Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages. These gatherings are open to all and are intended to embrace that attitude of prayer and practice of devotion that is universal to all religions.
Meetup.com is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in over 196 countries. It’s typically used by people wanting to practise a new language, meet people in a new city, or dress up as wizards and play dungeons and dragons. So my friends and I thought, why don’t we start a devotional on Meetup.com for people who are interested in having soulful reflections?
We live in Melbourne, Australia, and one year on and we’ve had 105 people express their interest by joining the group. We’ve held 19 Meetups with an average of 11 people attending each time. The diversity of backgrounds and views has made it a fascinating way to meet people from our local area who are looking to have meaningful conversations.
Based on our experience and our learnings, here are five tips for starting a devotional of your own using Meetup.com:
1. It’s all in the name
Select a nice name for your group – one that clearly states what you are about but that is also very inclusive. We chose ‘Soulful Reflections’ due to it’s openness for both religious and non-religious folk. You also get to select the name for the members of your group – this isn’t as important but is still fun – we went with ‘World Citizens’.
2. Select your interests wisely
When you start your group, you need to select what potential members of your group are likely to be interested in, for instance Yoga, Meditation, surfing. Members of Meetup with these interests are then notified about your group. For this reason, it is critical that you choose the ‘interests’ of your group wisely. This feature is what makes Meetup.com such a great platform, as you get to directly promote your activity to people outside your sphere of connections who share similar interests.
3. Remember to mention that it’s a Baha’i initiative
On your Meetup group description, we have mentioned that this is an initiative of members of the Baha’i community. At the start of each devotional, we also have a brief introduction to the Baha’i Faith and the concept of progressive revelation, which gives people a context for why we read sacred Writings from all the world’s religions in these gatherings.
4. Find a nice public space
It’s hard to walk 400 metres in Melbourne without stumbling across a quaint little cafe, so it seemed natural for us to hold a Meetup in one. We had tried parks, but the weather proved to be too temperamental. Having your Meetup in a public place is a great idea as it is open and inviting for new members, and it’s also a lot safer – remember Meetup.com is open to the Internet!
5. Team up
Starting a Meetup group is a commitment, so we recommend working with a team of people to share the load of preparing programs and facilitating the devotional and the discussion. This has helped us to hold them almost consistently every fortnight.
I hope these five tips prove to be helpful to those of you already using, or thinking of using Meetup.com.
If you’d like a copy of our ‘how-to pack’, please send me an email at [email protected]
Justin lives in Melbourne, Australia where he belies his country origins by embracing the hipster lifestyle. You might see him and his tight jeans riding a fixie in search of café latte. Justin works for a software company and is passionate about technology bringing people closer together.