The Three “Killers” of Healthy Synagogue Growth

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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.

As we already have been discussing, synagogue growth is a complex and sophisticated nut to crack. A lot of moving components go into what makes one shul more successful over the other. While there is no one silver bullet I would say that there are three basic enemies that ANY synagogue leadership team can avoid in their search for greatness:

  1. Inability to say “no”

The need to please and say yes to everybody can put our development in a real tailspin. We find ourselves running programs that our synagogue had no business running. We started trying to meet the demand of constituents who don’t represent the missions demographic or interests. It’s okay to say “we’re not ready to run a program like that at this time.”

  1. Fear of making a mess

I’ve been told in the past – “Rabbi let’s avoid that big party it’s going to make a mess of our ballroom.” Or the perennial “Well we’re not counting on wear and tear costs.” Let me tell you something from my experience as a Shul Rabbi and heavy programmer – sometimes THE MESSIER the better. Sometimes being imperfect and having extra people crash and not having paint at the carnival splatter on the wall is just what an uptight congregation needs. We have so much structure and consistency that it’s healthy to allow our programs to grow with more flexibility.

  1. Unhealthy fiscal habits

This category probably needs its own blog post but I’m going to mention it here. On your journey to becoming a cutting edge and unique shul a lot of initiatives, guest speakers, Shabbaton meals will probably be served. Budget, budget, budget. Plan a clear focused P & L Chart. This will let you know how much you’re going to need to fundraise for your Youth program, Outreach plans, etc. Without healthy fiscal habits, you can find yourself only a few months in, in a hole that may be very difficult to climb out of.

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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.