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For today’s tip I wanted to talk about the why of The Buddhist Centre Online with regard to local Centres. We’ve already had some really enthusiastic sign-ups for the space, which is great for us as we view this as a very long-term project indeed! We’re just at the start of what we hope will be quite a shift in the way all of us see our collective work in spreading the Dharma around the world and serving local sanghas in the process. With sustained effort over time we hope we’ll help fulfil not just the need for a strong online Triratna web presence, but also the fairly urgent goal of helping renew the life of an ageing Movement. That way we’ll be a potential beacon for anyone - especially young people - looking for an alternative way to live, and safeguard the future of the Order and Movement too.
And that’s where you come in! We’ve designed The Buddhist Centre Online in close consultation with Centre Chairs so that everyone has the tools they need to strengthen their local sangha by promoting increased participation in the life of the Centre itself. It starts online, but that’s just the beginning… So here are some ways you might use your Projects and Groups (if you aren’t already) to engage your community and help foster deeper connections with Mitras and friends at every stage of their path with you:
• When you are planning your next program, think about asking the team in charge of classes and events to build in online components to these. And let everyone know what you’re offering via Centre emails, your main website, and on the printed program itself! Some examples would be:
◦ A Group or Course for a Beginners’ Meditation or Buddhism course. When you make a Group, you always have the option of designating it as a Course too (see last year’s Urban Retreat as an example). Include details in your welcome email when people sign up for the class at your Centre and encourage them to take part between meetings. Post basic teaching materials there for reference and involve it in your teaching: “I’ll post details of that talk tomorrow to the Group online”, “I’ll be checking the Group all week if you have any questions about what we’ve covered tonight”… In time you can use the fancier social network tools we provide (like Voicethread) to enhance these even further, but just having a Group and basic interaction really keeps people focussed and engaged, and it needn’t be very time consuming.
◦ A general Group ‘sangha space’ for the community to use. Promote its use at Sangha Night - encourage folk to think about contributing to it as something that might actually aid their practice: “We all spend a lot of time online - let’s do that more mindfully and keep in touch when we’re not here.”
◦You could do the same kind of thing for Mitras, GFR Mitras, and, of course, the Order itself! Remember, Groups (and Courses) can be set as ‘Order-only’ if you like.
• Brainstorm with your Council, the local Order, the whole sangha about ways in which the community would like to use your Project and Groups. You never know what great ideas people might have! And it’s a neat way to involve volunteers. Look at the work you already do (eg. planning festival days, local ecumenical work, special interest groups that meet at the Centre) and think about how you could augment it by connecting the participants between meetings.
• If you have a practice theme for the term or the whole year at your Centre (eg. Padmasambhava), think about ways to use your Project to reinforce the sangha’s engagement with it. Try and be creative about posting rich media resources (talks, videos, pictures) that will tie in with the work that’s happening at the Centre in classes. Get people doing this in the ‘sangha space’ too!
• Think about having a week every year where you do an introductory online course for the wider local community and your sangha. Advertise it in the local press. Use it as a way to make a splash and attract new members to the Centre.
These are just some of the ways you could use your spaces on The Buddhist Centre Online to further the work you already do. We’d love to hear any responses and your own ideas here too!