Posts Tagged ‘Mission’


Relaunching Confidently Together Into the Future

Posted on: April 10th, 2013 by Hayim Herring

I recently made a presentation to a group of synagogue leaders in St. Paul. A very bright volunteer who was familiar with Synaplex , an initiative that I developed, asked me, “Why are your ideas about the Jewish community different since you last presented to our congregation?” My ineloquent answer: “Umm…things have changed since we last worked together.” Not exactly a satisfying answer, but that was the best I could do given the time constraints.


Later that evening, I asked myself, “Okay, many things changed. But what are some of the most significant changes that have occurred within the past five years or so?” Not coincidentally, this was a question that I had been thinking about for sometime. I have been very concerned about how organizations are either in paralysis, denial or a state of confusion as they struggle to conduct business in post-economic bust that is stubbornly persistent. I’ve seen some organizations:


Mission Statement: Missing in Action?

Posted on: August 18th, 2011 by Hayim Herring

I just had the pleasure of teaching an outstanding group of rabbinical students who are participating in the Schusterman Rabbinical Fellowship program. While preparing for­­­ a session on the importance of synagogue mission statements, I discovered something curious about them: only two of the roughly dozen synagogue websites that I reviewed featured their mission statements on the home page. In the other cases, I needed to hunt for them on the website. And that’s only those synagogue websites that even had mission statements!

We’re getting to the time of year when people who are not a regular part of the synagogue community will be “shul shopping.” Rosh ha-Shanah begins on the evening of Wednesday, September 28. The first place that people look to learn about anything today is on the web. If your mission statement, the most basic expression of your synagogue identity, does not readily appear on your website, what message are you communicating to potential congregants?

By the way, if you work for a national synagogue denominational office, you might want to check if your denomination’s mission is featured on the website’s home page.  You may be surprised by what you find.


Rabbi Hayim Herring

Boards Gone Wild or Why Organizational Values Matter!

Posted on: February 22nd, 2010 by Hayim Herring

Mission, vision, values….sometimes this last item—values—is omitted from an organization’s foundational documents. Speaking directly, this is a mistake. I say this definitively because I’ve attended too many meetings in synagogues and other Jewish organizations that desperately needed some guidance in Jewish values.

Of course, I’ve also worked with many committees and boards marked by thoughtfulness, caring, dedication to the work, sensitivity and decency. I don’t want to minimize these experiences, which draw in many others to become volunteers for Jewish organizations. But I’ve also lost count of the number of times of people who were great volunteers left a synagogue because it actually threatened their positive, spiritual feelings.

Sad to say, I’ve heard or seen demeaning speech, hypocrisy, selfish behavior, verbally bullying, shouting and I am appalled to admit—an out-of-control individual hurl an object at another person (more than once). In beginning my consultancy practice, I’ve even been warned by caring colleagues to make sure to develop some portion of my clientele outside of the Jewish community because they find it too emotionally difficult to work exclusively within the Jewish community.

That’s why I advocate for groups creating a values statement. A values statement is a list of ideals to which anyone involved in an organization agrees to commit. It is a purposeful declaration of how people in the organization will treat one another and represent themselves to the broader public in carrying out their work. What are some of the typical statements that appear on those organizations which have a statement of values?

While non-sectarian organizations will likely exclude the first value, they still capture its major implications in the second.

As with mission and vision statements, so go values statements: if they aren’t regularly referenced, they won’t influence the culture of the organization. But when they are, and when people are held accountable for their behavior when a value is modeled or violated, others will learn that values aren’t mere organizational window dressing.

Does your organization have a values statement? Would you please share it with us on this blog or send us a link to an electronic copy? What is your experience with values statements—have they helped to maintain civility in the way that your church, synagogue or organization operates?

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Mission: Impossible or Possible?

Posted on: February 5th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

It’s legitimate to ask the question, “Why does a congregation need to define its mission?” After all, shouldn’t a congregation’s mission be “to live the word of Torah/Scripture in the world?” On a basic level, that’s true.  But if the mission of the congregation is so amorphous, it will resemble an amoeba trying to move in different directions at the same time.

I like the definition that Rabbi David Teutsch uses in his book, Making a Difference.  A Guide to Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management.  He writes, “…a strong organization articulates both articulates a picture of the world it is attempting to create and its own particular role in creating it (p.81). Any mission answers the question, why do you exist as an organization?  You can also think of a mission statement as a tombstone.  If your congregation was to leave this world, what epitaph would people write about it?

The skepticism about the need for a clear mission may be related to bad experiences in trying to craft one.  Or, it may reflect the reality that once the work of defining the congregation’s mission is complete, no one really seems to use it.  However, defining and periodically refining your mission can be incredibly powerful for your congregation.

How many times has someone approached congregational leaders with a “good idea,” and was even willing to back it with resources?  If you don’t have a clearly defined mission, you may be tempted to agree to it because of the allure of funding. But that’s a scenario which you will wind up regretting.  Why? Because no major organizational decision should be taken unless it is aligned with your organization’s mission. One of the essential tasks of senior professional and volunteer leaders is to exist in a way that is always faithful to its mission.  With that kind of consistency, your mission will become a driving force for maximizing the impact that you are congregation will have in the world.

Here are some examples of mission statements that can really serve as clear guides to organizational purpose:

What has your experience been with congregational mission statements? Also—I’d love you to submit what you think is an exemplary organizational mission statement. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, President, Herring Consulting Network

photo from, smallritual