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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Synagogue Administration 101

If you are an administrator, office manager or member of the synagogue office staff; a member of the board or future congregational leader; a synagogue volunteer who either provides assistance with administrative duties or serves on a committee that is involved with day-to-day operations; or a supervisor, you will likely find that in addition to your staff or volunteer job descriptions, it is also your task to build, develop and maintain a well-run, spiritually fulfilling synagogue, where the sacred informs the practical and the practical creates the sacred.

Unless God builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalms 127:1)

Brit Kodesh - Sacred Partnership

"It is for a new paradigm in which we now view our synagogues and their work as a 'sacred partnership' among clergy, synagogue professionals, volunteer leaders and members -  a partnership of mutual respect, obligation and endeavor."  Rabbi Eric Yoffie

In cooperation with the National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA), resources and consultations are available to congregations throughout North America. The Union for Reform Judaism is here to help modern congregations think about the profound understanding of human dynamics and moral implications that govern employee/employer relationships. 

Sharing the Sacred Task
The areas of synagogue personnel and staff relations are complex, balancing as they do the demands of law; the need for management efficiency; the congregation's focus on its "bottom line;" the requirements of individual staff members; and the urge toward a nurturing and productive spirituality.  Synagogue professionals, volunteers and clergy must work together as creative partners to create a true k'hilah K'doshah - a sacred community. 

Getting Started

  • Learn the policies and procedures currently in place in your congregation, as well as its office procedures.
    • Review policy and procedures for religious school, nursery school and youth groups.
  • Create appropriate policies and procedures to educate staff, volunteers and congregants.
  • Read the constitution and bylaws of the congregation, which should describe the structure of the board, the functions of its standing committees and how the congregation operates.
  • Know how information is gathered, stored and responded to.
  • Review how communication is shared with the congregation and greater community.
  • Review how communication is shared among staff members and leadership. 
  • Find out the roles and responsibilities of the current staff or personnel committee members.
    • Who supervises whom?
    • Who reports to whom?
    • To whom are complaints directed?
    • Who is in charge of what areas?
  • Create job descriptions outlining the functions, responsibilities, skills, abilities and behaviors that the congregation expects for synagogue staff or personnel committee members.
  • Become acquainted with all aspects of synagogue programming, including Shabbat worship and festival observances; Women of Reform Judaism; Men of Reform Judaism; the religious school, preschool and adult education; and youth activities.
  • Become familiar with the synagogue's financial reports and operating statements, its administrative structure and the physical premises.
  • Develop an understanding of the division of responsibilities among the board, the rabbi and, where applicable, the professional staff, including the cantor, administrator, educator and others, as well as between the synagogue professionals and volunteer leaders.
  • Educate yourself regarding Reform ideology, history and the structure of the movement.

2.  Purchasing
Areas of consideration include:

  • How the environment is impacted by the synagogue's everyday purchases including office and classroom supplies, printing choices and products used for celebrations and lifecycle events
  • Benefits and services available to congregations as a result of Union for Reform Judaism purchasing agreements with select vendors

3.  Facilities Administration
Areas of consideration include:

  • Managing the synagogue facility and grounds with guidelines for policies; insurance and risk management; and building usage that is both environmentally conscious and cost effective
  • The step-by-step considerations for determining whether to relocate, renovate or expand an existing synagogue, or build new construction.

4.  Technology
Review the many ways technology can be used to increase efficiency and market your synagogue, paying particular attention to websites, electronic communications and synagogue software; and explore technologies used to enhance sight and sound, particularly in the sanctuary.

5.  Staffing & Staff Relations
Developing, maintaining and modeling meaningful relationships between synagogue staff, clergy and volunteers is the basis for a spiritually healthy congregation. Considerations include: Articulated expectations, goals and job descriptions; clergy transition; and managing conflict if it occurs.

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