I’ve written recently about how I was given a number of books to read by the President of $mens_club at $current_congregation (in my role as a VP). In my last post, in particular, I wrote:
The book emphasized being better male role models — and that I can see as being beneficial. For many, our fathers were good role models, but for many others, the father wasn’t a role model or was absence. This is something we can teach.
That dovetails with my thoughts after reading “The Spirituality of Welcoming: How to Transform Your Congregation into a Sacred Community” by Dr. Ron Wolfson. In this book, an outgrowth of the Synagogue 2000 (now 3000) work, he explores how to make a congregation a welcoming space, drawing lessons from all sorts of organizations such as Walt Disney, Chabad, and Pastor Rick Warren’s megachurch. I’ve heard mention of making the congregation more welcoming at various meetings at $current_congregation… but it hasn’t fully been working. They’ve been doing slow improvements, but I still see that visitors are turned off by the attitudes, and often the attitudes in the groups become insular and cliquish… which turns away newcomers. I also see that as they bemoan a declining membership, they aren’t doing activities that will draw in new members, or (at least to my eyes) make existing members more committed.
This is where $mens_club, I think, can make a difference. After reading this book, we should try to make $mens_club an example of a welcoming space in the congregation (and perhaps it can spread to $sisterhood as well). So if the congregation can’t get its act together, we should “man up” and show them how it is done. We need to be welcoming at our meetings, at our events, and at Shabbats.
The following are some of my specific thoughts after reading this book:
- We should build a profile database of our members, and in particular our supporting members. Find out what they are passionate about, so we can have activities that will play to those passions and get them more involved. The book also recommended building a “face book” in the original sense of the term — remember that Facebook started as an electronic place where you could put faces with the names. We should work to publish a roster of members where we not only have names and addresses, but faces so that people can be recognized.
- We need to revitalize the $mens_club Facebook group, and have all active $mens_club members be friends with each other. We should know what each other is doing, so that friendships can strengthen the intra-$mens_club relationships. We should also appoint a Social Media Chair (this might be a great job for a younger male) to nurture online contacts, encourage event participation, and rally support for members when necessary.
- One of the notions in the book was Community / Crowd / Congregation / Committed / Core as circles of membership. Community is the pool of “potentials” – the unaffiliated. In $mens_club terms, they would be the male members of the congregation. Crowd is the people who show up for the occasional service or program, but nothing more. Congregation would be the people who go so far as to join — that is, give financial support. Committed are the people that regularly come to meetings. The core would be the people that, essentially, go to everything. Not only do you need to draw people from the community into the crowd, you need to work to get them to move up the commitment ladder. Of course, as we do this, they will be getting more involved in $current_congregation, and quite likely the Committed / Core will become key members there. As we plan events and do the social media, we need to think how to move people up, and which people are in which category. This also raises the question of exactly who are the target members for $mens_club? Is it just the men of the congregation? Young males with families? We need to design the outreach to get the people we want… and who would want to associate with the current Committed / Core members. How can we, as a bunch of older men, come up with activities the younger men want?
- The book talked about the notion of creating relationships — essentially, figuring out how to get people to change from thinking about “the $mens_club” to “my $mens_club”. This can then go to a problem that has existed of showing the value of $mens_club (and $sisterhood) to the larger core of the Board. The value of these auxiliaries is not just as another source for funds when $current_congregation needs them. It is to create deep relationships of members to the auxiliaries, and thence to the larger congregational community — essentially, we are moving them up the circles of membership. Being smaller groups, it is much easier for people to get to know each other and build these relationships. We need to emphasize this value to the Core … as well as advertising it to the existing membership as a way to “get started” in being welcomed. This might also be a way to utilize the left-over wine tasting glasses in a good way — for new paid members, have a $mens_club or $sisterhood member personally visit them and give them a set of glasses to personally welcome them and invite them to an upcoming $mens_club or $sisterhood meeting.
- Although not in the book, one other avenue of being this welcoming role model is to go after welcoming members when the congregation doesn’t. $mens_club (and hopefully $sisterhood) should be at the forefront of getting booths at community events where we can be out there welcoming people and inviting them to join us. If the megachurches can do this as a form of outreach, there’s no reason we can. We can talk about what we find passionate in $current_congregation and draw people in to try it.
As always, your thoughts are welcome on this.