(US – 25 January)

Wonderful insights emerge from selected learning-arenas on how to make the expansion and consolidation process sustainable. (Cursive in article added.)

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Each effort has to yield new fruit

In some regions, certain clusters have been identified as “Learning Labs”. These clusters regularly host visitors from other clusters (and sometimes other parts of the country), enabling the visitors, through on-the-ground participation in service, to learn from their experiences. It is a conversation arising out of action. We are VERY excited to share some intriguing and rich insights generated from a recent visit to one such Learning Lab. Working within the vision outlined by the Universal House of Justice, the friends are reaching out to their neighbors, focusing on finding new human resources, and walking together to build new patterns of community life.

Here are just some of the insights shared by the friends in the Learning Lab cluster:

A few cycles ago the cluster was focused on trying to achieve high numbers of declarations over the two-week expansion phase. This level of enrollments had proven to be beyond the capacity of the community to carry out consolidation, and so was therefore unsustainable. . . .

Now the focus is on coherent growth: This is growth that is structured but organic. The “structure” is formed by a network of core activities that takes root ever more strongly in a neighborhood, and the key unit of service is the teaching team.

Thus the focus is on establishing an initial core activity with a family or group of neighbors. It is CRUCIAL that the team be able to mobilize resources from the neighborhood they are serving. Thus, teaching projects do not begin with trying to share direct presentations about the Faith. Rather, they focus first on finding people who want to collaborate in realizing the work and vision of building a spiritual community through establishing core activities. When these individuals become interested in learning about the Faith, then at that point the teachers would of course then teach them.

Each effort has to yield new fruit. For example, a devotional meeting could lead to opportunities to share Anna’s conversation or to start children’s classes. The friends here have learned that when an effort does not yield fruit, it becomes unsustainable and eventually dies out. This is not a bad thing, because it frees up resources for other efforts with more potential.

A teaching team needs to be grounded in the terms of discourse used by the Universal House of Justice; for example, children’s class teachers need to view their service in terms of creating centers of attraction for children that strengthen the roots of Faith in society. Unless we view our efforts the way the Universal House of Justice views them, we will not achieve the results that the Universal House of Justice is calling for.

Efficient collaboration and sharing of learning between teams, support, prayer, encouragement, and joy are all vital.

In short, “intensity” does not mean bringing many people to one uniform level of activity. Now it involves everyone stretching just a bit more each IPG cycle and thereby gaining a little more capacity to serve. The “intensity” is in the rhythmic pattern of progress, rather than a frenetic pace of fragmented effort.

And here are some of the ways how the visitors “carried the learning home”, particularly the goal of each effort yielding additional fruits:

A Book 6 study circle has taken on, as part of its regular activity, home visits to a new believer to share the deepening themes from Book 2. The goal is to start a Book 1 study circle with this believer upon the completion of the deepening themes.

A monthly devotional gathering has resulting in a number of participants declaring their Faith in Bahá’u’lláh, and appears to be ready to give birth to a Book 1 study circle.

Home visits to another new believer is attracting the sustained attention of family and friends—growing the community of interest.

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Children’s classes strengthening the roots of community life

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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… 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. …

– The Universal House of Justice, Attaining the Dynamics of Growth, Introduction (emphasis added)

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(Adapted from the teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2010/01/each-effort-has-to-yield-new-fruit.html. Image copyright Bahá’í National Center of the United States – view here.)