Rabbi Einhorn’s SynaBlog is a new innovative blog that shares tips, tactics, strategies and best practices that enable Shul growth and promote Shul vitality.
Our davening is more or less a set program. We’re not going to add more blessings to the Shemona Esrei, and we’re not going to delete Aleinu. The fixed agenda of our prayer service challenges us to appreciate certainty, consistency and to find profundity in the awesome words assembled by the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah. It then becomes our job to add color, creativity and flexibility to the Shul program calendar, event space, youth groups, teen minyan, etc.
What are some strategies to bring out our most creative selves?
1. The Doodle Revolution and 30 Circles
Suni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, points to numerous brilliant innovators that used doodling to get their minds going. Steve Jobs would start doodling on a pad hoping each day to spark creativity anew.
Take a piece of paper and draw 30 circles on the paper. Give yourself one minute to convert as many circles as possible into objects. The point of these exercises is to massage neurological pathways that lead to greater innovation.
Along similar lines, tapping into our emotional side can help break the barrier that’s been set up between our logical and efficient selves and our emotions
Example: A shul in Seattle tried a brain storming session with the 30 Circles at their board meeting. Immediately afterward, one of the board members came up with a concept of Themed Kiddushes. For example, one Shabbos would be ‘Life in Greece’ – the food would be a taste of Kosher Grecian food and it was followed by a shiur on the History of Jews in Modern Greece.
2. Get out of your comfort zone, reach outside of your field
Our intuition would tell us to speak to other successful shuls to gage what might be a great program idea. Often those best practices yield terrific results. But what if we left our comfort zone and looked outside of our field for innovative ideas? According to the Harvard Business Review looking to a different but analogous field often leads to mind blowing innovation.
Example: A shul in Southern New Jersey heard a presentation on cutting edge ideas from a local tech firm. One of the tech firms initiatives was to make use of a simple app design program called www.shoutem.com<http://www.shoutem.com/> for their numerous short-term projects. The shul used this app to design a Rambam learning competition in the shul.
3. The One Thing
In 2013 Gary Keller and Jay Papasan came out with a book that was based on a simple premise: what is the one thing you can do today and the next day that you will absolutely set you apart from the competition? That’s “The One Thing”. This seems to stunt creativity as it minimizes our playing field. But the truth is the opposite. Our creative energies are harnessed and focused. Instead of being in too many places at one time we devote our attention to a sweet spot.
Example: There are thousands of examples for this one but I’ll simply say the synagogues that focus on YOUTH GROUPS in particular and they make that their “One Thing” tend to see booming results.
Bonus suggestion: Another fascinating exercise to elicit creativity is to try to come up with an apartment building that would be able to accommodate all Superheroes.
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Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is a Musmach of Yeshiva University. He has served as the founder of WINGS a Synagogue Consulting group. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Rabbi Einhorn was the Rabbi of Manhattan’s West Side Institutional Synagogue where he helped grow the membership by 70% over 4 years. Currently, he is the Rav and Dean of Yeshivat Yavneh.