There are a lot of wonderful Baha’i resources available online (many of which we list here in our directory) but in this article we wanted to highlight one site in particular that aims to help groups have spiritual conversations. The site is bahai.tools and they offer more than 70 discussion guides on topics ranging from “The Eye of Oneness”, “Science, Faith & Reality” to “A Hero for Every Season”. The guides are made up of slideshow presentations that include talks, quotes and questions to generate elevated group conversations. To help you out, each presentation is summarized, its target audience is explained and a list of the technological requirements you’ll need is provided. Steve Moses and Caleb Gilleland, the dynamic duo behind bahai.tools, kindly shared the details behind this great resource!
Baha’i Blog: Hi Steve and Caleb! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! To begin, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born into a Baha’i family, which to me means that I’ve been aspiring to be a Baha’i for a while. I grew up in the Seattle area and have spent most of my adult life on the East Coast, in Africa, Asia…and as of a week ago, I moved to England. One of the things that this has taught me is how relevant the Baha’i Teachings are regardless of the country, the situation, etc. Whether it’s a village in Tanzania or the heart of New York City, I’m always in awe of how applicable the Baha’i Writings are.
I became a Baha’i in high school, which seems like a long time ago now (laughs). I grew up Baptist in the American South, and most of my family is still Evangelical Christian of one sort or another. Being a Baha’i, we don’t always agree with each other’s theology (though we care deeply about following God’s will), but I’ve always been supremely impressed with how seriously that culture takes the obligation of teaching their faith and doing everything with excellence. I think those are things that the Baha’i community can always use more of.
Baha’i Blog: Where did the idea to start Baha’i Tools come from?
We were both hosting devotionals (Steve in NYC, Caleb in Jersey City), and we had sort of independently come up with a presentation format to make the material and discussion more lively. Previous to making bahai.tools, we had people at our devotionals that had requested to use the materials in other communities, so we wanted to make it easier for others to access and start their own discussion groups. One afternoon, as we were working on a completely different project together, we discovered what the each other had been doing and we decided to put it all together and make it a resource that any local Baha’i community could use.
Baha’i Blog: It’s an amazing site! Can you tell us a bit about the types of discussion slide shows you’ve put together? How many are there and what types of questions or themes do they cover?
There are more than 70 discussion programs at the moment, with at least one new one every week (though sometimes it takes longer to post them). The topics are generally about exploring the Baha’i teachings in a way that is relevant to everyone in society, but also welcomes and generates real questions and heartfelt discussion.
What makes the content special is that it’s designed for everyone, regardless of their ideology, religious background, etc. Everyone has something to share on these topics and because we’re able to invite a diverse group of people I think we have better discussions where people leave having learned something, having contributed, and hopefully feeling more connected. I think the secret ingredient is having these discussions based on the Baha’i writings and the writings of other religions and thinkers. It grounds these discussions in wisdom and seems to minimize some of the less constructive social discussion approaches we see today. I think people are thirsty to connect on these issues in a positive way.
Baha’i Blog: Do you have a particular favourite discussion topic?
Baha’i Blog: How has the site been received?
All positive so far! There was a video we saw a few months back from Australia where some youth had it as part of their presentation. That was pretty cool! We get periodic feedback from users, sometimes with suggestions, but almost always with appreciation.
It’s all been very positive, the best part of this experience for us is when we hear of people using it. Summer from Melbourne, thanks for showcasing us, it made my day!
Baha’i Blog: What have you learned from the experience of putting this online resource together?
It was a bit more work than we expected, and getting the word out about the project was pretty difficult on the beginning. In a world where everything is marketing, it can sometimes be difficult to break through the clutter. After running some fairly extensive Facebook ad campaigns with only moderate success, we recently ran a decently large postcard campaign targeting 500 Assemblies across the US, and usage of the site has increased much faster.
Like Caleb said, it’s been more work than we expected but it’s been worth it. Caleb deserves a big shout out, he’s been the primary force operating the site and has been consistently dedicated and wonderful to work with. I think when building something like this the most useful tool is good consultation. We hope you like it.
Baha’i Blog: What an excellent tool! We hope the site continues to be well received and we wish you a lot of success as it grows and develops!