29 Apr (K)no(w) Relationships, (K)no(w) Growth
If you’ve read any of the posts here before, you might have the idea that a clean modern website and a robust social media presence are essential to the growth of your Local Baha’i Community. If you want seekers to find out and show up to your activities, they 100% are. But people intuitively understand that if the marketing for a product is good, the product experience better be at least as good as expected or the result will be disappointment. This concept is what we marketers call: “the Product IS the Marketing”. All the advertisements in the world can’t change a housecat into a tiger, right?
So this is our challenge: the message of the Faith is inherently attractive. It has as its focus the unity of families and communities all the way up to the brotherhood of humankind and provides practical and spiritually satisfying steps to achieve this goal. The question is: does the average experience at Core Activities reflect that?
Now, imagine you’re a seeker and you’ve heard that particular story about the Baha’i Community. You’re on your way to your first devotional gathering and what do you find there? Often, you find that not many Baha’is bothered to show up, or that the people who attended appear to have done so out of sheer loyalty to the Cause, but not because they particularly enjoy the event or the people there. You begin to feel out of place, and more like the principles of the Faith seem like great ideas in theory but impractical in practice. The Baha’is seem like well-intentioned folks, but you don’t really see yourself fitting in, so you don’t plan to go back.
What’s missing here? Healthy relationships.
So what should the Local Baha’i Community look like? It should be a loving, unified space where people know and care about each other and their wider community. When people see this reflection of Baha’u’llah in us as Baha’is, they’ll then be open to believing what the spirit of Faith can offer to them and to the advancement of humanity, but not before. As Seth Godin (a famous marketing guru) put it, “Facts are not the most powerful antidote to superstition. Powerful, authentic personal interaction is”.
How do we get there?
By building healthy relationships with other Baha’is. We need to live life together, sharing in our hopes, disappointments, and triumphs. What’s a healthy relationship? Michael L. Simpson (another marketing guy) says : “If you define all healthy relationships as “an ever-increasing knowledge of each other,” which includes equal growth in knowledge of yourself, then relationships stagnate and die when one or both of you feel there is nothing else to know, or lose the desire to discover more”.
Wow. That’s convicting, isn’t it?
Of course, we need to include seekers and our friends from the wider community in our lives too, but the latter group can’t and shouldn’t replace healthy relationships with other Baha’is if your Local Community wants to grow and thrive.
Finally, the idea of home visits has not caught on as well in North American Baha’i communities, which is a shame. But the idea of home visits is basically a formal way to say that we should get out there, be friends with each other, and not be afraid to be spiritual if we want.
Simply put: if we want to become the kind of community that can inspire both Baha’is and seekers to build the world that the Faith envisions, we have to be willing to do the hard work of building real friendships with each other. When the Faith looks and feels like that, there will be so many people attracted to Baha’u’llah that you can’t keep them away.