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Hayim Herring & Terri Elton Interviewed by Roshini Rakjumar on WCCO Radio

On WCCO Radio, Roshini Rakjumar interviews “Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World” authors Dr. Hayim Herring and Dr. Terri Elton. The authors discuss leading congregations and nonprofits in a connected – and clearly divided – world.

 

 

Three Kinds of Stubborn and their Implications for Leaders

When I was growing up, some members of my family used the phrase, “stupid stubborn” to refer to obstinate individuals. I confess – they often looked at me when they were discussing those who were “stupid stubborn!” As we’ve been reading about the triangle of Moses, the Jewish people and Pharaoh in the weekly Torah cycle, I remembered this phrase. Why? Because each part of the triangle displays stubbornness. And then I realized that the phrase “stupid stubborn” implies that there may be other varieties of stubborn. I’d like to identify and define three different kinds of “stubborn” that have significant implications for leadership.

Stupid stubborn: arrogance in refusing to accept destructive behavior that you bring upon yourself and those around you. This definition of stubborn applies to Pharaoh.

Stubborn in the Torah

Despairing stubborn: fatalism that limits your ability to imagine a better world and reinforces your belief that a negative status quo is permanent. This definition of stubborn applies to the Jewish people.

Optimistic stubborn: certainty that the world can change with a powerful vision of a better future,  and tenacity to maintain that optimism despite current evidence to the contrary. This definition of stubborn applies to Moses.

Stubbornness appears in different varieties. This quality can be both disabling or empowering. It depends upon the ability of a leader to harness the positive aspects of persistence in working faithfully toward a more hopeful future. As a teenager, perhaps I periodically displayed aspects of a “stupid stubborn” personality. But I’ve learned that optimistic stubborn is far more powerful and uplifting.

 

How to Connect in a Politically Divided World

Following a tense and game-changing campaign season, many Americans are wondering how they can still make a positive impact in our socially connected, but politically divided culture.  Two Twin Cities religious leaders have a new book that could offer some answers.

Rabbi Hayim Herring and Luther Seminary Professor Dr. Terri Elton joined us on KARE 11 News at 4 to discuss “Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purpose.”

The authors say their book draws perspectives from clergy and volunteer leaders on how to engage their members in meaningful ways, identify a common good and, ultimately, advance their positive impact in a socially connected world.

 

Wanted: Greater Innovation, More Entrepreneurship

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This blog post is one of a continuing series on Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purpose, my newest book on congregations and nonprofits, co-authored with Dr. Terri Elton, Associate Professor Leadership at Luther Seminary. Whether We researched and wrote about Jewish and Protestant congregations and nonprofits that are navigating a paradigm shift in minimizing more cumbersome, hierarchical ways of working and fostering more fluid and creative networks to advance their missions.

Are innovation and entrepreneurship the same?

Innovation and entrepreneurship are significantly different although they’re often used interchangeably. Innovation means doing something that already exists in new ways or introducing something that is brand-new: either completely unprecedented or new for an organization although others have done it. Entrepreneurship is the ability to see and seize new opportunities. It’s also having a start-up and bootstrap mentality- using limited resources to test ideas until you decide to scale them up or close them down.

What are examples of “innovation” and “entrepreneurship” that illustrate the difference?

An innovator might work at improving “religious (or Hebrew) school” by introducing a new curriculum or a new professional development program for Jewish educators. An entrepreneur will look at the paradigm of religious school, determine that it needs to be replaced and change it to an after school Hebrew immersion program. By discarding the reigning paradigm and its assumptions, everything – from curriculum to fees, will not only be new but also evolve rapidly because there is no template for it. Skilled entrepreneurs will continue to see additional opportunities to improve this paradigm and scale it, and identify other ways to expand its impact and possibly create new start-ups, for example, focused on developing teacher talent for this new paradigm and providing experiential learning for families.

Can Denominations Innovate?

