A congregation is, by definition, a group of people. If a new member meets like-minded others who then become friends and role models, there is some likelihood that the person will become more deeply connected to the congregation. Friendship is a key factor in forming reference communitiesthose places where we find people with whom we want to associate, people we admire, people we want to emulate, people we want to learn from and people we enjoy being around.
The Spirituality of Welcoming, Dr. Ron Wolfson
Since we know that personal relationships are the glue that integrates and retains members, we need to begin making connections from the first membership event through the first three months of membership and beyond. In fact, integration should happen before and after recruitmentits never too early or too late to begin.
Here is a fun way to get your prospective and new members talking to and learning about each other immediately at your welcoming event. Its a game from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Baltimore, MD, called Bingo Ice Breaker. The rules are simple: participants need to find other newbies who will sign their name in one of the squares. When the squares are filled with names to make bingo, a prize is given. The real prize, of course, is the way a game becomes an ice breaker! (Note that BHCs bingo sheet is a model. Feel free to change the content of the squares to suit your congregation.)
Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, NJ, connects synagogue members through its strong Chavurah Program. Each chavurah group comes together to learn, socialize and celebrate Jewish life. These chavurot often become like mini families within the congregation. Shaari Emeth has created a Chavurah Brochure and invitation that defines and describes chavurah as a way to broaden involvement with the synagogue. This new program will integrate members by creating personal connections.
Often we begin worship services by singing, Mah tovu ohalecha, Yaakov, mishknotecha, Yisrael. How fair are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel. For those of you who stand at the entrance to the tent of your community welcoming the stranger inside, know that you are adding priceless gifts to the diverse community of Israel.
Union for Reform Judaism
Upcoming Opportunities for Your Congregation:
West District Bay Area Membership eventSunday, January 22 and Monday, January 23, 2012: Would your congregation like to do an even better job of attracting, retaining and integrating members?!? Join your colleaguesprofessionals, lay leaders, board members, clergy and all who are responsible for membership in their congregationsat this Membership Event. Kathy Kahn will present sessions on Membership recruitment, integration and retention. She will be available for individual Membership consultations with synagogue leaders by appointment. Visit urj.org/west/kathykahn for more information and to register.
Membership Certification Program, April 19April 22, 2012 Join us in Cleveland for four days of comprehensive training regarding 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 small, medium and large congregations. For details about the program and scholarship information, contact Kathy at 212.650.4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advertising Grant OpportunityNational Center to Encourage Judaism: The NCEJ will pay half of the cost of your advertising in the secular press, up to $1,200 twice a year, for programs that welcome the unaffiliated, Jewish or not, and invite them to attend beginner-level programs about Judaism, including the URJs Taste of Judaism and Introduction to Judaism classes. Hosting a class or program for those interested in Judaism is an effective way to invite new members into your community!
Retention of post-bnei mitzvah families is a concern for all Membership leaders and professionals, but youre not in it alone. The URJ recently launched its Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE), and this month were highlighting its many resources. The CYE aims to dramatically improve the ability of Reform institutions to involve young people in meaningful Jewish life and strengthen post-b'nei mitzvah engagement and retention in synagogues, day schools, camps and youth programs throughout North America. Visit urj.org/cye to learn more.