Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Growing through Parnterships: A new model

Myself and Rabbi Daniel Berman at the training for USCJ sponsored SULAM FOR EMERGING LEADERS in New York. My Congregation, Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA has a wonderful history, a central location, a large parking area, a large Sanctuary and building and an equally large campus setting alongside a nature reserve. We also have a fully subscribed pre-school program. That said, we are not in a high growth area or an area with many unaffiliated younger families, and our Religious School and Youth programs have not been growing in recent years. So, the question is how do we grow? Is membership growth the best metric for measuring success? How does one measure vitality? buzz? impact? For the short term we are embarking on a strategy of growth through partnerships. That is, by putting out the welcome mat and trying to maximize the use of our building on Sabbaths and holidays as well as on weekdays, we are trying to build our reputation, bring in new audiences, and from there plan for increased member satisfaction, donations, and EVENTUALLY growth in membership. First steps have included welcoming a small Reconstructionist Havurah into our building for High Holiday services and some Shabbat morning services. We will partner with them for Simchat Torah, Purim and a Hanukkah party. Their rabbi will teach adult education with us and lead a number of Friday night services during the year and have an office in our building. We are also hosting LIMMUD Boston for the second year in a row and a special Friday night on the eve of Limmud. We are planning joint Religious School and Youth programs with neighboring congregations, and a joint summer study program and Selichot service involving synagogues of other denominations in the area. And we are working towards a regional Tikkun Lel Shavuot next year. We have begun conversations with a non-denominational Jewish after school program about moving into our building. And most recently, we have reached out to the Boston Jewish Music Festival about hosting a Friday night service, a Jewish salsa concert and perhaps a concert of classical Jewish organ music. All in all, an ambitious program to grow our program without investing large amounts of our own capital and limited professional resources. More to come as we continue on this path.