Measurement is a big part of our lives.
How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
What were your grades in school or your GPA in college? Or even your SAT scores?
As adults, measuring continues. The number of square feet in your home – and even how much you paid for your home, or how much it sold for – your salary, the size of your IRA.
We do this a lot, too in synagogues.
How many people attend Shabbat evening worship?
How about at the High Holy Days?
How many students are in religious school, or pre-school? How many B’nai Mitzvot in a given year?
How many people attend an adult education program?
How many member families, or units, belong to the synagogue?
How many likes does the synagogue have on its Facebook page?
How many people open up the weekly email or monthly newsletter, and click on any of the links that might be shared?
I could go on. You get it, I am sure.
Of course we have to be focused on some measurements, namely related to the budget. We have to raise the necessary funds, through dues, fundraising, tuition, or other means, to cover the budgeted expenses.
Recently, I read an interesting article about the demise of the small church throughout America. The premise is that the major Christian Church denominations are focused on measurement and small churches really don’t operate in such a metric centered philosophy.
The author was making the case that small churches matter because their primary focus is on “being”.
Of course in small churches – and small synagogues – it is not as if there is no focus on measurement. At least when it comes to finances. You have to pay the rabbi, the electric bill, even the website hosting fee. But the premise here is that such measurements are not as significant in both size and priority.
The lone synagogue in a small town today doesn’t have to be so concerned about competition. Of course they have other challenges – few, if any, new congregants, people moving away to be with nearer to family, and people passing away.
But measuring any of the stuff listed above is secondary to “being” – to relationships, building community, and touching lives Jewishly and helping people learn and grow.
Jewish denominational leadership, synagogue thought leaders – I like to think that I am in this group – all contribute to the focus on measurement. I have written blogs about membership, the importance of websites, High Holy Day Campaigns, dues/annual commitments, and utilizing Facebook and other social media platforms. Maybe too many. My blogs have been about areas of synagogue life that we constantly measure.
While all are important and necessary tools for the synagogue of the 21st century, it is easy to forget about what is most important: they are just tools to help you build a more vibrant sacred community, where through personal relations, people feel a deeper connection to each other and to their Judaism.