Each denomination has innovated at various times. For example, Reform Judaism has innovated in Jewish music and social justice; Conservative Judaism in its approach to Jewish law as both evolving and binding; Orthodox Judaism on its emphasis on the compatibility of traditional text study and secular learning. The Reconstructionist Movement is entrepreneurial in its ability to perceive new opportunities but has had to rely de facto on other denominations to scale them because of its relatively small numbers. Chabad is truly entrepreneurial because it consistently leads in identifying new opportunities and scaling them globally.

What About Nonprofits and Congregations on the Local Level?

In our book, we identified four pathways to innovation or, more accurately, three innovative pathways that we believe any congregation or nonprofit can pursue. We also studied two entrepreneurial organizations, one congregation and one nonprofit. These four pathways are:
reiterating the role;
cracking the code;
fusing the model; and
breaking the mold.
Only the fourth one, “breaking the mold,” meets the criteria of entrepreneurial.

Should Congregations and Jewish Nonprofits Be More Innovative and Entrepreneurial?

To summarize, entrepreneurship involves both an organizational orientation and a skill set. An organization may periodically innovate, but may not be considered especially innovative. On the other hand, an organization is either entrepreneurial or it is not. It can’t be partially entrepreneurial because being “entrepreneurial” is an all-in commitment that is hard-wired into an organization’s DNA. Entrepreneurial organizations are structured “laboratories,” with ongoing experimentation, success, failure, learning and advancing.

Congregations and Jewish nonprofits need to be more innovative if they want to continue to have impact – just look at any study on established Jewish institutions within the past decade and the conclusion is clear. They are innovating, but the pace of innovation is too slow. But not every congregation and Jewish nonprofit can be entrepreneurial. Even if they could, it wouldn’t be desirable. Why? Congregations and nonprofits also play a critical role in helping people reflect on the value of change. they are places where leaders can ask, “Just because we can change values and traditions, should we? What do we gain and what do we lose?” But cultivating organizational cultures that support greater innovation in more established Jewish organizations, and supporting entrepreneurial Jewish organizations is the very desirable for the future of the Jewish community!

 

From Stained Glass to Virtual Reality Glasses

The Past and Future of Congregations and Nonprofits

When the values of a congregation or nonprofit are out of sync with the values of their stakeholders, we have a recipe for frustration between individual and institution. Congregations and nonprofits live by two sets of values: their stated interpersonal values, and their embedded organizational values. Their interpersonal values, framed in Jewish values language, guide how community members are expected to relate to one. They are often explicitly codified in an approved organizational “values statement.”

Organizational values are expressed through leaders’ responses to policy changes, programs and initiatives. For example, how a congregation or nonprofit responds to trends like “fee for service” or “donor directed giving” provides insights into organizational values about customer service, experimentation and agility. But organizational values are so embedded that they are invisible to those who work in or regularly volunteer for them. They only become apparent when the values of congregations or nonprofits are misaligned with the values of their stakeholders. And until leaders and stakeholders realign their organizational values, it’s unsatisfying for both sides.

In Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platform, People and Purpose, a book that I co-wrote with Dr. Terri Elton, Associate Professor Leadership at Luther Seminary, we trace a brief, three-stage history of faith-based organizations and their embedded organizational values. Being aware of these values can help or hinder deeper relationships between congregations or nonprofits and constituents. These three stages are:

Organization 1.0: the “benign parent” or hierarchical model, where decisions are made thoughtfully and caringly by a small leadership group at the top for a larger less “informed” group below.

Organization 2.0: a version of the above that creates a parallel presence of the organization on the web, but still is basically a one-way channel for broadcasting the congregation’s or nonprofit’s message with little meaningful room for engagement with members. Many established congregations and faith-based nonprofits are still organized as 2.0.

Organization 3.0: a blended model of hierarchy and networks that is present both in digital and physical space, characterized by dialogue, more shared-decision making and creation of content and meaning. It values are based on deep engagement between individuals and organizations. (Spoiler alert: on page 11 we even give the date on which Organization 3.0 first became possible—June 29, 2007.)

