The next thing I look for is something I call ‘responsibility and follow-through’.
I taught the short series of intro/Seeker classes (a very general ‘What is Wicca/what is ritual/community etiquette/really basic daily practice ideas series of 5 classes) for the group I trained with for about 3 years (and I’ve helped on and off since then.) I also answered the group email.
A look at the numbers:
For every 25 people who email, at least 15 of them never reply again, never make contact again, etc. This is totally normal: they inquire, we send some more info, it’s not what they’re looking for. That part’s fine. What has always interested me is the next stages.
Of those 10, about half explicitly say “Oh, I’m interested in [next class series]. I’ll be there!” – we’d ask for an RSVP to make sure we had enough copies/chairs/etc. We’ve traditionally sent out a reminder email a week or so beforehand, and sometimes another one closer in. Less than half of those who replied show up. (And I’ve been at several classes where *no one* who RSVPed showed up, and we had new people we knew nothing about there.)
On one hand, this is no big deal in that setting. But it makes me wonder. Some of them do try again later – but you know, none of those people has turned out to be a fit for the group. It’s hard not to wonder if those things go together.
(This also explains why most experienced group leaders don’t put a lot of emotional investment in someone until they’ve continued to follow-through for a bit: the drop-off rate is *so* large that doing otherwise is a fast route to burnout and bitterness.)
This is where stories from other Pagans come in. I’ve heard story after story from priests and priestesses who arrange to meet a prospective member at a coffee shop for an initial meeting, where the interested prospective member never shows. (And not only doesn’t show, but doesn’t call, email, or otherwise apologise.)
Why does this happen?
Good question – and it’s often hard to ask. I’ve heard various theories: that people inquired as a lark, and then got nervous. That people were interested, but something (maybe a relationship partner or friend) got them nervous about meeting a strange witch. That they’re interested, but not enough to actually make it into the car.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is: all I can do is judge from the end result. If I show up, and the person I’m meeting doesn’t (and doesn’t have a decent reason), I’m unlikely to set up another meeting like that unless meeting them is absolutely essential *or* I’ve got a good reason to think that things have changed for them.
My time’s pretty precious – like a lot of people these days, I’m juggling a full time job (and one which can have some quirky time demands), chores and daily life stuff, friends and a social life, personal projects, my personal religious practices, and little things like reading and other amusements. I always have other stuff I could be doing with my time that I would enjoy or get me closer to goals that matter a lot to me.
Because of this, one of the most basic things I look for with anyone I’m looking at spending more time with is “Does this person get that they are not the only thing in my universe?” and “Do they respect my time and other commitments/interests?”
I admit I’m a fairly big stickler on this one – but I think it’s got some other interesting aspects, too.
Further down the road:
Work and training with a group is going to involve a number of things.
Can this person respect the group’s time?
I don’t know about other people out there, but I’m sick of Pagan Standard Time. I want to start reasonably promptly, end at a sane time, and have time to hang out and spend time with my groupmates without dashing off. Ritual takes as long as it takes – but there’s a big difference between a 4 hour ritual that started on time and a 2 hour ritual that started 90 minutes after it was supposed to.
Can this person handle some discomfort in an appropriate setting?
Yes, meeting strange witches can be a little scary. But. Other parts of witchcraft training can also be challenging. If someone isn’t yet ready to deal with a well-controlled challenge (meeting in a public place, for a short time, and with no further commitment if it’s not the right thing), they’re probably going to have a hard time once training starts. (In this case, them not showing is a good thing: I’d rather figure this out very early rather than later.)
Can they communicate?
Stuff comes up for people – I totally get that. If I went to meet someone, and they weren’t there, but they sent an email promptly (say within the next 24 hours), I’d probably give them another chance. The point isn’t “Are they perfect”, but “Can they recover from an inconvenience to someone else” and “Can they communicate about what they need.” and “Do they remember they’re not the center of the universe?”
I’ll have some more to say about this going forward, but I think this is a good stopping place for tonight.