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Being in Israel on July 4th… Speechless but not Wordless

Posted on: July 4th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

America and Israel are two separate countries. Jews in America and Jews in Israel are two separate peoples. In fact, we are incredibly diverse people’s within our own respective countries, each in the midst of transformational self-perceptions of what it means to be Jewish and how we understand the concept of “Jewish community.” Many Americans no longer recognize the America in which they grew up, just as many Israelis no longer recognize the Israel in which they grew up or to which they made aliyah (emigrated).

 

 

In any family, there are disagreeable people and often a few long-standing family disagreements. Like any family member, I know which people in my family I especially enjoy seeing and those with whom I don’t mind seeing only occasionally. I know when it’s okay to raise an issue that is provocative with someone, and when it’s better to ignore it because discussion is pointless. (Note to family: please read on before I get into more trouble.) But—regardless of the quality and intensity of relationships, as the saying goes, “family is family,” and no one in my family is of lesser or greater inherent values. We inherited one another either because we have a shared past, or an acquired relationship through someone’s marriage or partnership.

 

I’ve made my share of mistakes with family members, which I regret. But I try to speak responsibly and behave more wisely as I’ve grown older. Why? Because I don’t want to risk losing a family relationship. I’ve made my comprises for the sake of family, just as I know other family members have made theirs for me. We’ve watched other families make different choices about family, and without discussion, somewhere along the way, most of us concluded that we don’t want to sever relationships to the point of no return, an act that often creates a cascade of tragic, irreparable consequences.

 

I was boarding my flight to Israel on the day that the Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi, broke a promise to the global Jewish family about the compromise over the Kotel (Western Wall and expansion of the Southern Wall). Bibi—you have damaged my worldwide Jewish family. (It is debatable whether the introduction of a new conversion bill is the same or different in terms of its consequences on the global Jewish family, but you’ve got to give Bibi credit for his persistent pattern of bad timing and poor optics-or maybe it’s smart local politics and stupid international politics). I think that was the same day that Donald Trump made some exceptionally vicious and demeaning comment about a news anchor—even by his standards—and his tweets don’t just target individuals, they’re aimed at damaging groups of people.

 

Right now, it feels like we are one small but very angry family, living worlds apart in very different cultures, speaking different languages. Many of us no longer understand the realities of our own respective countries. So how can we really expect to understand the internal dynamics of disruption happening in another country? Since I’ve arrived, I’ve heard some esteemed Israeli and American colleagues, who are generally thoughtful and exceptionally dedicated when it comes to matters of global Jewish peoplehood, make some damaging remarks that further fray the fabric of our small family. At times, this visit has felt to me like a kind of rending of the garments before a funeral for a family member, only this time, the wounds of mourning feel amplified because they are occurring over the death of trust between parts of the American and Israeli Jewish family.

 

At the same time, this visit has been like any other one. I get to enjoy family and friends, hear amazing lectures, interwoven with ancient text set to contemporary music and art, visit new sites and eat delicious food. I renew relationships with old friends, and make new ones. Generally, in my family and social circles in Israel, I can be at a Shabbat table where people hold very different political and ideological views from one another on an array of issues. But we still share a Shabbat meal together and we know generally when to have weighty discussions, and when to give ourselves a break from them so that we can continue to Shabbat meals together.

 

I’ve barely posted any comments about this low mark in relationships between the Israeli and American Jewish community “elites” because it’s painful and difficult to find the words that won’t deepen the wounds. While we are far from the lowest point in Jewish history, this is the lowest moment that I can recall in the relationship between the American and Israeli Jewish communities. Speaking metaphorically, if you know who the family villain is, why trust that person? Why do you need their approval to validate your authenticity? Do you really think that you’ll effect change with another discussion? You won’t because you know that individual’s true colors. So find ways to support other healthy members of the family, without adopting dangerous tactics that can backfire by also unintentionally alienating those within our family whom we really love.  

 

What kind of Jewish future do you want? I want a Jewish future in which there is mutual family respect between the American and Israeli Jewish communities. And I think that those who also want that future are smart and creative enough to work to create without inflicting intentional pain that may unintentionally harm the people that we care most about today, and who we want to be with tomorrow.

