Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Challenge of Neighborhood Children's Classes

Sustaining growth in cluster after cluster will depend on the qualities that distinguish your service to the peoples of the world. (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2008)

It really was a beautiful day today; the sky was brilliant blue and the wind was cool. Actually, it was downright cold for Southwest Florida but as we three adults converged on the neighborhood community center, our thoughts turned to visions of how nice it would be inside and how quiet it was outside and how soon we would be conducting children's classes with a small group of very enthusiastic neighborhood children.

That's not exactly how it turned out. But when does it ever meet our immediate expectations? This is the beauty of the Faith of Baha'u'llah... We take what we're given and go with it! The mere act of service brings blessings.

It was a lovely day for children's classes. Three of us came from outside the neighborhood because the Baha'is who lived there moved recently leaving only a new declarant and her three young children. We checked the clubhouse only to find that the person who was supposed to unlock the door was nowhere to be found and the door was still locked. We went around and collected the children and returned to the community center. By the time we had six children, it became obvious that the picnic table was our only option.

Did I say it was cold for Florida? We were all quite chilled but the sun warmed us some as did knowing we were doing service. The kids were mostly game and we conducted classes as normally as possible. At some point, a large group of rowdy, older children came to play nearby. The distraction quotient was high as was the difficulty with one child who was loud and sometimes unruly. Despite these obstacles, the class was a success. The kids even wanted to sing a song and recite prayers they had memorized!

I was happy after classes and it occurred me that I should share what our cluster has learned in the past five months of IPG practice...

  1. Plan dates and times ahead. Having a central person keep a cluster calendar can be helpful. Pick a reasonable schedule for classes. For the time being, our cluster holds classes every other week in one neighborhood. As our resources multiply, we will be able to move to weekly classes and to other neighborhoods.
  2. Don't outstrip your human resources. We have been successful at scheduling children's class teachers and assistants at the Reflection meeting (planning three months at a time). We try to make sure no one feels overwhelmed and everyone feels that even if they can only commit once or twice, it is serving the Plan.
  3. Be aware of the specific needs of the neighborhood/classes. Because of disruption issues, we decided that we absolutely had to have three committed individuals for each class and that one of them must be a male. 

We have learned a lot through service in our cluster but we have so much more learning to do.

As for today’s classes, I am hopeful that the quality that distinguished our service was perseverance…


  1. Love your blog and will follow-up my dearest brother, We are learning here in Mauritius how to sustain and consolidate the new members enroll during the IPG intensive of Growth we have not yet the answer we are learning through action the more we do the more we learn
    a lot of thinking personally and struggle alone the path of Service ..

  2. Thank you for your kind words! My hope is that at least a few people will find this blog helpful and interesting. At the very least, it is a fabulous way for me to process and learn from our cluster activities!

  3. Here's an email from a local Baha'i with some comments on this blog post...

    Thanks so much for your comments, OMalley.
    As a junior youth animator, I would add to meet consistantly, always open for the opportunity to engage the children, youth etc. We had our Jr. youth class today, next week is our 1 year anniversity for starting our classes. We are finishing Glimmerings of Hope next week and then starting on a path of service. Our youth have chosen three actions of service; bake and deliver cookies to poor families living in two apartment complexes near our home in time for Christmas, helping out at a soup kitchen, and volunteering at the Animal Refuge Center. The last two may turn into long-term service opportunities. When we discussed opportunities for service, I was amazed at the number of ideas the junior youth came up with. The three above were each the favorite of a different youth, they decided they would support each other in all of them over the break or in the new year.
    They are amazing kids. I feel blessed to be working with them.
    Anne Liebermann