This Month in The Tent: Being a More Welcoming Congregation



Membership specialists and committee chairs will tell you the three tenets of congregational membership are recruitment, integration/engagement, and retention. In all three areas, one key to success is making people feel like your congregation is a place for them – in other words, being welcoming.

What, specifically, can you and your fellow leaders do to model audacious hospitality and make your congregation as welcoming as possible?

If you want prospective members to know your congregation is the place for them, say so in your membership brochures and on your website. Consider including language that expressly states that your community includes – and welcomes –young adults, LGBT members, people with disabilities, and all others seeking a connection to Jewish life.

You might also review your membership forms (whether for new or current members) and other applications, and revise them so the language is gender neutral. For example, on a school form, use the term “parent” rather than “mother” or “father” so families with two moms or two dads feel recognized. Highlight the fact that your facilities are wheelchair accessible, have elevators, or include other disability-friendly resources. Publicize a list of your congregation’s active chavurot so people know there are others in your community with interests similar to theirs.

In The Tent, the URJ’s online communication and collaboration forum, you’ll find discussions and resources about successful membership and outreach strategies. Leaders in The Tent are discussing how to: form chavurot; refer to members of interfaith families; update and/or improve their membership application; and more. Browse the Membership and Outreach groups to find a conversation or resource, and be sure to check out the URJ’s customizable ads, including these (search “#URJ Ad” to find more):

Congregational leaders involved in outreach efforts might also be interested in knowing about two URJ offerings:

  1. The Belin Outreach and Membership Awards recognize congregations that have developed outstanding outreach or membership programming. Eight congregations will receive a $1,000 award and will be honored at the 2015 URJ Biennial in November.
  2. A Taste of Judaism® Advertising Grants help congregations advertise their upcoming A Taste of Judaism® Learn more in The Tent.

Seasonal Info: June is LGBT Pride Month. Prepare by reviewing your congregation’s policies and practices to make sure they create a welcoming environment for LGBT members. See “18+ Ways to Make Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Members Feel Welcome” for some hints and tips, and visit the Religious Action Center’s LGBT Rights page to stay up-to-date on related advocacy efforts.

Tent Tip: Let’s talk #topics! Adding topics to your post or resource will make it easier for others to find that conversation or file. Similar to the way hashtags are used on Twitter, topics act as keywords to connect Tent activity. When creating a post, simply click the “Add topics” link below the “Update” field. As you type, existing topics will appear.

Join the conversation and access these and other great resources in The Tent.

 

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Robin Riegelhaupt

About Robin Riegelhaupt

Robin Riegelhaupt is the Assistant Manager of the URJ Knowledge Network. Throughout her tenure at the URJ, she has served as a writer for the Congregational Consulting Group and the information resource specialist for the Department of Synagogue Management. Prior to joining the URJ, Robin was a web editor at the Washington Action Office of the Jewish Federations of North America and a grassroots organizer for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Theatre from the University of Central Florida. A native New Yorker, Robin lives in Astoria, NY, and writes about the arts.

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