 

If you’re prepared to totally give up on your family and formally sever times, that’s your choice. But please don’t act surprised when more American and Israeli Jews become disenchanted with Judaism and their local Jewish communities, and with one another. And don’t be taken aback when someone who isn’t Jewish asks, “If Jewish people can treat one another in the way that they do, how should we expect them to treat those who are “outside of their family?” In the meantime, I’m not giving up on America, I’m not giving up on the American Jewish community, and I’m not giving up on Israel. They are home and family – something that I especially want to remember on this Fourth of July.

 

The Leading Congregations – An Exchange with Hayim Herring & Shmuel Rosner

Posted on: March 16th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

In 2017, Hayim Herring & Shmuel Rosner engaged in a three part exchange

 

The Leading Congregations exchange, part 1: The challenges facing 21st century Jewish communities

The following exchange will focus on Rabbi Herring’s new book, Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purposes (co-written with Dr. Teri Elton).

Dear Rabbi Herring,

Your new book is entitled Leading Congregations in a Connected World. Our introductory question: What type of congregation and organization leaders did you have in mind when writing this book, and what would you like them to learn from it?

Yours,

Shmuel

***

Dear Shmuel,

My co-author, Dr. Terri Elton, and I wrote Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purposes, for two broad audiences: professional and volunteer leaders of congregations and nonprofits, and teachers of current and future leaders. We defined two categories of congregations and nonprofit organizations. We studied both “established and adapting” organizations, namely, those with at least 25 years of history, were structured primarily as top-down hierarchies, but were trying to adapt to a more decentralized, socially networked world where people co-create their own personal meaning and community. We labeled the second category, “emerging and maturing,” that is, those congregations and nonprofits that were at least five years old, were reaching the age of early organizational maturity, and recognizing that the socially networked DNA that gave birth to them was not going to be sufficient to keep them growing and sustainable.

We realized that existing studies on congregations and nonprofits took an “either/or” approach. They looked at “the new kids on the block,” those newer congregations and nonprofits that garnered a lot of attention for their creativity and freshness. Those stories were usually about growth and flourishing. The other side of the narrative was one of decline and decay, and focused on legacy congregations and nonprofits that were losing members and lacking in vibrancy.

We thought that both sides of the equation needed to be studied. While it’s true that many legacy congregations and nonprofits are struggling, we also knew of some that had pivoted to a 21st Century social engagement way of working. (That doesn’t mean just having cool social media tools, but knowing how to use them strategically to deepen community.) Second, even though many established organizations are having difficulty making that pivot, they still command a lot of attention and resources. Was there a way to accelerate their likelihood of becoming more responsive?

Conversely, while many of the startups rightfully gained a lot of attention, we were hearing stories of some that were now between five and ten years old that were struggling. How could they maintain their unique, organic and socially networked attributes now that they had to worry about a larger budget, more staff, and perhaps even a building? They certainly didn’t want to become like the more rigid congregations or nonprofits against which they had rebelled, but they also needed to support a broader base of people who held a shared vision. We wanted to test the commonly held assumption that hierarchies are dead, and that social networks are the only future way forward of organizing spiritual and nonprofit communities. Indeed, we found that both elements of hierarchies and social networks existed within old and new organizations and both are needed.

What was especially appealing to me was to conduct research and write together with a Protestant colleague. Jews are part of a dynamic religious landscape in America that’s undergoing a revolution. So why not contextualize our changes into the broader context of which we are a part? Terri and I are both committed to blending academic theory and empirical research with practical tools and resources for immediate use.

Here are five key takeaways, although I still hope that you and your readers will read the book and call me with your responses!

1. Authenticity and innovation are compatible, although challenging to achieve. Congregations and nonprofits that thrive in the 21st-Century will go back to their core mission, but then pick one of four different pathways that we identify to practice innovation, and make innovation a part of their new organizational DNA.

2. The values of a socially networked world, that include enabling people to co-create their own experiences and have maximum self-choice, are here to stay. These values need to show up digitally, in the synagogue or nonprofit’s bricks and mortar space, and wherever people gather under their auspices. That means leaders must learn to relinquish some control, but in return, gain the joy of watching participants grow as they own their Jewish experiences and purpose. By letting go and enabling others to share and enact their Jewish dream, leaders also expand the influence and impact of their congregational or organizational mission.

