Beyond the Schedule
If your Shul is just a place to daven, then you don’t need much communications, perhaps an updated davening times schedule every now and then. However, as we’ve discussed your Shul can be much more: it can be a place of connection, growth and community. To reach those higher goals you need to communicate and connect with your members.
In the Beginning
Before the Internet, Shuls communicated with their members with announcements during davening and with newsletters often published and snail mailed on a monthly basis. The announcements are still there, but the snail mail has been replaced in many Shuls with email. The email can be delivered via a service like Constant Contact, a free alternative like Mail Chimp, via Gmail or from your Shul’s software program.
Beware of Shul Spam
Because it’s so easy to send emails to the membership it may be tempting to send them often. The problem with a freewheeling email strategy is that your messages can become Shul Spam. Shul Spam is not the spam that ends up in the Spam folder, but rather they’re emails that are ignored. The myriads of parsha and daily and weekly emails that are subscribed to often fall into this category.
If your members perceive your emails as Shul Spam, then they will not achieve your goals of communication and connection. Of course timely information, such as funerals need to be emailed immediately, but for other information a weekly email is filling the bill for many Shuls. A Shul should try to have some policy about when to send out separate emails for shiurim and other special events.
The Weekly Newsletter
The ease and low cost of sending email, combined with a sensible weekly mailing policy has created a situation where many Shuls are now producing a weekly newsletter. The weekly newsletter is not the same animal as the old monthly newsletter and it creates new issues to confront, which we’ll discuss in a future post. We’ll also look at Shul websites and using social media.
My daughter got married on Sunday night. The next day a friend emailed me the following message: “I wanted to point out something that may not ‘totally’ be obvious to you but was to me: There was a whole lot of LOVE last night; you are truly beloved by your friends!!! “. I did see it and feel it, not only on their faces, but in their entire being as they “big-hugged” my progressively perspiring body.
Available to Many
The reason I’m sharing this is because I’m not unique in this matter. Many of my fellow Shul members receive the same love at their Simchas. Part of this is due to the fact that we have a Shul environment where deep friendships can grow generating the love and connection that’s such an important part of Jewish life.
In the physical world, things are generally owned or enjoyed by each person (or family) separately which creates divisions of sorts. You have your car, house, clothes and food and I have mine. But in the infinite spiritual world, your possession of spirituality doesn’t create division. In fact your growth is often a catalyst for mine. When a Shul is built on a growth foundation of Torah, Tefillah and Chesed, the members can connect at a very deep level as they grow together.
There’s also a need to create a camaraderie among the members. People need to talk, eat and laugh together on a regular basis. Events such as kiddushim are a part of it, but on a regular basis people need to be comfortable shmoozing with their co-members. I will point out that this comradeship can lead to a conflict with the kedushah needed for a Shul. But like many things in Judaism we have to walk the fine line and integrate both concerns.
The last point is that in the same Shul not everyone will necessary feel the same degree of love. This is partially due to the fact that people serve and give conditionally. You need to give unconditionally without expectations. Relationships built on reciprocity are limited by nature. Serve your shul, give to others, express your concern, share a word, flash a smile – with no expectations. Perhaps you’ll feel the love at your next Simcha, and even if you don’t, keep on giving, smiling and sharing just the same.
…you ask, “What can I do for the shul”
…you make the effort to come out for membership meeting
…you’re really concerned about the Shul making the budget
…you’re willing to be an officer or some other important position every 10 years
…you try to daven at your Shul as often as possible
…you try to encourage new members to join
…you’re appreciative and supportive of your president and officers
…you phrase your complaints in a positive and constructive way
…you’re committed to the Shul for the long term
…you’re kind to the treasurer, if they make a mistake
The more valuable you are to the Shul, the more valuable the Shul will be for you.
…where real efforts where made to help you find employment
…where finding shidduchim for singles was a top active priority
…where everybody really does know your name
…where you’ve shared a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal with many other families
…where meals and minyanim where arranged when you where sitting Shiva
…where people came out for your Shalom Zacher
…where you can rely on member recommendations to find contractors and help
…where people shared in your joys
…where you could find people to talk to when times where tough
That’s the social direction in which a Growth Culture Shul is headed.