Make your sermon like a shofar blast

Posted on: September 22nd, 2011 by Hayim Herring
Shofar Blowing

From Joe King on flickr

Rosh Hashanah is less than a week away.  Synagogues are in crunch mode.  Rabbis are putting the finishing touches on their sermons. Congregational leaders will be working extra hard during the next several weeks and more congregants will engage with the synagogue than at any other time during the year.

People will be looking for a meaningful message that they can take away from their yamim noraim (High Holy Day) experience, and rabbis, other synagogue professionals and volunteer leaders should consider both the content of their messages and the most impactful way to communicate them. They need to think strategically about how they are communicating with their audiences—during the coming High Holy Days and in the long-term.

Strategic communication is not just about trying to get people more involved in your synagogue’s programming.  Everybody will be doing that in one way or another.  It is about being more intentional in how you share your synagogue’s message with others.

Strategic communication is also not the same as “marketing.”  Marketing focuses on getting different demographics of congregants interested in a specific program or service. Strategic communication, on the other hand, relates programs and projects to the overall mission and goals of the congregation.

Strategic communication does not happen overnight, of course.  Many organizations go through the process of creating a “strategic communications plan,” which is developed and used by all levels of the organization.

In other words, ideally your communications are not limited to your congregational newsletter or information on your website, but in every interaction that your staff and lay leadership have with congregants, potential members, or local media outlets.  It represents a consistency in your organizational message, driven by your mission. It is about telling your story in an effective way.  (The SPIN Project offers a free online template for creating a strategic communications plan that you may find useful, though it is targeted to organizations engaged in advocacy work.)

Even though this process does not happen overnight, you can use the High Holidays as an opportunity to begin thinking more strategically and proactively about how you communicate with your various audiences.  Once you start engaging in these critical conversations around communications, you will begin to see a meaningful transformation in the way your congregation’s message is communicated and how it is perceived.

The blast of the shofar during the High Holy Days calls us out of our complacency and inspires us to return.  With a little bit of planning, your communications can have a similar impact on your audience in the new year.

Please contact us to learn how we can help take your organization through a unique, engaging process of creating your own strategic communications plan.

L’shanah Tovah,

Rabbi Hayim Herring



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