"Community offers the promise of belonging and calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence. To belong is to act as an investor, owner and creator of this place. To be welcomed, even if we are strangers. As if we came to the right place and are affirmed for that choice. Hospitality is the welcoming of strangers and generosity is an offer with no expectation of return. These two elements will not occur in a culture dominated by isolation, and its correlate, fear."
-Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging
Hospitality and generosity are virtues that are familiar to anyone who seeks to be the perfect host. Those new members who come into our communities are looking for both! We know that personal relationships are the key to long time membership. Why not offer new members an opportunity to have a mentor to connect with and guide them through their crucial first six months of membership? Training your congregants to become mentors helps not only the new members, but allows mentors the opportunity to welcome and connect with those who are new to their community. It is a mitzvah to offer hospitality and this program should be presented as an opportunity to perform that mitzvah! Read on to find an excellent, creative example of a mentoring program from Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos, California.
"In Your abundant loving-kindness, O God, let me enter Your house, reverently to worship in Your holy temple." Knowledge empowers those who are new to our congregations. Prospective and new members often wonder about the minhag of your worship services. How are they expected to participate? Should they wear a kippah or tallit? Those who are not Jewish may wonder about the meaning and purpose of ritual objects in the sanctuary. What will they wear? What should they do when they enter the sanctuary? What is an oneg? What is a Kiddush? The brochure, An Introduction to Sanctuary Etiquette, gives new members and guests the knowledge to comfortably participate at services. You will find this excellent URJ resource below. Use it as it is or develop your own guide for worship.
As always, I would be happy to arrange a conference call to discuss your Membership challenges and successes, to brainstorm about new programs and to share the URJs extensive Membership resources. Read on to learn about excellent upcoming programs for Membership leaders, resources from our website, urj.org/membership, and information about our upcoming Schindler Fellows Membership Certification Program in March of 2011.
Wishing you joy and peace in the coming year and many blessings in return for the sacred work you do to ensure the health and well being of your communities.
Kathy Kahn Membership Specialist Union for Reform Judaism 212.650.4231 email@example.com
Making Sure Your Congregation Connects Early with New Members: Provide Guidelines to Help Prospective and New Members Understand How to Participate in Your Worship Services
New Member Mentoring Program Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos, CA, has a very successful way of integrating new members by enlisting knowledgeable, current members to connect with those who are new to the synagogue. From the first letter to a mentor, to an effective training plan, to helpful, specific suggestions for meetings between a new member and a mentor, this program both inspires and instructs participants on how to be a successful and welcoming guide. As the Mentor Guide states, "The work of a New Member Mentor is a gift to our congregation and our new members. Remember, as a Beth Am mentor, you will be performing the mitzvah of welcoming new members and helping them to find their home at Beth Am."
Increase Your Membership and Create Lifelong Members
March 31April 3, 2011 - Join us in Cleveland for four days of comprehensive training on all aspects of Membership: recruitment, integration and retention at the Schindler Fellows Program for Membership Certification. Participants will assess the challenges and strengths of their home congregation and learn best practices from across North America to plan an effective Membership strategy for their synagogue community
Please note that limited scholarships are available for both small and larger congregations. Small congregations are eligible for scholarships by filling out this application. Larger congregations should contact Kathy Kahn through her contact information below.
Registration for this valuable program is open. Visit us online for details about the program, scholarship information and to register today! Contact Kathy Kahn at 212.650.4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
The Belin Outreach Awards have been designed to encourage and honor Reform synagogues with outstanding Outreach and Membership programs that actively welcome and integrate those new to Judaism. Awards of $1,000 each will be made to ten congregations at the URJ Biennial in National Harbor, MD, December 14-18, 2011, and the Awards Committee will designate at least two of these awards for small congregations (under 250 member units). Award-winning programs will be included in The Outreach and Membership Idea Book, a program guide for congregations. A limited number of honorable mentions will also be named at the discretion of the Awards Committee and included in this new publication. In addition, all honorable mentions and winners will be publically honored at the 2011 North American Biennial.
In addition to honoring congregations that have developed uniquely innovative and effective Outreach programs, the Belin Outreach and Membership Awards also solicit programs that engage and retain members of our congregations. Winning programs are available in the URJ Press publications:
The winning programs of 2011 will be featured in the Outreach & Membership Idea Book Volume IV.
Exciting News! The URJ has established a Congregational Membership Networking Group composed of lay leaders, professionals and clergy who see Membership as a means to sacred community. Those who would like to join this networking group will take on leadership roles, helping the Membership Specialist and other URJ staff to vision ways to ensure that Membership is a lifelong covenant between congregant and congregation.
Our mission is to address the challenges facing our congregations and share best practices in the three areas of Membership: recruitment, integration/engagement and retention. Those of you who wish to join will participate in regular conference calls and learn about existing resources while developing new materials and resources that address congregational needs. I hope that you will consider this invitation to shape Membership in the Reform movement. To find out more, visit our Networking Groups web page.