In the not too distant past—as recently as a decade or so ago—when people wanted to do good, they volunteered for a non-profit that reflected and expressed their values. The hierarchy would acculturate them into the “right way” of doing the work. If they were reasonably competent, they would be promoted up the ranks and often contributed a lifetime of volunteer service.
But that era is over. Today, with the Internet and social media, anyone can become educated about an issue, select a cause, inexpensively raise funds, market, and mobilize large numbers of people around it. Individuals can contribute a large amount of good to the world without the help of non-profit organizations and can cultivate a global, loyal base of followers, at least for a limited amount of time. In that case, what is the purpose of a non-profit organization today? How do volunteers and professionals, who understand that non-profits both serve and transcend particular causes, lead in this environment?
As I know the Jewish community well—and the synagogue best—these are the kinds of topics that I explore in Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life . They touch upon the very purpose, structure, theology, and leadership of synagogues and other Jewish organizations. Are these core issues of synagogue life, as they are expressed today, adequate for a new century?
Of course, I lack the intimate knowledge of church life and dynamics, but my friends at Alban assure me that many of the issues are similar. In fact, two Alban publications that I read within the past year, Pastor Landon Whitsitt’s Open Source Church and Pastor Carol Howard Merritt’s Tribal Church, really resonated within me.
Many other institutions that were essential last century have experienced turbulence and realize that their continued relevance and existence in our global, mobile, connected environment cannot be taken for granted. Synagogues are no different. I hope that Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life will stimulate a fresh, hopeful and helpful conversation about synagogues and churches to ensure that they remain vital institutions that contribute goodness and Godliness to their own communities and beyond.
Read an excerpt from Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Moving toward a Twenty-First Century Synagogue
Comments welcome on the Alban Roundtable blog
Rabbi Hayim Herring is president and CEO of Herring Consulting Network. He penned this article for his book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, copyright © 2012 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life
by Hayim Herring
Herring offers creative scenarios to stretch the imagination about how more synagogues could become vibrant centers of Jewish life and how congregational leaders can begin to chart a new course toward achieving that goal. Key to his vision are the ways synagogues can collaborate with other synagogues and other Jewish institutions in the local Jewish community and around the globe, as well as with organizations outside of the Jewish community.
Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All
by Landon Whisitt
In Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All, Landon Whitsitt argues that Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone can see and edit, might be the most instructive model available to help congregations develop leaders and structures that can meet the challenges presented by our changing world. Its success depends, he demonstrates, not on the views of select experts but on the collective wisdom of crowds.
Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation
by Jill M. Hudson
Carol Howard Merritt suggests a different way for churches to approach young adults on their own terms. Outlining the financial, social, and familial situations that affect many young adults today, she describes how churches can provide a safe, supportive place for young adults to nurture relationships and foster spiritual growth .
Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary
by Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, and Ari Y. Kelin
Sacred Strategies is about eight synagogues that reached out and helped people connect to Jewish life in a new way—congregations that had gone from commonplace to extraordinary. Researchers Aron, Cohen, Hoffman, and Kelman write for synagogue leaders eager to transform their congregations, federations and foundations interested in encouraging and supporting this transformation, and researchers in congregational studies who will want to explore further.
Synagogues in a Time of Change: Fragmentation and Diversity in Jewish Religious Movements
Zachary I. Heller, editor
Jewish religious communities today share a number of challenges, from the increase in secular or unaffiliated Jews to emerging Jewish spiritual communities forming outside the synagogue. Brought together by the late Zachary I. Heller of the National Center for Jewish Policy Studies, twenty of the leading Jewish thinkers have contributed to this comprehensive collection of essays. Each writer brings unique expertise and perspective in describing the development of contemporary religious movements in American Judaism, their interrelationships and tensions, and their prospects for the future. Their combined voices create a timely discussion of the many urgent issues bearing down on American synagogues .
If you expect to retire from active congregational ministry within the next two-to-ten years, this seminar is for you!
Join Larry Peers as he helps you shape, re-shape, and rejuvenate this phase of your ministry.
This experience will bring you new insight into your ministry, and helpful tools for you and your congregation as you move together into this culminating chapter of your ministry.
Finishing Strong, Ending Well: Crafting the Culminating Chapter of Your Ministry
Leader: Larry Peers, Alban Senior Consultant
April 24-26, 2012
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, CT
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