As our Leadership Council at Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, WI, considered congregational priorities for the coming year, Long Range Planning rose to the top of the list. In what might be an anomaly, our interest in planning was not born out of crisis or conflict. We had just completed a successful fundraising campaign; our beloved rabbi had agreed to extend her contract for another five years; and our religious school was growing. So why, one might ask, did we decide to spend our energy thinking about the future? We agreed that at a time of relative strength it was an opportune juncture to prepare for the road ahead, and let our values rather than inertia be our guide.
To kick off our process, a "President’s Point of View" column in our newsletter was devoted to sharing the rationale and process for the planning effort. The intent of the column was to be completely transparent and perhaps even a bit inspirational; we sincerely wanted our members to be engaged in the process and know that their voices would be valued early and often.
Our next steps followed what is likely a somewhat well worn path in congregational planning. We created a charge for the planning committee, after which point we recruited a diverse group of members to inform the process. Then, we worked towards a larger day-long retreat that was open to all of our members. It was important to us to have our Vice President and Secretary serve as the Long Range Planning Co-Chairs, since as the future lay leaders of the congregation, they would need to be the ones to implement the plan. Beth Hillel Temple Rabbi Dena Feingold was also an integral part of the planning team, and our efforts were guided by the very capable URJ Governance and Leadership Development Specialist, Judith Erger.
At the time of this writing (spring 2011), we are on the verge of our planning retreat and remain optimistic that we will yield a meaningful return on investment. We are committed to having a process and product that will spur both inclusiveness and measurable outcomes. In the end, we are perhaps most enamored of the notion of “planning for the sacred.” We understand that we are not simply talking about mundane goals and objectives; rather, we are engaging in the awesome task of creating a spiritual home where future guests and members alike will discover a Jewish sanctuary in which they truly feel welcomed and embraced.
RESOURCES: inaugural letter (read the entire bulletin)
To learn more about long-range planning, contact a URJ Governance and Leadership Development Specialist and download Cultivating the Future: Long Range Planning for Congregations.