3. Disruption doesn’t discriminate by age. Today’s disruptors will be tomorrow’s disrupted, and today’s disrupted can easily become tomorrow’s disruptors. So it’s a good idea to redefine leadership not as having the ability to respond quickly to trends, but to anticipate and favorably shape them.

4. Engagement isn’t a goal or a checklist. It’s an orientation for congregations and nonprofits. That means engaging individuals with a significant mission, and then putting them into community with those who share the same passion for mission, a mission that must connect to the broader world.

5. Community is fragile and trying to hold people with diverse views together is becoming increasingly challenging. Nonprofit CEO’s and clergy have the tremendous task of keeping people focused on mission and bringing people together in face-to-face contact where they can see that others who are not exactly like them are still partners for holy work.

6. Without dismissing the incredibly urgent work of social justice, congregations have another great, and I would say unique, opportunity. There are four generations and soon to be five generations of people alive in large numbers today. Where are the opportunities for people from so many different generations to develop sustained, meaningful, multi-generational relationships? Where are the opportunities where mutual mentoring can happen, if not at congregations? To the best of my knowledge, no other institution has potential access to so many generations over a lifetime. For congregations to claim that role, they’ll have to rethink congregational life, priorities, values, budgets, staffing – and I can’t think of anything more important today given the isolating challenges that each generation faces.

There’s more to say, and I look forward to the next parts of the exchange! Thank you for contributing to this conversation on the disruption and reconfiguration of our communities!


The Leading Congregations exchange, part 2: On Judaism, marketing and integrity

Dear Rabbi Herring,

In your first answer you stated that “authenticity and innovation are compatible, although challenging to achieve.” Generally, your answer, and your book, stress the importance of “innovation” and “engagement” – both very positive-sounding terms – for religious institutions.

But it seems there is a less positive way of describing what is being demanded of religious institutions today – one could say that in the age of Buzzfeed there is more and more pressure on community leaders to aggressively market their ‘product’ and to water-down religion in the attempt to compete with the never-ending stream of internet content. While authenticity and innovation might be compatible, what about holiness and Twitter, or marketing and religious depth?

My question: how can religious leaders maintain the integrity and uncompromising purity of the tradition when they constantly need to rebrand and woo the public to survive?

Yours,

Shmuel

***

Dear Shmuel,

You brought to light one of the core struggles of rabbis, clergy members of other faith traditions and nonprofit CEO’s. Almost all of the rabbis and nonprofit C.E.O.’s I know begin their service with a deep sense of calling and purpose. Some feel called by God, others by service to the Jewish people and still others to something transcendent that they may not be able to label. But they strive to live lives with religious integrity because they know that they are walking advertisements of the values of their traditions and organizations. Of course, we know that they’re also human and that they can fail big and fall hard like anyone else. Those who do, in my experience, are the exceptions and not the norms of legions of colleagues who take issues of honesty and authenticity seriously.

But that doesn’t diminish the serious implications of your question. Some colleagues burn out because they feel like they have to sell out their integrity in order to keep their congregants happy. And in trying to respond to “marketing” demands of members and donors, they may actually alienate them, because their members suddenly realize that they have higher expectations of their clergy leaders and nonprofit professionals. When rabbis or nonprofit C.E.O.’s experience that, it is an awful feeling, and this dynamic of maintaining integrity and authenticity, while trying to be responsive and relevant, is the basis for an urgent dialogue that needs to happen among rabbinic, seminary, denominational and volunteer leaders. That would take real national leadership and courage.

But I also think that you, like many in the congregational and nonprofit world, have a popular but mistaken understanding of marketing. Marketing is not selling, and it’s not advertising. Rather, marketing is building relationships based on an exchange of something of value. For example, a relationship that develops between a congregation and an individual through marketing would be when a congregation provides a volunteer opportunity to connect with elderly people, and a volunteer who seeks that opportunity now is able to develop a relationship with someone older under the auspices of the congregation or nonprofit. As you can see, marketing in this example is an exchange between a congregation that makes it easy for someone to do something good, and a person who wants to do something good. So marketing, when understood correctly as an exchange of value, has no effect on “watering down religion.”

