Engagement. Relational Judaism. Mission and Vision. Welcoming. Theory of Social Change. Metrics. Social Media. These are but a few of the buzz words of synagogue life – that is stuff that thought leaders talk and write about a lot. And if you do them – integrate into the operations of your synagogue – make the synagogue experience better for everyone.
What about Torah and Jewish Study? Social Justice and Acts of Loving Kindness? And how about Worship? Oh, those things, too.
Synagogue leaders certainly have much to think about to encourage people to be part of your sacred community. And then for them to be generous through annual giving and dues to support all of the activities that happen as an expression of the buzz words noted above.
There is some overlap among some of these important principles of synagogue life. If you are thinking about all of these things and acting upon them in some way through leadership practices, that is great. But what synagogue leaders can say that their activities consciously encompass all of these things, or even some of them? This can get quite overwhelming for synagogue leadership pretty quickly.
Recently, I read a blog where the authors were encouraging congregational leadership (churches and synagogues) to think about engagement as an organizing principle. The suggestion here is that engagement as an organizing principle frames every interaction, in-person and online.
Oftentimes, many synagogues focus on programming as the primary principle with attendance being the measurement of success:
How many people attend Shabbat worship on any given day? And how many attend when there is not a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?
How many people attended last weekend’s Purimspiel, or other special events?
How many people attended the Adult Education series?
Regarding the metrics principle, I often have wondered who might be keeping track of such data. Taking attendance at Shabbat worship is a foreign concept. We talk about Shabbat attendance anecdotally. We know that there were a lot of people last Friday night, perhaps due to the guest speaker, but we don’t track who attended.
While the numbers might be important to know, it is just as important to know who attended. I have written before about metrics, but I will table further analysis on this issue for another day.
The program might have been great and a lot of fun. But did the leadership have a game plan at the event – before, during and after – to engage everyone so that they feel a part of the synagogue community?
What about post-event engagement? Did you post a picture of the event on the synagogue’s Facebook page? Did you send a short personalized email thanking everyone for coming and asking for participants to share thoughts about the program? On Facebook or even in an email to the organizers?
Perhaps the most important principle of synagogue life is to care about each other. Make synagogue membership a very personal endeavor – synagogue leaders displaying interest in the lives of every congregant. Showing up is important. But make the effort to speak to those who show up. Like you do with family and friends.