The fundamental difference between Congregation or Nonprofit 2.0 and 3.0 is an acknowledgement that that individuals do not need existing organizations to express and explore sacred meaning and purpose. They have the ability to bypass them and find or create new platforms to do so. But if congregations and nonprofits can make the pivot and become platforms for people to engage in purposeful work, they have a good chance of engaging new and existing audiences more deeply. Unlike startups, they have the advantage of doing so in physical and digital space.

To learn more about how emerging and established congregations and nonprofits in the Jewish and Protestant communities are becoming more “3.0,” we hope that you’ll purchase our book, which you can still do at a 40% time limited discount by using the code RL40LC16 when ordering. And connect with me (options for social media of your choice, top right) to explore trends like the implications of virtual reality for congregational and nonprofit communities. It looks like we’re quickly moving from gathering in “stained glass” spaces to meeting in virtual space, thanks to the affordability of virtual and augmented reality glasses. Time to start thinking about how congregations and nonprofits can shape that trend to help them increase their impact!

 

Fragile Communities

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My colleague, Dr. Terri Elton, Associate Professor Leadership at Luther Seminary and I, have been highlighting key findings from our recent publication, Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platform, People and Purpose. (In our last post, we explained the link between organizational structure and impact.) Our issue in this post: congregational and nonprofit communities are very fragile these days! Can congregations be places where people who hold diverse views continue to join together in prayer? Can nonprofits continue to mobilize volunteers around causes that are directly related to their missions? Or, has the toxic effect of social media seeped into physical spaces so that people who used to worship and work together can no longer do so when they meet face-to-face?

Dr Terri EltonWhen we asked congregational and nonprofit leaders profiled in our book about pressing challenges, they consistently responded with one word: “Community!” We could feel their anxieties around this issue and, from our perspective, for good reason. Congregations are at their best when they are inclusive. Diversity is not its own goal, but a value that enables people to engage with the “other” – a person from another generation, a different background, a spiritual orientation or political view. In that encounter with an “other,” both people have an opportunity to grow by experiencing difference. They grow more deeply in who they are because the encounter affirms a belief or value, or they grow because they modify a part of themselves.

We conducted our research a good year prior to the nastiness of the 2016 presidential campaign. But already then, the issue of community preoccupied the minds of clergy and chief executive officers. Think for a moment—aside from congregations, what other institution is designed to take people at all stages of life and grow with them over time? Congregations, and to a slightly lesser extent, faith-based nonprofits, are inherently lifelong centers for creating and sustaining communities with a wide mix of people.

Hayim Herring - BookWe see a significant role for congregations and nonprofits around the issue of community. But given how fragile and complex community is today, we believe that congregations will benefit by learning from one another. One opportunity for shared learning is in gaining greater understanding about the limits of digital space in engaging members and participants. What kinds of “conversations” are effective on digital platforms and which are best held in a physical space? What happens when a professional or volunteer publishes information about an issue that is unintentionally misleading or inaccurate—or simply false? One of clergy leader in our study framed the issue this way. He said that for now, he’ll take an old-fashioned town hall meeting about an important issue over a digital discussion because “there’s an accountability piece missing” online. When people don’t have to make eye contact with one another, they have to grapple with the impact of their words.

Meeting an “other” can be positively disorienting. Stereotypes that people carry inside of their heads often don’t resemble that “other” who stands beside them, engaged in sacred, mission-driven work. We invite you to share your suggestions about how congregations and nonprofits can continue to be places where diversity brings out the collective best in a community. So please connect with Hayim (options for social media of your choice, top right) or with Terri (telton@luthersem.edu, www.facebook.com/terri.elton, @TerriElton) and contribute your wisdom to these unprecedented questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Disruptors, Tomorrow’s Disrupted

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In our last blog post, my colleague, Dr. Terri Elton, Associate Professor Leadership at Luther Seminary and I, described the launch of our new book, Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platform, People and Purpose. (And remember to take advantage now of a time-limited 40% discount on your purchase.) Now for our motivation: we confess that we’re organizational geeks! We actually like to study how people in faith-based communities organize for collective purpose and impact for several reasons. Organizational structure can:

• Either inhibit or accelerate impact.
• Become invisible to those who work in organizations once they learn how to live within its parameters.
• Become so deeply embedded in organizations, that leaders need to make a conscious, intentional choice to think about alternatives.

