communityBy Molly Ritvo

[Written with synagogues in mind; applicable for all.]

A thriving community is an engaged community. Your ability to enhance the relevancy of Judaism and to engage current and prospective members and your community at large is key to your community’s success. Once engaged, your membership’s participation will grow. To help you deepen relationships in your community before the High Holidays, here are some engagement best practices:

  1. Build in time for schmoozing. Purposefully build in time for schmoozing at all your events and programs. This is important for relationship-building and will help members feel comfortable. This simple team-building technique will make your community more connected so they will be eager to engage in your programs and activities. A great example of this is having official greeters welcome your community as they arrive for High Holiday services. The greeters will be responsible for connecting with members as they walk in the room and can help folks find their seats.
  2. Don’t forget about the youth. Treat your post b’nai mitzvah students as full members of your community. These young adults are ready to take on responsibility in your community. Empower them to be part of a committee. Ask their opinions in how your community can improve its youth programs. Give them opportunities to plan a multi-generational program.
  3. Include the introverts. A lot of research has come out about introverts recently. Extroverts, people that are energized from large groups, and introverts, those that are energized by alone time or in small groups, will find connection and meaning in your community in different ways. Consider reaching out in a variety of ways that include programs to attract extroverts (such as large group events that include a lot of interaction and movement) and programs to attract introverts (such as a Jewish meditation or small group learning). Additionally, if you have a CRM that allows you to add fields to track demographics of your community, consider adding a field that captures these psychometric aspects of your members (as you notice what they prefer).
  4. Offer micro-grant opportunities. Empower your members to create meaningful programs. Offer them micro-grants to fund these programs and consider making it a condition for the grant that your members partner with someone they don’t know that well. Many organizations are using micro-grants to stimulate community action.
  5. Meet your community where they are. Rather than expecting and waiting for them to come to you, go to them. Where are they? In coffee shops? At movie theaters? The gym? Online? Be there with them! Consider having a honey tasting event near Rosh Hashanah or a Tu B’Av speed dating event! Or if you’re hoping to attract more young professionals, host a happy hour at a local hip bar.
  6. Create meaningful experiences. Design programs that matter. Yoram Samets, Jvillage Network co-founder says, “If you want to bring congregants closer to you, whether into your synagogue or connecting online, you have to create authentic meaning.” Social outings are important; yet, be sure your community’s calendar is full of rich, Jewish experiences. One Jvillage member offers monthly Jewish grief-groups. Maybe you could host a Jewish meditation class or a Shabbat potluck in nature? Keep finding new ways to weave Jewish content into your programs; you’ll notice a boost in attendance.

Creating an engagement plan takes time and patience, as well as a desire to be creative! Creating an engagement plan involves developing numerous entryways into your community and creating opportunities to develop relationships with new and existing members.

Molly Ritvo is Partnership Development & Digital Marketing Associate at Jvillage Network.