A year after the advent of the much discussed Snapshot booklet, the Lovin’ Life Ministries (LLM) Education Department has rolled out a 61-page handbook for would-be spiritual parents titled I’ll Walk With You: a guide to spiritual mentoring. The new booklet will be made available in about a week through the Ministry Support section of this website, under Empower.
Heather Thalheimer, director of LLM’s Education Department, reported on the book to activists at the “Lead with Impact” ministry leaders’ seminar on April 14, 2012. She said the booklet is designed to help mentors guide newcomers “along their faith journey,” and help them move from being a guest to becoming member.
“If we are going to be disciples of our True Parents and welcome brothers and sisters into our church family, each one of us needs to develop ourselves as spiritual mentors and support those who are growing in their faith,” said Thalheimer. “Then, as we walk alongside these new members, we as their spiritual mentors are born again as well. We discover God’s heart through loving and caring for others.”
The handbook is composed of six sections: “Mentoring Defined, Where Do I Start?, How Does Someone Join?, Studying Together, Spiritual Milestones in a New Member’s Life,” and “Practical Mentoring Skills.” Thalheimer spoke briefly on each section and then went into more detail about how guests become new members of Lovin' Life.
During the presentation, Thalheimer explained the process of becoming a member: “There are many opportunities to connect at Lovin’ Life. There are introductory programs, Sunday service, ballroom dance socials, Open Mics and more. Before they become members, we suggest that guests be attending Sunday Service regularly and involved in small groups or other activities. That way they can get to know our families, decide if they like what they experience, and if they want to be a part of our church community.”
Once they are connecting and coming to different activities, guests are invited to hear an introduction to Lovin' Life, a presentation titled, Creating a Life You Love, which is the first step towards membership. The second step for new members is hearing the Divine Principle. This might be in the form of a traditional two-day workshop, or an Original Substance of the Divine Principle seminar. Alternatively, members can study the Divine Principle on DVD one section at a time.
According to Thalheimer, after having an overview of the Divine Principle guests can be invited to attend the membership class, The Vision. “The vision class is for people who have a foundation,” she said. “They are part of the community; they are in a small group. They are coming to events and have an understanding of the Divine Principle, and they’re saying things like, ‘I love it here,’ or ‘How do I join?’ That’s when you introduce the Vision class to them.
“If everybody goes through the same class, then their understanding of membership is the same,” she continued. “We tell them before they sign membership, that if they’re not ready for it, they shouldn’t feel pressure to sign. We only want people to sign when they are ready to make a commitment to God and to themselves. We really want them to get something out of membership. And the only way they will get something out of membership is if they feel that they are a part of something, that they can commit to Inspire (come to church on Sundays); Empower (continue studying with us and register for the Journey classes); Connect (be a part of community activities and develop friendships); and Contribute (volunteer and donate).
“One important thing to understand is that when they become a member, they don’t necessarily have to believe in True Parents in the same way we do. What we’re looking for is that they understand what we believe about True Parents and that they’re on a journey to discover their own relationship with True Parents, something that will unfold naturally as they learn and grow. We don’t say ‘if you don’t believe in True Parents, you can’t join the church.’ They know what we believe about True Parents, and we ask for their commitment to learn and grow over time.”
“Once they feel ready to make that commitment, the fourth step is the ‘Community Welcome.’ Once new members have committed to being a member at Lovin' Life, it is the responsibility of our church family to make a commitment to them. The Community Welcome is a celebration to acknowledge the new member.”
After the new members have been acknowledged and welcomed into the community, they are invited to begin The Journey curriculum. “The Journey was created to help new members develop their four realms of heart in order to lay the foundation to inherit the true love of God,” said Thalheimer. “The first series, Starting Point, is dedicated to developing a heart for God, the second, W.I.R.E.D, to developing a heart for people. The third, called 2 Become 1 is about developing a heart for God based on the marriage Blessing, and the fourth, Giving LIFE is to learn about the heart of a parent not just for our own physical children but for all people.”
Andrew Love, from Lovin' Life NYC, said the following: “After Heather introduced the handbook, several of us shared about new members and victories we’ve been having, about things that have been working. I feel as if everyone felt inspired and supported. The American members’ work is validated by the success and the momentum they saw at the at the leader’s conference in general, and at this presentation.”
Contributed by Yoshie Manaka.