Long-Range Planning: The Five P's of Productive Planning
by Judith Erger, Governance, Leadership Development & Architecture Specialist
Beginning a Sacred Conversation
There are some processes that take on a new and profound meaning these days. Giving thought to a long-range plan is not news within our congregations, but as the sands slowly shift towards a new economic era, many congregations are finding themselves at a defining moment. To thrive and grow - spiritually as well as numerically - even the healthiest of congregations realize that they can no long conduct business as usual without clearly articulating their vision, mission and goals for their future.
Vision should always be the starting point of any congregational long-range planning. It describes a future for the congregation that is better, more successful and more desirable than the present, while defining the core Jewish values that are essential to the synagogue's identity and purpose. The essence of a long-range plan is to engage the entire congregation in a guided conversation about "Who are we?" and "Who do we want to be?" It is the role of leadership to identify the gaps between the two and to determine strategies of change, in the form of realistic and accessible goals that bridge the present with the hoped-for future.
Purpose: There needs to be a clearly articulated reason that is widely understood and accepted in order for a synagogue to commit to a planning effort.
People: Effective planning requires the active involvement and commitment of synagogue leaders and the participation of the clergy and key congregants.
Process: There needs to be a clearly delineated set of activities that facilitate the development of a plan involving key congregants in making decisions about the current and future state of the synagogue.
Product: The planning process normally results in a document that facilitates organizational change and provides guidance and direction to the congregation.
Progress: The plan should result in real changes that improve what the synagogue does and/or how it functions. These changes should accelerate the congregation's progress or increase its capacity to execute its mission and achieve its goals.
On example of long-range planning is Beth Hillel Congregation in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They embarked on their long-range planning process by first establishing a core group of dedicated leaders to serve on a Steering Committee (with the rabbi as an ex-officio member and the incoming president as one of two Co-Chairs). Once the infrastructure was in place, a monthly column was introduced in the congregation's bulletin, beginning with a letter from the current president, Mark Gesner, introducing the purpose and encouraging exchange with the congregation. Visit Communicate summary number 2678 to read Gesner's inaugural letter. Beth Hillel's leadership is continuing their process with a facilitated leadership retreat and ongoing communications.