What Gets Congregational Leaders Out of Bed in the Morning?

Inside Leadership

What Gets Congregational Leaders Out of Bed in the Morning?

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Two years ago, we at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) wrote about what keeps congregational leaders up at night, which looked at the challenges facing contemporary synagogues – framed through the lens of the thousands of questions congregational leaders have asked the URJ Knowledge Network team. Two years later, data shows that the challenges remain the same – governance and leadership culture, support through clergy transition, attracting and retaining members, and financial sustainability – and the URJ continues to offer exceptional programming and resources and new innovations in all of these areas.

But congregational leaders don’t just spend their days worrying about the challenges they face. There’s so much joy, holiness, and excitement, too. So this time we asked: What gets congregational leaders out of bed in the morning? 

We see some answers to this question in the way our congregational leaders work with and support one another in The Tent, the communications and collaboration platform for Reform leaders. In the conversations that happen within The Tent, we see passionate advocacy, deep knowledge, and enthusiastic participation from leaders across North America who are eager to share what works for them and why – not to raise their own profiles but to help create a tangible sense of community and help other leaders move more congregations toward transformational change

We asked a few of the most highly engaged users of The Tent what topics they are most passionate about and why it’s so important to them to share what they’ve learned with others. Here’s what we learned:

1. Talking dues – and offering support to congregations considering changes 

When it comes to being a congregational leader, Scott Roseman, immediate past president of Temple Beth El of Aptos, CA, takes seriously what’s at stake: the very future of synagogues. 

As a staunch advocate for voluntary dues, Roseman helped his congregation implement a voluntary system and has since been eager to encourage others to consider such a move. He’s always prepared to offer guidance to those already moving in that direction, and the topic is always a popular one in The Tent. “My comments seem to generate a great deal of follow-up conversation, both supporting and arguing with it,” Roseman says. You can join the conversation by following the topic tag #VoluntaryDues and joining the Finances group.  

2. Moving synagogue communications to the leading edge

Jason Plotkin, program director of Congregation Emanu El in Houston, TX, says he’s proud of how his congregation, from the senior staff to the lay leaders, “has created a culture that reaches beyond our membership to make Emanu El a consequential organization.” One way the congregation has done this is by implementing robust communications and marketing efforts that help raise its profile in a major way.

Plotkin has a particular affinity for such communications-related topics and is one of the leading voices in The Tent on constituent relationship management (CRM) systems. Learn more in the Communications group, or dive deeper with the CRM power users

3. Connecting with other social justice activists 

Social justice activism is the topic that animates Shelly F. Cohen, immediate past president of Temple Beth Am in Seattle, WA. Cohen uses The Tent as a forum to share information and resources, as well as to organize action. She’s a particularly strong advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, and what has the most impact on her colleagues is when she shares both her own personal experiences and the successful ways her congregation has addressed issues of inclusivity and equity. Cohen says these connections extend beyond The Tent: “The best part of making connections in The Tent happens at Biennial, when I discover that the person I’m talking to in real life is someone I’ve chatted with online!” Make connections around your passions in the Social ActionLGBTQIA+, or Audacious Hospitality-Outreach groups, or search for one of the many other social justice groups in The Tent.

Want to meet more enthusiastic and inspiring leaders like Scott Roseman, Jason Plotkin, and Shelly Cohen? Join us in Chicago from December 11-15 for the URJ Biennial 2019, and sign up for The Tent, the URJ’s communications and collaboration platform for Reform Movement leaders.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the communications and collaboration platform for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Michael H. Goldberg is the director of operations of the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Strengthening Congregations team. Larry Glickman, FTA, is the director of the Reform Movement Marketplace at the Union for Reform Judaism.

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