7 Timely Skills-Training Tools Your Congregation Needs Now

May 5, 2020Amy Asin and Daphne Macy

These unprecedented and unusual times require congregational leaders to pivot and be nimble. Lay and professional leaders are working in new ways and wearing many hats, and new volunteers are suddenly assuming leadership roles for the first time.

This time may be overwhelming – but we’re here to help. Whether you want to master a new skill that has suddenly become essential to your work or are trying to get a new congregational leader up to speed, the following URJ resources and tools may be helpful to you – always, but especially during this time.

1. Delve into congregational finances.

Need a refresher or an introduction to the fundamentals of congregational finances? The URJ’s three, self-paced, online Congregational Finances Courses are intended to prepare participants to take part in financial conversations, providing a basic introduction for lay leaders who have little to no experience with finances. They’re also relevant for lay or professional leaders who want a refresher in congregational finances.

Sign up for one, two, or all three courses: The 101-level course will help you establish a strong financial foundation; the 102 course helps you assess your congregation’s financial health; and the 103 course will help you better understand processes and systems for congregational finances.

If you’re involved in your congregation’s budget discussions, don’t forget to check out the URJ’s helpful new Budget Scenario Planning video guide.

Finally, if you’re the financial decision-maker of your congregation, the new URJ Congregational Treasurers Course is especially for you! Participants will learn how to align resources with organizational goals and propel their congregation toward greater financial sustainability.

2. Learn about fundraising in the age of COVID-19.

Fundraising is always a challenging endeavor, but given our current state of affairs it feels even more daunting. Join us on Wednesday, May 13, 8pm ET for a webinar with Amy Schiffman, consultant and coach from Giving Tree Associates. Together, we’ll uncover strategies to continue building relationships with members and donors in a crisis environment. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about virtual galas, mailings, special campaigns, and solicitations during a time of extreme uncertainty – and will leave with a plan of action.

3. Conduct virtual gatherings with ease.

Programming, services, meetings, and congregational get-togethers are all taking place online. Need a little technical help to better gather your community online? Watch this URJ tutorial on how to use Zoom, a flexible and powerful tool for virtual meetings. This webinar was specifically designed to meet the needs of congregational clergy, educators, and lay leaders. 

You can also learn to create polls on Zoom to enable voting during virtual leadership meetings.

4. Work with your sacred partners.

Sacred partnerships among lay and professional leaders are critical to our congregations under the best of circumstances – and during times of crisis, they become even more important. URJ leadership experts share guidance about turning to sacred partnerships in times of crisis and how to apply Jewish values to creating holy connection with other leaders.

To further explore how to build and maintain sacred partnerships, access the URJ’s Sacred Partnership Resource and Discussion Guide.

5. Get new leaders and board members up to speed.

Onboarding a new board cohort or welcoming a new member to your board? The URJ resource "Building a Board Orientation Program" provides suggested schedules, activities, and worksheets.

If you have time to delve deeper, the robust URJ Emerging Leaders Resource provides curriculum materials that can serve as the basis of your leadership development program.

6.  Engage your members through small groups.

As we practice physical distancing, now more than ever is a time to demonstrate and create space for the power of community. An effective way to engage your members is through small groups centered around shared interests, life stages, professions, geography, Jewish experiences, and more.

Many congregations that had not previously tried small groups are now using Zoom to test them out. These Ask Big Questions Guides – created especially for congregational leaders in collaboration with the URJ – can serve as helpful conversation-starters for your meetings.

Additionally, the URJ will be offering an online course for leaders who want to launch small groups in their congregation or provide materials for small group leaders.

7. Navigate the different stages of leadership during this unprecedented time.

To help congregations better address some of the universal questions arising in this unique moment, we’ve shared a three-stage framework that congregational leaders have found effective in navigating this situation so far, plus resources to help in each stage.

The stages cover safety, logistics, and community-building – but it’s important to remember that the stages are not linear, and congregations will move back and forth across them.

Remember: You are not alone in this work. Visit The Tent, the Reform Movement’s communications and collaboration platform, for countless additional resources, answers to questions, and vibrant discussions among Reform Movement leaders. Additionally, the URJ Knowledge Network team, the primary URJ contact for congregational leaders, is always available to provide guidance and personalized answers to your questions.

The entire Reform Movement is behind you – and together, we will help our members through this moment, emerging strong and hopeful for the future.

Looking for something more specific or want to review everything we offer to help navigate this moment? Check out the URJ’s COVID-19 Resources for Congregations page, which is being updated as new resources become available. 

Amy Asin is the URJ’s Vice President for Strengthening Congregations. Daphne Macy is a communications strategist at the Union for Reform Judaism.

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.

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