By His Grace Kalakantha Dasa
There are twelve petals in Srila Prabhupada’s centennial celebration lotus and one is dedicated to congregational development.
• We must create an atmosphere most conducive to development of congregational community extending from the ISKCON temples, from our preachers.
• The seed of devotion within the hearts of our contacts and friends must be carefully nurtured.
• We must communicate with and fully understand the needs of our congregation.
• We must prioritize and establish programs necessary to congregational development such as service committees, fellowships, child and adult education and so forth.
• We must fully empower the congregation through vehicles such as project development and extended congregational preaching. In other words, we must get the congregation to preach on our behalf.
• We should recognize the achievements of the congregational members.
• We can derive a stable financial and service base through the long term care of our congregation.
To achieve all of these objectives, three initial steps are involved: we should organize and educate ourselves for preaching to the congregation; we should provide training tools for such preaching; third, we must learn how to recognize our congregation. We should also provide the congregation with training materials and manuals.
Recognition is actually the most powerful asset at the disposal of the average devotee. It is free, it doesn’t cost anything, and the more you give, the more the supply increases. People love to be appreciated and recognized and acknowledged for their service and their contributions. So if we are promoting our temple, we are sending a newsletter, people are not so interested to hear, “We didthis and we did that.” They are interested in hearing, “You did this and you did that and we appreciate it.” This is a bit of a shift in our focus, but the fact is that people will give their whole life to service, to financial support, and to preaching if we just recognize the contribution that they are making.
After all in the material world, as people grow up their parents never appreciated them, their teachers never appreciated them, their neighbors never appreciated them, their friends never appreciated them, and certainly their boss never appreciated them. If the devotees appreciate them, they become very indebted. This is the principal factor of education and training in congregational building.
(Excerpt from the book ‘The Nectar of Congregational Preaching’ by ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry)
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