Member Participation – Coerce, Encourage or Accept

Maariv is finished on Moatzei Shabbos and the familiar call goes out – “we need people to help clean up Shalosh Seudos”. It’s the same refrain and it’s often the same group of people who clean up. The same participation scenario is replayed for the Shalosh Seudos setup and for many other Shabbos and weekday volunteer functions needed for the successful running of the Shul.

There are at least three approaches to take in regard to member participation:
(1) You can coerce participation with statements like “if people don’t help we’re not going to have Shalosh Seudos any more”.
(2) You can encourage participation with statements like “if you eat Shalosh Seudos, it’s only right that you sometimes pitch in”.
(3) You can accept the fact that some people consider paying dues enough of a participatory effort, and are not inclined to help out.

I’m more in the acceptance camp (3) although I think there is no harm in encouragement. I’m happy to be in a Shul with a healthy occupancy rate and without the attendance of the other members it would be a much less fulfilling experience for me. In need be, we will pay for services that member participation would’ve provided for free.

Some people think that participation, beyond dues, is the price all members must pay and they get very frustrated when members don’t pinch it. Although I’ve never seen it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Shul where participation is explicitly or implicitly expected from all members.

The size of the shul may determine which policy is adapted, although I’ll never forget the small out of town Shul I visited, where the Rabbi davened, leined, was gabbai, set up and cleaned up Shalosh Seudos. And he did it all with a smile and with no regrets.

For those who are participating, take pleasure in the fact that you have the opportunity and ability to do communal chesed. And for those sitting on the benches, it may be you’re right, but please consider pitching in on occasion, it will make everybody a little happier.

6 thoughts on “Member Participation – Coerce, Encourage or Accept”

  1. I attend a meeting that requires volunteers to do some work each week before and after the meeting. I think people volunteer more readily if they know it is for a short term of 4 week stints. I think when it comes to just asking for volunteers, some people avoid helping even a little for the fear that they may be committing themsleves for the long haul. Tomchei Shabbos isn’t too difficult knowing you have only to do it once a month.

  2. The woman who founded our shul chessed committee was of the opinion that every member should take a turn (a) making a meal for a family that needs it, (b) setting up a kiddush, and any other jobs which come up often and could use a constant stream of volunteers. She did not accept the idea that some would love to make a meal every week but could never logistically help set up the kiddush – or vice versa. Fortunately she isn’t in charge now.

  3. I davened for a time at a shule where there was a monthly schedule posted with the various jobs that needed to be done during the week and over Shabbat. Each member rotated through the jobs, so everyone took a turn (and no one was assigned the same task over and over).

  4. different people pitch in in different ways and at different times. The gabbai right now might want help cleaning up from seuda shlishit (shaleshudos), but even if I dont help with that, it doesnt mean I am not pitching in above paying dues. Maybe I help put away the siddurim that many members leave out after davening, maybe I help organize the pews, or bring and put away the stack of seforim for the shiur, help with folding and storing the tablecloths after Shabbos, maybe I help set up the kiddush, or whatever.
    My point being, maybe some people dont help at all, but just because someone is not pitching right now at this moment, does not mean he is not pitching in at other times..

    1. Agreed, but there are people who never pitch in, and in my opinion that’s also ok.

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