Changing the minds of these individuals is an extremely daunting task. But running under the assumption that it's a much simpler matter to give birth than to raise the dead, let's take a look at our new friends Ruhi Book 1. How can a tutor provide the best quality study circle possible in order to ensure that our participants feel empowered to carry out regular home visits?
1. It starts before you hand out the books.
Share the nature of the study circle, it's place in the process of community building, and its purpose in building the capacity of the individual. Discuss the fact that “understanding the implications of the Revelation, both in terms of individual growth and social progress, increases manifold when study and service are joined and carried out concurrently.” (Ridvan message 2010, paragraph 9.) Explain the process as one of a group of action that studies in support of that action, rather than a group of study that acts in support of intellectual learning. You can sometimes affectionately refer to it as a Practice Circle or Active Learning Circle instead of a study circle if that helps.
Once you do start working with the book, read “To the Collaborators” first. Talk with your participants about what they'll experience as they work towards becoming tutors themselves.
2. The real work begins in Unit 1.
In the first section, practice studying the selections from the Writings as an entire group. Follow the entire process of reading the quotation, formulating questions and answering directly from the text, and finding concrete examples of any abstractions. Relate the learning to your own experiences if insights appear, but don't force this—some people are shy about personal situations. Also complete Section 2 as a group.
For the first quotation of Section 3, model doing this process as a pair. Then divide the group into pairs (add a triad, if needed), and have them work through on their own as you circulate.
After each pair has completed Section 3, come back and reflect on the experience. What was easy? What was difficult? What did I learn about the text? About myself? About my partner? Then move on to Section 4 as a group.
Continue this way through Unit 1, breaking into pairs for study of the Writings, gathering for reflection, and answering the questions in the even-numbered sections as a group. Yes, this takes more time. But it takes considerably less time than attempting to build confidence through the process of rousing pep-talks at every single Cluster Reflection for the next ten years.
3. Get geared up before Unit 2.
Read the purpose and practices, and discuss them in the context of community building. Then put the books away.
As a group, study a prayer. This should come naturally, as you follow the exact same procedure as you've been practicing in Unit 1 for the study of the Writings in general. Read the prayer, ask and answer questions from the text, formulate concrete examples, and relate it to your experiences.
Again, model the process in a pair. Reassure your participants that you're doing nothing different aside from choosing the Writings from a prayer book rather than following what has been given in the Ruhi book.
Break into pairs to study a prayer together.
Come back and reflect as a group.
Do not begin the unit yet.
4. Arrange the first round of home visits.
Find believers who agree to be visited during your regular meeting time. Since your study circle participants already have this cleared in their schedules, there should be no conflicts. Choose the most welcoming, loving, and humble believers you can find to be visited, ideally those who have completed the Book 1 practice and make home visits on a regular basis. Make sure they know what the purpose of the visit will be.
If possible, arrange for experienced believers to come and accompany your study circle participants on their first home visits. If not, arrange the groups in such a way that the confident and the timid are paired with one another for support.
Meet, scatter, visit, return, and reflect.
5. Now start Unit 2.
Study. Make art. Pray. Sing. Memorize your five prayers. Host a devotional gathering. All that good stuff.
6. Help your participants arrange their second round of home visits.
This time, involve the group in the planning process, so that they can see what goes into that part of it. They may have specific people they would like to visit. Offer as much support as needed. Model making a phone call to arrange a home visit. If there is still nervousness, role play the phone call in pairs. For those who still don't feel comfortable, partner them with someone who is.
Meet, scatter, visit, return, and reflect. Has the process of visiting become easier? What will they do differently next time? How has their deepened understanding of the nature of prayer changed the quality of their visit? How did visiting deepen their comprehension of the nature of prayer? Has our “understanding of the Revelation” truly “increased manifold”?
7. Don't drop the subject.
Share your own home visit stories with participants. Suggest people who might like a visit. Offer to accompany anyone through the process of visiting. The Unit 3 theme of “Life and Death” is a rich subject with many prayers that can be shared with both survivors and the dying, a profound home visit experience indeed.
There is no reason why we can't be just as systematic in our accompaniment as we are in gathering statistics or planning programs of growth. Although the process takes considerable time and effort, the reverberations of such an effort throughout a community can be exponentially greater.
“That the Bahá'í world has succeeded in developing a culture which promotes a way of thinking, studying, and acting, in which all consider themselves as treading a common path of service—supporting one another and advancing together, respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment and avoiding the tendency to divide the believers into categories such as deepened and uninformed—is an accomplishment of enormous proportions. And therein lie the dynamics of an irrepressible movement.
“What is imperative is that the quality of the educational process fostered at the level of the study circle rise markedly over the next year so that the potential of local populations to create such dynamics is realized.”
(Ridvan message 2010, paragraphs 10-11 [emphasis mine])