Talk Thelema: GatherReaching In
Part of the Talk Thelema outreach—and one of the foundational values of HeartFlame Ministries—is radical hospitality. Talk Thelema was originally designed as the Thelemic replacement for the Saturday morning prayer breakfast we observed from other religious groups. When we started Talk Thelema, we were impressed with the level of observable connection, friendship, and openness we saw in other groups on a social level and over something as simple as a shared meal.
In order to work toward a measure of success, you need to have participation. In order to have participation, you have to draw people into the group. Despite notions to the contrary, Thelemic communities need to assimilate new people as much as any other organization or culture in order to grow and survive. Talk Thelema is no different in that regard.
Six Minutes to Impress
It really does matter if people stay. You have six minutes from the time someone walks in your door to make an impression on whether or not they want to participate in your group past this initial contact. Growth in a group depends on the impression you make on a guest and, in fact, on regular attendees as well.
Spend the time welcoming each individual as they arrive. If you have a full group of people, recruit another individual to help you greet regulars as well as make sure any guests are not overlooked. Make sure to smile. It seems like such a simple thing, but you might be amazed how many events—without designated greeters—actually allow guests (or even regular attendees) to enter their premises without at least smiling at them.
How we treat people makes a huge difference in whether or not they return. This is more than just greeting them at the door or welcoming them to the table. We believe wholeheartedly in the dictate, “the Law is for all” (AL 1.34). How we put this into practice in a small group environment is connecting with others. Ironically, while Talk Thelema is not a business, per se, there is an element of customer service that goes into handling events. Treating people with respect is important.
Make sure people know where to go. This includes both where the group will be hanging out for discussion as well as any other amenities such as bathrooms, coffee bar, etc. It goes a long way for someone when they don’t feel like they are stumbling around someplace to be comfortable. Someone that has to make guesses about the basics of your environment will not feel comfortable coming back even if they have figured it all out on their own.
Collect Information from Everyone
Something we encourage every Talk Thelema group to practice is the use of Connection Cards. In order to make the best use of these cards, as well as ensure the best reception to them, we suggest that you have these cards available at each meeting along with enough pens or pencils to accommodate your expected attendance (plus a couple of extras, of course).
It is also recommended that you have everyone fill out a card, both established attendees and newcomers.
While you may decide to include additional information for collection, you should have at least the following sections:
- Preferred Contact Method (Phone Number or Email Address)
- Meeting Date and Topic
- Designation as ‘Returning’ or ‘New’
You may prefer a sign-in sheet or some other method of tracking attendance. Whatever your preferred style, one of the major benefits of tracking attendees and new guests is follow-up as well as general record keeping. You can download a version of the Connection Card or a sign-up sheet on the Resource Downloads page.
Do not pressure attendees into providing more information about themselves than they feel comfortable. Only one piece of contact information—email or phone number—is needed in order to reach out to a participant.
Future versions of Talk Thelema: Gather will provide an online database for information collection and ease of record keeping. It will also have information for legal use of information and full disclosure.
Building a database of attendees helps build the local community. As the meeting grows, a coordinator can both identify potential new coordinators to reach out to other local areas, and work to establish and grow other small group efforts.
Assimilate, Assimilate, Assimilate
There is further discussion on this point in the Reaching Out section of the Local Coordinator Online Organizer. However, growth is one of the factors of success in any small group. We want to see first time guests become second time guests and develop into regular attendees. These transitions are important to cultivate and maintain growth.