Member: A person who belongs to a group of people.
Q: Why do people want to belong to a group? A: To get their needs met. Q: What are their needs? A: Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual.
If they get their needs met by being a member of the group, they remain a member. If they dont get their needs met, or if their needs are threatened, they will leave the group.
Q: What makes people decide to join a particular group in the first place? In a survey, 85% of people who had recently joined a religious group said they had joined because: A friend was already a member.
Two reasons people will join ISKCON and stay: 1. They feel they are getting their needs met. 2. Friends are already involved, or they make new friends quite soon
Q: Who is in our ISKCON Membership Pyramid? A: As many members as we desire and as many as we can accommodate Q: Who are they?
Who are members of ISKCON? People who like us (lots of people at the base of the pyramid) People who sympathise with our beliefs and aims People who make a contribution People who practise our sadhana People who practise and preach People who have taken up full-time responsibility for leadership and management
Fact: Initiated members of ISKCON are in the minority Fact: Many initiated members do not live in temples and are independent in finances and accommodation. Question: What percentage of initiated members of international ISKCON do not live in temple communities?
In a recent survey of 23 ISKCON gurus, the total percentage of disciples not living in temples was 96%
Fact: Yet we still continue to present ISKCON as: A confederation of temples.. This was true perhaps in 1987 but not now. Our true size is bigger than we may think
Members of any organisation need to know where they fit into the structure… How they can make a contribution and accept responsibility…
Consider the humble cucumber 96% water 4% organisation Can we learn anything?
ISKCON does not need to have a huge organisation to care for all of its members. 4% will do But it must be good, intelligent, organisation With adequate systems as well as a structure
STRUCTURE: The way in which a thing is organised SYSTEM: A set of connected things, or parts, that form a whole, or work together ORGANISATION: The sum total of the system and structures
The structure of an organism may be simple But the systems - the exchanges between its constituent parts - may be relatively complex
ISKCON requires a system and structure wherein our members are: 1. Connected by firm friendship 2. Provided opportunities for increasing involvement 3. Given empowerment (guidance, education, coaching, responsibility)
FACT: Many large organisations, especially those in which personal and spiritual growth are essential, are comprised of a large number of small groups. These groups are small enough, and friendly enough, that members will want to remain members of the group.
Question: What size should a group be in order to optimize the feelings of friendship, to enhance productivity, and to maintain good communication? Not too small and not too big Some examples from history:
In the Vaishnava tradition there have always been small groups. Often a small group would look after a group each. Each member of this sub-group would care for yet another group. In this way thousands were cared for in a group system.
Each of the Six Goswamis cared for several groups of followers
Let 5 or 10 of you sit down by your houses and chant the Holy Names
Bhaktivinoda Thakura worked hard to create defined groups in each place where he preached Many group members were given specific responsibilities
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati created five layers of administration to care for thousands of disciples: Disciples cared for by: Upadeshaka; Maha- upadeshaka; Sanyasi; Acarya
When Srila Prabhupada was asked: How many families in a Vedic village? he replied: 15 He created 108 centres, average number of devotees: 15.
What happens if you dont create groups for friendship and support? Spiritual life of members is hard to sustain Members feel not part of the movement Communication is ineffective Organisation is chaotic Members susceptible to drifting away to other groups Entire movement becomes weak Growth is slowed down
Two examples from English history One, a preacher who created a network of small groups in addition to centres One who simply gave great classes
John Wesley (1703- 1791) preached throughout England for 60 years, creating congregations which were then divided into smaller groups
Hundreds of preachers and 80,000 members at his passing
George Whitefield (1714- 1770) was the better preacher but did not form groups. He said: Because I did not fashion my followers into groups, as did Wesley, when I called upon them to act, it was like pulling on a rope made of sand.
Srila Prabhupada to Tribhuvanatha Dasa: Do not make me another Alexander the Great (Preaching everywhere and conquering but with the people remaining unchanged)
One preacher can create 12 groups by training 12 group leaders (Mother-daughter)
Who can then create the next generation of groups (grand- daughters)
Questions for ISKCON leaders How many members in your region have received initiation in the last ten years? How many are still practising? How many are still contributing their time, words and wealth to the mission?
A movement that knows how many books it has sold; how much money it has; but does not know how many members it has; what they are doing; or whether they are happy; is a movement that may not actually want more members. And if a movement does not want more members it places a limit on what it can achieve.