Organization and structure matter, then, because they have a dramatic effect on mission, meaning and impact.

When one congregation is in distress, it provokes only self-examination. But many older, highly structured congregations and nonprofit organizations are adrift, and many emergent, socially networked ones restructuring for sustainable growth. We read that turbulence as a signal for a broader inquiry. That’s why Terri and I interviewed 34 clergy, professional and volunteers leaders from 15 Jewish and Protestant congregations and nonprofit organizations throughout the country. These leaders worked both in “established” and “emerging” congregations and nonprofits. We wanted to hear their stories of navigating disruptive times and integrate their stories with theory and practice.

snapchat-facebook

And what did we find: Disruption does not discriminate between “established” and “emerging” organizations. An example: in 2013, Evan Spiegel, one of the founders of the popular social media app, Snapchat, reportedly rebuffed an all cash offer from Facebook C.E.O.’s Mark Zuckerberg for over $3 billion. At the time, Spiegel was 23 years old and Zuckerberg was 29. Spiegel, a 23 year-old disruptor apparently didn’t believe that an “older” person like Zuckerberg could fully appreciate how revolutionary his platform was! Today’s disruptors can easily become tomorrow’s disrupted, whether in the for-profit or nonprofit sector.

Having a place for leaders of “established” and “emerging” congregations and nonprofits to discuss how they are learning to lead through the challenges of disruption would be very fruitful! So please connect with Hayim (options for social media of your choice, top right) or with Terri (telton@luthersem.edu, www.facebook.com/terri.elton, @TerriElton) and contribute your wisdom to these unprecedented questions.

_______________________
Evelyn M. Rusli and Douglas MacMillian, “Snapchat Spurned $3 Billion Acquisition Offer from Facebook,” The Wall Street Journal Blog, November 2013, accessed June 1, 2016.

 

New Book Launch

Launching Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purpose

Order in time for Hanukkah and Christmas and receive a 40% Discount

My colleague, Dr. Terri Elton, Associate Professor Leadership at Luther Seminary and I, are thrilled to announce that Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platform, People and Purpose, is now available. (Save 40% on all purchases for a limited time by using the code RL40LC16 when you order!) Are you curious about:

• How congregations and nonprofits are seeking to maintain community when it’s so fragile today?
• How spiritual and nonprofit communities can make decisions rapidly, thoughtfully and inclusively?
• How professional and volunteer leaders are navigating the tensions of being faithful stewards of their organizations’ traditions, and responsive leaders to the disruptive pace of innovation?

Hayim Herring - BookWe were, too, so we researched fifteen Jewish and Lutheran congregations and nonprofit organizations throughout the United States (eleven congregations, four nonprofits). Some were established congregations and nonprofits that were becoming less hierarchical and more innovative. Others were start-ups that emerged at the dawn of social networks, are now adding more structure as they have grown, but don’t want to lose their entrepreneurial D.N.A. Whether old or new, they are navigating a paradigm shift in minimizing more cumbersome, hierarchical ways of working and fostering more fluid and creative networks to advance their missions.

We provide practical guidance to professional and volunteer leaders who view their organizations as platforms where people can find greater personal meaning by engaging with others who care about the same mission. We believe our book is unique as it:

• Bridges faith communities.
• Blends theory with tools, texts and hands-on resources.
• Combines research with lived stories of congregations and organizations.
• Addresses the desire of both established and newer organizations to deepen engagement with individuals, and transform their communities by redesigning how they are organized.

