going through 'Anna's presentation' with songs dispersed throughout and two videos, and slide show with quotes on....
It was AMAZING, we had three interested people come, and [after the presentation] we all naturally paired off and went through in more detail what we had covered using the flipcharts....for about 45 minutes we did that one-on-one type deepening and the room was alive... [My mother] handed out dessert and we continued, then the lady [my father had] brought came to me and said "I just told Chelsea and I would like to tell you that I would like to formally become a Baha'i" - Stunned look on Chantelle's face....
"Wow...yes oh my gosh...thats great"
Of course we have no declaration cards...but yeah...she just instantly recognised Baha'u'llah in those two hours...
She is from India, had been living in NZ for two years, and told me, at the age of 13 she [had encountered a man in New Dehli who informed her about] the building of the 'new Baha'i Temple'. From that moment on she was intrigued by this Faith...and then as a 32 year old living in NZ....she finally finds out more deeply about it and declares...
What a gift.
I sat and talked with her at her place quite a few times..., it was like meeting my sister in a way...we just got each other!!

Chantelle adds in an email to me about what they did after the media presentation, studying together one-on-one:

[Basically, the initial, general] presentation took highlights of [Anna's presentation], such as relationship to God, Manifestation, Baha'u'llah, the Covenant, Oneness of humanity, and then we went through step-by-step in more detail of Anna's presentation in flipchart form so they [could] internalise what they just saw and dig [deeper] into concepts.

Thank you, Miss Brader!

(Emphasis added. Used with permission of the author. - A.)
(This post is mirrored here: )

Friday, August 1, 2008

Invite the hearer to join a core activity or fireside

It occurred to me that while presenting the Faith through "Anna's presentation" I could focus my intention on involving the listener in one of the core activities (be it a devotional meeting, study circle, or children's-/junior youth class) or a fireside--perhaps, instead of inviting the person to declare his faith directly. Here in Norway especially, given the high level of skepticism to and negative (historically motivated) perceptions about organized religion. this may be a wise approach. Besides, by participating in these activities the person is actually doing the Baha'i work of building a new civilization, and is thus, in a sense, a "Baha'i" believer!

Whosoever works for unity and fellowship is a servant of Bahá'u'lláh, and Bahá'u'lláh is his assistant and helper.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, PUP p. 324

Whosoever is lacking in love for humanity or manifests hatred and bigotry toward any part of it violates the foundation and source of his own belief and is holding to forms and imitations. Jesus Christ declares that the sun rises upon the evil and the good, and the rain descends upon the just and the unjust--upon all humanity alike. Christ was a divine mercy which shone upon all mankind, the medium for the descent of the bounty of God, and the bounty of God is transcendent, unrestricted, universal.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, PUP p. 41

If men followed the Holy Counsels and the Teachings of the Prophets, if Divine Light shone in all hearts and men were really religious, we should soon see peace on earth and the Kingdom of God among men. The laws of God may be likened unto the soul and material progress unto the body. If the body was not animated by the soul, it would cease to exist. It is my earnest prayer that spirituality may ever grow and increase in the world, so that customs may become enlightened and peace and concord may be established.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, PT p. 108

The children of men are all brothers, and the prerequisites of brotherhood are manifold. Among them is that one should wish for one’s brother that which one wisheth for oneself. Therefore, it behoveth him who is the recipient of an inward or outward gift or who partaketh of the bread of heaven to inform and invite his friends with the utmost love and kindness. If they respond favourably, his object is attained; otherwise he should leave them to themselves without contending with them or uttering a word that would cause the least sadness. This is the undoubted truth, and aught else is unworthy and unbecoming.

Bahá’u’lláh, ToU 41

A place to share experiences with teaching the Faith

In carrying out the act of teaching the Baha'i Faith, a natural concomitant is reflecting on experiences gained.

This blog intends to document some thoughts, ideas and experiences related to this activity.
You may also wish to visit another of my blogs at


(Header image is Copyright of the Bahá'í International Community,