A Systematic Approach to Teaching

Teaching materials are most effective when they are seen as one step in a continuing dialog with a seeker, rather than as a surrogate teacher.  For this reason, it is  wise to think of each item as part of a series designed to guide a seeker along a continuum of interest.  I describe this continuum by explaining that a seekers must:

 

    notice before they can see,

    see before they can want

    want before they can take

    take before they can keep

    keep before they can read

    read before they can understand

    understand before they can consider

    consider before they can accept

    accept before they can believe.

 

This system operates differently at literature tables than between people, and differently between friends than strangers.  But in essence it means that you must look for an entry point – something that will be welcomed – and then move on to more direct materials.

 

Interestingly, mini-books and teaching cards, two seemingly different items, have more in common with each other than either do with pamphlets.  This is because both a colorful card and a beautiful book are perceived as gifts, while pamphlets are seen as propaganda.  Unless the reader is seriously interested in the topic, the pamphlet is more likely to be thrown away.

 

So if you want to give away a pamphlet, link it to something attractive like a teaching card, prayer book, greeting card, sticker, balloon, or give-away art print.  If these are going to a friend, keep track of what you have given them, and let each new  gift relate to the one before.

 

 

Possible combinations include:

          World Citizen cards or stickersZ Environmental art print Z  Who are the Bahá’ís tape & script Z  The Promise of World Peace  Z Growing Into Peace.

          No Room stickers  Z No Room Poster/ pamphlets Z  A Vision of Race Unity pamphlet  Z Noble booklet

          Teaching or Prayer card Z  Nine Reasons pamphlet Z  Finding Common Ground   ZThe Challenge of Bahá’u’lláh

          Christian greeting card Z  Prayer Book Z  two Christian pamphlets Z  Second Coming Video Z  He Cometh With Clouds

 

Remember: the goal is to keep them thirsty rather than flood them with information up front. 

 

Pamphlets are usually designed for one of two purposes – to give a broad introduction to the Faith to someone who has expressed mild interest, or to outline a more detailed response to a specific question a seeker may have.

 

 

 

 

Picking Pamphlets

 

With interest in the Faith growing, and dozens of new pamphlets, poster/ pamphlets, mini-pamphlets, booklets, and teaching cards hitting the market from several sources, it is more important than ever to pick the right pamphlet.

 

By right I mean appropriate to the time, place and person to whom it is given.  The first thing you need to do is become familiar with what is available.  I highly recommend ordering our sample pack to get started, then consider the following:

 

People Variables:

Religious & Ethnic Background

Topics of Interest

Level of Interest

Reading Skill

 

Pamphlet Variables:

Intended Audience

Topic

Tone

Length

Reading Level

Size & Portability

Beauty

 

Situation Variables:

We are asked for information

We offer information

 

If I said all that I would like to about this, then there would be no room in this catalog for products.  So I will leave it up to you to consider the details of how my pamphlets and those of other people fit into this triad of variables. 

 

The one point I do want to make, however, is that there are two distinct kinds of pamphlets – informational and inspirational. 

 

Informational pamphlets are for people who have a high level of interest in the Faith and are willing to read long, detailed and scholarly pamphlets to satisfy their curiosity on a particular point. 

 

Inspirational pamphlets are designed to take a small spark of curiosity and fan it into a flame that is just bright enough to kindle additional curiosity.

 

There is a true need for both types, but most situations where large amounts of literature can be distributed call for the latter.  That’s why I specialize in items that are short, sweet, attractive, and easy to read.

 

 

 

Note to Guy:

The following three articles – Fund Raising Ideas, Magic Penny and Sacrifice are all related to the fund, so perhaps they could be put on one page, but separated.

 

Subject: Re: Fund Raising Ideas

 

I received this request one day:

 

“We're a small but active community, looking for fundraising ideas,

> particularly for the local fund. The following are some of the ideas that

> we have thought of. We would like to have a large list of creative ideas,

> which we could maintain and share.

>

> Garage Sale

> Soup and Bread (Sacrifice Dinner)

> Hosted Meals (Preset Price)

> Spaghetti Dinner

> Raffle Prizes

> Auctions

>         Silent

>         Auctioneer

>         Progressive

> "Heart Friends" Concert

> Multimedia Presentation

> Baha'i Youth Workshop”

 

You left out my favorite:  faith.

 

Since we cannot take funds from non-Baha'is, every fundraiser is, by

default, just an excuse for people to give what they should be giving

without any excuse.  Unless you have lots of unemployed Baha'is in

your community, the fastest and most efficient way to raise money is to

go to work and do an excellent job at what you are trained to do.

Then come home and give all you can to Baha'u'llah, keeping in mind that he has _promised_ a ten-fold reward, and _manifold increase_ in our commerce and agriculture.

 

Every minute spent organizing "fundraisers" is time taken away from

teaching and/or working productively at money generating activities.

 

It also generates a particular attitude towards the funds which I feel is self-defeating - a sense that funds can be manipulated away from people, or that there is money "out there" rather than in our own pockets.

 

If you do have lots of unemployed or under-employed Baha'is, then perhaps what you need is deepenings on work as service, perseverance, and creative consultation.

 

I realize that I am a radical on this subject, but I hope you consider

these thoughts.

 

Justice St Rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of a Magic Penny

         just an opinion from Justice

 

(A version of this article appears in Falling Into Grace.)Remember that children’s song that compares LOVE to a Magic Penny?  ”Hold on tight and you won’t have any, but lend it; spend it; give it a way - it comes right back to you.“  How is it that we all smile and nod and say "Yep! Love is just like that that magic penny," when most of us don’t even believe in magic pennies to begin with?