 

Several of our colleagues graciously shared their reactions to our book:

Allison Fine, co-author of, The Networked Nonprofit, and renowned expert on social networks and organizations noted, “One of the most pressing issues facing our society is the disruption of traditional organizations dedicated to our communal well-being; congregations and nonprofits. Herring and Elton have written a very important and practical book on a critical topic; how to restructure our most important institutions to match the urgency of working in a networked world.”

Peggy Hahn, Executive Director of LEAD, a national organization dedicated to growing Christian leaders, said that, “This book dares to link congregations and non-profit organizations in strategic conversations essential for thriving in a fast-changing world. This is a way forward.”

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, co-founder, executive director of Mechon Hadar, and author of Empowered Judaism added that, “This book artfully breaks down the barriers that often exist between new and old non-profits. By taking a critical eye to both, the authors present findings untold in other books on congregational change, facilitating a powerful experience for the reader looking to reflect on organizational success.” (You can click here for additional reviews.)

Two years ago, we didn’t know one another. But we took leaps of faith (one Protestant, one Jewish) to collaborate on a significant project. The value of learning from a member of the same human family, but a different spiritual tribe, has been immeasurable. We hope that you’ll take a leap of faith, too, and not only purchase Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purpose, but try some discussion and innovation with someone from a different faith background in your own community! The dynamics of disruption and leadership responses are similar in Jewish and Protestant communities, so stay tuned for more news about how you can participate in a network of leaders interested in these issues. You can do so by connecting with Hayim (options for social media of your choice, top right) or connecting with Terri (telton@luthersem.edu, www.facebook.com/terri.elton, @TerriElton).

Thank you,

Hayim Herring and Terri Martinson Elton

 

While You’re Eating Turkey, Also Think Hoagies

Old age is not new, but the number of people living to 85 years and beyond is increasing dramatically. And with likely medical breakthroughs on longevity on the horizon, many children born today will be able to celebrate their 100th birthday. For the first time in history, we already have four generations of human beings alive in large numbers. As a quick fact check, think about how many families you know with at least one great grandparent—which qualifies them as a four generational family! This is not a reality to gloss over, but a powerful signal to astounding changes that are quietly taking place. Are we are ready for these changes as a society? I believe not, but faith-based communities can potentially lead much needed discussions for the implications of having so many generations alive today.

 

hoagie-generation-hayim-herring

 

A new reality needs a new name, and I’d like to suggest the Hoagie Generation™ as a replacement for the “sandwich generation,” a phrase that Dorothy Miller coined in 1981. Miller introduced it to describe the challenges of those in their 30’s and 40’s (and it was primarily women then), sandwiched between raising children and caring for parents, while also pursuing careers outside of the home. Without dismissing the challenges back then, their duration was briefer, more digestible—like a small sandwich that didn’t take long to eat. Children reached independence sooner and parents didn’t live as long.

But today, definitions and expectations of middle age have expanded (“50 is the new 40,” “60 is the new 50”), and while in 1900 only 100,000 people lived to age 85 or older, that number today is 5.5 million and growing. For a variety of reasons, children reach independence at a later age. (My definition of adulthood is when children get off of “the family phone plan.”) So families look more like hoagies than sandwiches: less vertical and much more horizontal.

Being Jewish, I can’t let go of the food metaphor and that’s one reason that I like the Hoagie Generation™. The standard size sandwich bread is approximately a four-inch square, and sandwiches are vertical. In contrast, hoagies are about a foot long and horizontal. The longer loaf of a hoagie roll better captures the new challenges and opportunities that are present for families and communities with an increased number of generations.

The hoagie metaphor also suggests mutuality. It isn’t only those who are middle-aged who feel the squeeze in supporting family members of other generations. Young adult children may also have that experience: raising their own children, watching their parents navigate big issues (health, relationships, employment), and trying to advance economically in an unpredictable economy. And 80-something year olds ponder what life holds in store for their children, grandchildren and often today, great grandchildren.

