15 Apr Food Trucks of the Soul (Word of Mouth)
How do we make our Baha’i Community’s word-of-mouth teaching better? Ask a food truck.
Seriously, a food truck? You better believe it.
If you live in an urban (or even suburban) area you’ve probably seen them peddling their tasty cuisine on street corners everywhere. They’re popular. Customers have even been known to plan their schedule to make sure that they meet up with the trucks while they’re in the neighborhood. How did they get so popular? They tell a story, then people listen to that story and tell it to their friends. If the story tastes good, it spreads.
In a sense, teachers are the food trucks of the soul. They are so passionate about Baha’u’llah that they promote the Faith on their own. Surprisingly, the best teachers often aren’t even declared Baha’is yet. How do we encourage and grow this word of mouth marketing for our Local Baha’i Communities?
Make Events That are Worth Coming To
Food trucks have it simple — if they want to succeed, they have to create amazing food. If they don’t, they’re out of business sooner or later. For Baha’is, the effects of not having Core Activities that people enjoy are slower-moving but almost as inevitable. If we’re not doing something exciting and meaningful as a community, seekers will stop coming and attendance will drift. In most of the Baha’i communities I’ve had the pleasure to reside in, inactive Baha’is made up 50% or more of the rolls. One thing unites all of the communities that had this characteristic: none of them had consistent or high-quality devotionals that people bothered coming to.
By contrast, having great Core Activities that unite the community give everyone something that they can passionately believe and get behind. The Words of God have power — and when they’re presented in an energetic and high-quality atmosphere, people are moved — both Baha’is and seekers. These people have a potentially life-changing story and they’re going to want to tell their friends.
Help Both Seekers and Baha’is Connect More Deeply with the Community
Food trucks pick the neighborhoods that they’re going to work in and then they build relationships. If they’re doing it right, they’ll soon be seen as part of the local culture. When you tell someone in Jersey City that you’re picking up a late dinner, everyone knows that you’re making a stop at either the Mexican or Mediterranean food truck on Grove. They’re integrated.
Are we building a Baha’i culture where people can find their path of service? We must commit to helping both insiders and outsiders plug themselves in to what’s happening in the community. This can mean having volunteers prepare refreshments for devotions or accompanying a junior youth group animator in her work with youth in the neighborhoods. Also, remember that Ruhi isn’t just a training program for children’s classes and junior youth groups; it’s a great assimilation process for new people to get plugged in to the Baha’i Community. Be creative, but help people get (and stay) involved.
Don’t Assume that Teachers Will Go On Teaching Indefinitely
No matter how perfect a neighborhood is or how great their menu looks, even the best food truck will peter out if they don’t have quality ingredients.
I don’t need to tell you all of the amazing Baha’is who have given all of their time and energy to serving and teaching the Faith who kept going and going (usually without much support or encouragement) and finally just completely burned out. Doing it all on your own is hard.
Honestly, sometimes we’re bad at telling our own story as a Faith — even to ourselves. Even though “Why are we doing this?” can sound negative at first, if we don’t keep articulating the Baha’i story to the world as a community and to ourselves as a community, we’re going to be in danger of losing steam. Encourage the active members of your Baha’i Community. Support them. Remind each other what kind of world we want to build. Talk about how good Baha’u’llah is. The batteries of the soul need to be recharged on a regular basis.
Even food trucks won’t stick around in a neighborhood if they feel like no one cares.
Say Thank You
If you see someone who’s actively involved in the activities of the Faith and is sharing the message, tell them that they’re appreciated. When you recognize someone for their contributions, it makes them feel like they’re part of the family and that what they do matters.
Support Means Listening
People who loved food trucks used to have a problem: they didn’t know where a food truck was going to be on a given day. So you’d show up at the curb and hope that your little piece of gastronomical heaven would pull up. You just didn’t know. In the last few years, however, food trucks listened to their customers and figured out how to better connect: Twitter. They would tweet what neighborhoods they would be visiting for lunch and dinner that day, and customers no longer had to guess.
So when the teachers in your Baha’i Community make suggestions, listen. Do they need business cards that have your local website on them? Make it happen. Are your devotionals reflective of your wider community (and not just the Baha’is who live there)? Change it up. Give them what they need so that they can help connect souls with their Lord.