 

What would happen if we believed that the money we give away comes back to us?  What would happen if we really believed that the money we spent in service to God and humanity would come back to us ten fold?  I mean really believed it. 

 

There was once a man who had $1000 he wanted to invest towards his daughter’s education.  A stranger approached him on the street and showed him a beautiful gold and diamond necklace which he said was worth at least $10,000, but was available for only $1000.  The man was polite, but declined the incredible deal. 

 

That evening, his best friend, a wise and prudent man, showed him a pearl of great price and offered to sell it for the same $1000.  This offer he accepted with joy and gratitude.  Years later, he sold the pearl for $10,000 and sent his daughter to Earlham College.

 

The difference between the diamonds and the pearl was not the amount invested, or the degree of sacrifice, or the promised return.  The difference was the faith the man had in the integrity of the seller.

 

Abdu’l-Bahá said that our contributions to the work of the Faith would receive a 10-fold reward, and Shoghi Effendi said that our contributions to the Cause were a test of our faith.         Continued next page

Be ye assured that in place of these contributions, your agriculture, your industry, and your commerce will be blessed by manifold increases, with goodly gifts and bestowals.  He who cometh with one goodly deed will receive a tenfold reward.  There is no doubt that the living Lord will abundantly confirm those who expend their wealth in His path.  (`Abdu'l-Baha:  Baha'i Prayers  pg. 84)

 

Contributions to this fund constitute, in addition, a practical and effective way whereby every believer can test the measure and character of his Faith, and to prove in deeds the intensity of his devotion and attachment to the Cause."   (Shoghi Effendi:  Directives of the Guardian, page 31)

 

Shall we be embarrassed, then, that when we pass a test of faith we receive a ten-fold reward?  If so, then why are we not embarrassed when our gifts of love are also returned ten-fold?  The principle is the same.  And is not love more valuable than money - and harder to give?

 

I personally see money as a symbol of God’s abundance.  In other words, money (abundance) is one of God’s material manifestations of love. But it is not a measure of how much God loves us, but of how much we are willing to receive of God’s bounty.  It goes back to the quotation “Love Me that I may love thee.  If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee.”

 

So if we all love God, why aren’t we all rich?   Because our love of God is selective.  When we love God, we are actually loving the names and attributes or qualities of God.  For example, when we love justice, God loves us back by giving us the quality of being just.  If we don’t recognize and love a quality, then God can’t give it to us. 

 

So, if we consider money a sign of oppression, or the root of all evil, even though we may covet abundance, we don’t love it as an expression of God, therefore God can’t give it to us without it being a test.

 

About a month ago, I read a wonderful story that illustrates this idea perfectly:  An angel and God were watching a beggar walking down a dirt road.  The angel felt pity for the poor man, and asked God to bless him with wealth.  God sighed and said that it was impossible.  “Impossible!” cried the angel, “but you are the Lord of Bounty.  Surely you could spare just a handful of your riches!” 

                               

God sighed again, and said “OK, just watch.”  With that, He caused a bag of diamonds to drop from the sky in the middle of the road just around the bend from the beggar. 

 

When the beggar saw the sparkling crystals spilled out across the road, he shuffled to the far edge and passed them by, muttering to himself, “It is a good thing I saw that broken glass, or I could have cut my poor old feet.”

 

Though the beggar had  spent his whole life begging for wealth, he had not prepared himself to recognize it when it was placed in front of him. 

 

The point is, that if we aren’t willing to trust God then we won’t do the things He asks us to do because we will fear poverty.   If we don’t believe in His promised rewards, then we won’t be ready to recognize the blessings (often disguised as opportunities or even tests) when they appear.  This is just as true of material blessings as spiritual ones. 

 

Please note that I make a distinction between kneeling with open arms, anticipating God’s blessings with gratitude, and standing shaking our finger at God expecting or demanding  a blessing as if God owed us something.  God blesses us in His own time, in His own way.  Just don’t be so shocked if he blesses you materially the way he promised. 

 

So what does all of this have to do with teaching the Faith?  Actually, quite a lot.  When we are afraid to accept God’s blessings, then we don’t have the wealth we need for the work of the Cause.  When we are afraid to spend money to teach the Faith, we present a community which makes decisions based on fear rather than love. 

 

When we are stingy with our blessings, we unconsciously proclaim that we don’t have faith in God’s ability to replenish our spiritual and material needs. If we start with an attitude that “there isn’t enough,” then we pass that attitude on to our seekers who perceive that we don’t have “enough” to offer.

 

Our God is the God of Bounty.  We must be confident of that fact,.  After all,  who would want to join the religion of any other god?

 

Personally, I like to believe that my God is the God of magic pennies.  I mean, they have to be magic if they can be used to buy the Word of God, right?

 

 

SACRIFICE

My own view of sacrifice is very simple.

 

If sacrifice is the process of making our lives and our resources sacred,

then it is impossible to be an active Bahá’í without making continual

sacrifice.

 

If sacrifice is the act of giving up something important or valuable,

then it is impossible, because God _always_ returns to us ten-fold

everything of real value that we offer up temporarily.

 

The only thing we can ever really "give up to God" is our imagined

belief that we are somehow in control of our own material well-being.

 

Here is an analogy for you:

 

We are like kites in the wind of God.  Money is the string that keeps us

tied to the material world.  When God tugs on the string, it is not to

pull us down to earth, but to adjust our "attitude" so that we can fly

even higher and be given even more "string."  If we resist those little

tugs, then either we do a nose-dive back into materialism, or our string

breaks and we loose our means of support.  If we balance our little give

and take with God, then we are given more than we ever dreamed possible.