Unlike a sandwich, in which the middle is more prominent, each part of a hoagie is equal, also suggesting mutually nourishing possibilities. Young bring joy to the old, and old bring wisdom to the young. The young can be the tech department for those who are older, while elders can share experience—something that a Google search can’t offer. Those at each of end of the life spectrum and those in middle all have something to offer one another.

As a community, we have a range of issues on the horizon that don’t discriminate by generation. A few examples:

• How do we restore practices of patiently listening to one another without interruption and empathy to our relationships?
• What are some possible outcomes of changes in social attitudes toward issues like the legalization of marijuana and physician assisted suicide?
• What happens to our capacity for curiosity when our connected devices “suggest” more and more choices for us, instead of our thinking more intentionally about them, or stumbling upon new possibilities serendipitously?
• What does it mean economically and emotionally to live in a disruptive economy? If you think that disruption only affects those who are middle-aged, think about how the “older” (then 29) Mark Zuckerberg, C.E.O. of Facebook, must have felt when his multibillion dollar offer to purchase Snapchat, which he feared would disrupt Facebook, was rebuffed by Evan Spiegel (then 23 years old)?

Congregations are structured to be multi-generational, even though they often program more by demographic age and stage, and, if you “follow the money,” their budgets favor families with children. Can they turn their multi-generational potential into living communities?

So while you’re enjoying a Thanksgiving turkey, please think about the Hoagie Generation™ and let me know if:

• you can think of another place besides congregations that can become platforms for sustained, meaningful, multi-generational interaction.
• beyond one-off events (like Mitzvah Days or social action events), do you know of congregations of any religion that have already made ongoing multi-generational engagement a priority?

Thanks have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

After the Rules Changed

Since the election, like many, I’ve had numerous conversations with family members, friends and acquaintances, ranging in ages from 14 to 92. I have friends who are Democrats and friends who are Republicans. Despite their differences, they’re equally astonished at the outcome of the election. And who isn’t? But I have also felt the weight of their pessimism, which for some may become paralyzing. People need time to adjust, to protest, and to reflect on how we got to where we are. But I’ve been troubled by the despair, which can become a barrier to action. So I wrote this poem, or more honestly, it emerged from some surprising place within, about some changes that I’ve been through and that I’ve been witness to. It’s my reaffirmation of the rocky, uneven and unpredictable pathways that take us to higher ground if we’re willing to stay on the road.

After the Rules Changed

I came of age in 1976,
I was middle class, but felt pretty rich.
I never made my bed,
I rarely set the table.
Those were house rules,
Although I was able.

I left home,
For an Ivy college,
I came back to visit,
Primed with world-class knowledge.

We sat around the table,
Talking banal stuff,
Got up when I was finished,
But they had had enough.

Why don’t you clear the table?
You never made your bed!
Their questions had me spinning,
They hurt my head.

There was something that was cooking,
Had been something that was brewing,
My sisters turned feminists,
For years they had been stewing.

That one routine dinner,
Fed me more than I expected,
All of my upbringing,
Crashingly redirected.

It wasn’t just potatoes at the table that were mashed.
Blind to inequality,
All assumptions had been smashed.

It was they who were enraged,
Looked at me as a fool,
But I wish I saw the memo,
About changing the rules.

As we rewrote the playbook,
We had to improvise,
And here we are again, America,
Taken by surprise.

I’ve been here before,
You’ve been here, too.
Like yesterday, back then,
Unacceptable to just “make do.”

We’ve done it before,
We’ll do it again,
Some will lose, and some will win.
It may not be fair, it’s out of balance,
When restoring dignity,
You have to make allowance.

It’s not an excuse to rail with hate,
We won’t heal if we only berate.
Winner take all,
Is a recipe for the fall.
Look-haven’t all have fallen, one time or another?
Serve up compassion,
And you’ll see it’s your brother.

Cross-posted to the Huffington Post

 
 
 
 

©2017 Hayim Herring
 
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