Top 8 Cutting Edge Concepts for Congregational Leaders from 2016

Inside Leadership

Top 8 Cutting Edge Concepts for Congregational Leaders from 2016

Challah and candlesticks at the head of a congregation

During the past year, the Inside Leadership blog has introduced you to various concepts that every congregational leader should know. As 2016 comes to an end, we’ve rounded up the top eight concepts that will continue to be valuable to you in your work to inspire sacred action in your community:

1. Congregational leaders must adopt new measures of success in order to stay relevant and innovative.
It’s time leaders shift their methods of measuring success, says URJ Vice President Amy Asin. Success shouldn’t mean only counting how many people showed up at a program and whether the event met budget; rather, success should also be evaluated according to how synagogue membership defines the term. Asin proposes three new measures every congregation should adopt – relationship, impact and meaning.

2. Leaders shouldn’t aspire to run their congregations like a business.

When leaders say that they want to run their congregation like a business, Asin says, what they actually mean is that they want to run it “the right way.” Bearing in mind that not every business is run well, Asin explains that the ultimate objective of a congregation and its relational dynamics are unique and different from those of a typical business.

3. Congregational competition is a good thing.

Congregational leaders can be protective of their intellectual property, sometimes fearing that neighboring congregations may copy their ideas and draw away members. Larry Glickman, FTA, URJ Director of Network Engagement and Collaboration, explains why friendly congregational competition is actually good for the Jewish community.

4. Strong congregational leadership requires sacred partnership.

As a congregational leader, your relationships with other leaders aren’t ordinary – they are sacred and should be treated that way. Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, RJE, URJ Director of the Leadership Institute, reminds leaders that these partnerships are built upon Jewish values, require trust, and recognize both leaders as individuals working toward shared goals.

5. As a Jewish leader, it’s OK to say “no” sometimes.

Virtually every leader has faced this scenario: You’ve taken on too many responsibilities, and it’s taking its toll on you both personally and professionally. Due to the sacred nature of their work, Jewish leaders, in particular, may feel an obligation to say “yes.” Dr. Erica Brown, one of three scholars in the 2016-17 URJ Scholar Series, empowers leaders to embrace the fact that sometimes they need to say “no” in order to get to an even bigger “yes.”

6. When your congregation is undergoing rabbinic transition, find the balance between old and new.

Transitioning from one spiritual leader to another is difficult for any congregation, says Rabbi Janet Offel, URJ Director of Consulting and Transition Management, and not all congregants will undergo this process at the same pace. To ease the transition, Offel advises drawing from the wisdom and connections of the rabbi emeritus while providing the new rabbi space to develop leadership and relationships with the congregation.

7. Engaging congregants through small groups can be transformative.

By organizing small groups of 15 members or fewer, revolving around topics of shared interest, similar life stages, or neighboring geographies, congregations can truly turn into the center of meaning and relationships for their members. Rabbi Esther Lederman, URJ Director of Communities of Practice, shares how this strategy can create paths to leadership, enrich relationships among congregants, and become the most meaningful thing about belonging to a congregation.

8. To engage youth, talk to kids before their teen years – and don’t forget about their parents.

These nine principles for effectively engaging youth in congregational life come from Miriam Chilton, URJ Vice President for Youth, and Michelle Shapiro Abraham, MAJE, RJE, Director of Learning and Innovation for Youth. They say building relationships prior to b’nai mitzvah can be the key to continuing them, as it’s easier to engage teens who’ve already had positive learning experiences as children. They also urge congregational leaders to prioritize engaging teens’ parents because, while teens build their individual identities and try to differentiate themselves from their parents, they are still influenced by them.

To read many of these pieces and additional valuable pieces for congregational leaders, and to gain access to discussion guides for your next leadership meeting, make sure to read the URJ’s Moving to the Leading Edge: A Resource and Discussion Guide to Move Your Congregation Forward.

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Daphne Macy is the communications manager for the URJ’s Strengthening Congregations team. She holds a B.A. in Communications and Film from Tel Aviv University, Magna cum Laude, and is also a graduate of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Daphne resides in New York and is a native speaker of both Hebrew and English. She is also a writer and an actress.

Daphne Macy
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