Parents of todays young children (age 0-6) have many choices when seeking out deep and meaningful community connections. One option is to engage with a synagogue community, which can be a gateway to lifelong Jewish commitment for parents and their children. Most important, forging deep, strong and long-lasting Jewish connections can be done well by congregations without early childhood centers (preschools).
The Successfully Engaging Young Families community of practice seeks to convene congregations that are interested in starting or significantly enhancing their efforts with this cohort, but have not yet done so.
What is the URJ Engaging Young Families Community of Practice?
The URJ Engaging Young Families community of practice comprises 12-15 congregations with a shared concern and passion for young family engagement together with the drive to advance current strategies. Each of these congregations aspires to launch or significantly scale-up the inclusion of young families in synagogue life, but has, to date, struggled to do so.
During the community of practices 18-month cycle, designated representatives from each congregation will come together to:
Explore young family engagement, including why it's important and whats proving successful
Learn from experts in the field
Examine trends and best principles
Discuss broad challenges
experiments and pilots whose rollouts in their own congregations will
re-imagine and recreate young family, enhancing synagogue life for the
families and the congregation-at-large
Build a network of peer support and guidance
Draft and implement an engagement initiative for their own congregations
Share measurable results within the community of practice and the larger Reform Movement, providing a foundation on which to build subsequent initiatives for engaging young families and enriching other facets of congregational life
Coordinated by the URJ, the community of practice will require an initial 18-month commitment beginning in January 2013. The opportunity to continue to work together beyond this timeframe is an option for member congregations.
Cathy Rolland, Faculty, Early Childhood Education, 212.650.4111, firstname.lastname@example.org
The URJ Engaging Young Families Community of Practice curriculum includes five components:
Research/Study of the Field: Monthly webinars and conference calls will enable participants to explore relevant topics, hear from experts, study best principles and explore common challenges.
Experiment Design: From Theory to Visioning: After learning together for a few months, each member of the community of practice will craft an experiment/pilot proposal that challenges the engagement work being done in his or her congregation. With support and guidance of other members, each member will hone the experiments parameters to ensure they include clear vision, goals, process and benchmarks for success.
Experiment Implementation: Getting Our Hands Dirty: In this phase of the curriculum, members will launch the pilot in their own congregation, sharing successes and troubleshooting challenges with support from the full community of practice.
Evaluation: Using the pilots benchmarks for success, congregations will track the accomplishments of the experiment.
Sharing Successes: Community of practice congregations will have ample opportunity to share successes with the Movement-at-large, including at the 2013 URJ Biennial and during other gatherings, as well as on webinars.
Who Should Apply?
URJ congregations with no weekday early childhood education (preschool) program are eligible to apply for this community of practice. They should be willing to:
Prioritize young family engagement by allocating necessary staff, lay, financial and other resources to this endeavor, and
Pioneer strategies for engaging young families at home in the congregation in ways that break with traditional and previously used models, and
Share successes and challenges and learn from others who do likewise
The congregations representatives:
Should include a team of at least two people, one of whom is a member of the board of trustees
May include, but are not limited to volunteers working to engage parents of young children, Tot Shabbat leaders, clergy, executive directors, educators
Why Should my Congregation Participate?
Transform the ways your synagogue seeks to engage young families
Strengthen relationships with the larger congregational community
Hone an overarching vision for engaging young families in meaningful and fulfilling ways
Design and implement a new initiative that pushes the boundaries of previous outreach and engagement strategies, truly engaging young families in your community
Your efforts will be highlighted extensively throughout the Reform Movement, enabling other congregations to learn from your efforts
Gain knowledge about young families cohort and discover successful engagement practices for them
Strengthen your professional networks
Successfully create and implement a model of engagement designed specifically for your own congregation, receiving support and guidance throughout from other members of the community of practice
Emerge with a valuable tool kit to use in your congregations next phase of young family engagement and in other facets of synagogue life
What are the resources needed to participate?
All individual participants will be required to attend two separate in-person gatherings:
Community of Practice Launch Gathering, January 25 - 27, 2013 in Chicago, IL
Community of Practice Culmination Gathering, Spring 2014, Location TBD
Participating congregations should cover the costs associated with sending participants to these gatherings. If this arrangement is not feasible, individual participants may cover these costs, but it is preferable for the congregations to do so.
Participating congregations are strongly encouraged to send at least one (but preferably more) representative to the URJ Biennial in San Diego from December 11-15, 2013. During this convention, experiments and pilot initiatives will be highlighted for the greater Movement, and there will be opportunities for community of practice group learning as well.
Implementing Your Experiment/ Pilot
Congregations must have adequate financial resources available and allocated to implement the experiment/pilot that will be developed through participation in the community of practice.
Congregations must designate lay and/or professional leaders who will not only participate actively in the community of practice, but also spearhead the congregations effort to successfully implement an appropriate pilot initiative.