One other clarification – you write that “innovation” and “engagement” are very positive-sounding terms, and they are greatly needed in congregations and nonprofits. However, we also emphasize the importance of mission in our book. Why? Because you want to have a marketing strategy that is built around mission, one in which belief in a shared mission becomes the social glue that makes people stick together in a community dedicated to the same kind of social, spiritual, or educational mission that can improve the world. Having a marketing strategy without a clear mission may get you some initial bump in program attendance. But honestly, people’s lives are so cluttered with excellent opportunities for programs, entertainment and socially valuable causes that unless a congregation or nonprofit has a mission that is so clear and so compelling that can cut through the clutter, marketing efforts are questionable.

Even with my clarifications, I want to acknowledge the tensions that you raise because they arise from real world pressures that colleagues face. Unfortunately, some of them are going to intensify, and some colleagues, with the best of intentions, will wind up selling themselves out and selling their congregations and nonprofits short.

Now a question for you – what do you mean when you ask, “…how can religious leaders maintain the integrity and uncompromising purity of the tradition when they constantly need to rebrand and woo the public to survive?” How are you defining “purity of religion?” Are you referring to Jewish Haredi sects whose male members held an anti-Internet rally at Citi Field in New York City in 2012, which was live streamed and where men took pictures on their cell phones and texted about it?

I’m curious to know what underlying mental picture you have of “uncompromising purity of the tradition ” and how rebranding risks tainting that assumed purity. After all, religious traditions like ours have always rebranded and, I would add, thank God we have had the wisdom to do so! We had to rebrand from a land-based, Temple-bound religion to a diaspora, prayer-focused community. We rebranded from Temple Judaism to Rabbinic Judaism. And we rebranded from a rationalistic, pilpulistic tradition to a mystical religion centered on developing personal virtue. And that’s before we begin exploring how the creation of the modern State of Israel has caused major rebrandings of Judaism both within and outside of Israel. I don’t think that trying to maintain a nostalgic memory of a static “purity of tradition” is accurate or helpful. In fact, rebranding can be holy work and hard work. And that’s one of the reasons that we’ve included several essays about finding God in social networks and in their sacred relational power.


The Leading Congregations exchange, part 3: ‘Today, a congregation with a bland mission is at risk of going out of business’

Dear Rabbi Herring,

Near the end of your last answer, you wanted some clarifications about what I meant when I asked you if thinking in marketing terms doesn’t hurt the purity of the tradition.

Now, of course I didn’t mean that all modern synagogues should strive to promote a “Haredi sect” vision of Judaism (if I believed that, I would never have hosted you and dozens of other progressive rabbis in my Torah talks)… What I was referring to is the idea that, for many people, the notion of treating faith and religion as a product, as something that needs to be “marketed” or “rebranded,” can be quite off-putting. I assume most people would like their shul to be a place free from everyday corporate lingo and wouldn’t like to imagine their Rabbi as having marketing in mind when he or she preaches from the pulpit, supports community members in times of need, or advances communal initiatives.

For my third-round question I’d like to ask you to elaborate some more on the idea of mission. In your previous answer you stated that: “people’s lives are so cluttered with excellent opportunities for programs, entertainment and socially valuable causes that unless a congregation or nonprofit has a mission that is so clear and so compelling that can cut through the clutter, marketing efforts are questionable.”

Now, your book tries to address issues facing both congregations and nonprofits. But while in the case of nonprofits the need to state a mission and set goals is understandable, what does having “a clear and compelling” mission mean in the context of a synagogue? What kind of missions can synagogues have besides just being a place of worship, Jewish learning, and community life (as in the days of yore)?

Thank you again for participating in this exchange.

Yours,

Shmuel

***

Dear Shmuel,

Thanks for pushing the discussion about congregations and nonprofits with increasingly difficult questions. Following up on our debate about “marketing,” you clarify: “I assume most people would like their shul to be a place free from everyday corporate lingo and wouldn’t like to imagine their Rabbi as having marketing in mind when he or she preaches from the pulpit, supports community members in times of need, or advances communal initiatives.”

True-and that’s a great segue into today’s question: “What does having a clear and compelling’ mission mean in the context of a synagogue? What kind of missions can synagogues have besides just being a place of worship, Jewish learning, and community life (as in the days of yore)?”

Spoiler alert: a congregation with a bland mission in today’s hyper-connected world of unlimited choice is at risk of going out of business. But congregations with differentiated, focused and compelling missions, that allow people to express and explore themselves Jewishly within those missions, have a better chance of thriving.

“Marketing” and “mission” are dual engines of congregational and nonprofit vibrancy. Marketing is about building relationships with people for whom you care based on causes which you share. That means that leaders of congregations and nonprofits have to define what their primary purposes are. As you suggest, the broad mission of every congregation is to engage its community in “Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chasadim” (Torah study, prayer and acts of kindness expressed by and for members of the community). Not too long ago, most congregational mission statements were indistinguishable from one another. A typical mission statement might have read: Synagogue XXXX is a welcoming congregation devoted to creating a sacred community expressed through study of Torah, worship and acts of kindness.

That typical 20th Century mission above reflects hierarchical organizations. The missional proposition was, “join our community and here is what we, the more involved/elite group of insiders, pledge to provide to those of you who are not nearly as informed.” But when individuals sought deeper involvement, they often found a disconnect between what these standard missions professed and how they were actually expressed. There was Torah study – but it wasn’t not particularly challenging or inspiring. There was prayer – but the words of the book/siddur didn’t speak to their hearts. And these places that claimed to be “welcoming” didn’t always seem to behave that way. Congregations still work for some, but if you look at their increasing financial and membership pressures, they aren’t working for many.

Adapting the thinking of, Peter Drucker, a founder of modern nonprofit management, we suggest that the mission of a congregation or nonprofit is measured in:

– Changed Jewish lives.

– Changed Jewish communities.

– A changed world.

That’s why mission is critical and some congregations are really beginning to differentiate themselves with a focus on mission. These congregations and nonprofits are making hard choices. They have accepted the reality that trying to be all things to all people and do everything well guarantees mediocrity. Using their missions as filters, they decide where they want to focus their talent, time and funds to have the greatest likely impact on changing lives and communities, pursue those several goals with relentless excellence, and collaborate with other organizations in areas where they decide to place fewer resources so that members and potential joiners can have their other Jewish needs met through congregational partnerships.

A few examples of parts of contemporary mission statements (and I’m using both Jewish and Protestant examples from my book, as Protestants are also recognizing the need to focus less on programs, and more on purpose or mission):

Lab/Shul: Welcome to Lab/Shul, an artist-driven, everybody-friendly, God-optional, pop up, experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings based in NYC and reaching the world.

Jacob’s Well Church (Minneapolis): If church is boring, something’s broken. Instead of being a once a week obligation, we want our time together to awaken who you are – you know, your real selves. Honest, thinking, relevant and casual gatherings impact the lives we live.

Romemu (New York City): Romemu seeks to integrate body, mind, and soul in Jewish practice. Unabashedly eclectic, we engage in body practices like yoga, infuse traditional liturgy with the energy of ecstatic chant, and ground our practice with meditation and contemplation. This is a Judaism that will ignite your Spirit…

GPS Faith Community (Machesney Park, IL): (Our mission is) Finding direction by loving God and serving others. We do this by joining together for worship and fellowship and then going out into our lives and into the community to love and serve others.

These mission statements:

– Invite an individual’s involvement on personal and not institutional terms, and also make their institutional parameters and expectations clear.

– Point individuals toward becoming part of a community of greater impact.

– Assume that most of a person’s time is spent outside of the walls or websites of the congregations, and that one must live out the mission even when not in services.

A Talmudic legal principle, “if you grasp too much, you wind up holding nothing,” applies to congregational and nonprofit missions. For many reasons, it’s not possible for congregations to excel at everything, although members have that expectation. My advice based on what we have learned: better to go deep in a few areas of Jewish life and build partnerships with others who can provide excellence in others.

When that happens, I think that you’ll find more people participating in congregational and Jewish nonprofit life because their individual and communal experiences will provide them with personal, enduring and powerful purpose as they live out their communities’ missions. I know that you have much to write about, but hope that others will be stimulated to purchase Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World. Platforms, People and Purpose and delve further into your provocative questions!

Thank you,

Hayim

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

Posted on: February 14th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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.

 

How to Connect in a Politically Divided World

Posted on: January 6th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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

Posted on: January 5th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

More on: Leading Congregations in a Connected World: Platforms, People and Purpose
Now at a 40% Time-Limited Discount

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

Posted on: December 26th, 2016 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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

Posted on: December 16th, 2016 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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

40% Hanukkah and Christmas Discount Still Available 

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

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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

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.

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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

Posted on: November 30th, 2016 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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

 

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

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 by Hayim Herring No Comments

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!