Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Filling Schedules

There is creative work and there is implementation.  There are students and there are doers.  You can probably get by with doers alone but certainly people and organizations would flounder if creative intent never became reality.  Without the thinkers and creators, mediocrity would prevail.

As I researched my recent presentation for this year's AKSE Academy on Synagogue Life Cycles I found a tension between people who want vibrant programming that is always in some form of evolution and people who get lulled into securing what they have now, acquiring the rewards of advancement for keeping programming predictable if uninspiring.  There is the predictability that the McDonald's developers understood a generation ago that atmosphere can be both portable and standardized.  Go to any USCJ congregation and the books are the same and the worship is the same but skill with which worship is presented varies a lot.

From my own congregation's perspective, there are a few constants.  Torah must get read, Haftarah chanted and at least one Ba-al Tefillah is needed each shabbos.  It is certainly much less anxiety generating to look at last year's schedule and reassign the person who has the experience.  With the education program there is no reason why the Rabbi's classes need to change at all for the duration of his career if the goal is to present its existence on the Web Site for marketing purposes.  There may very well be a benefit to adding or deleting options based on attendance or feedback or the teacher's assessment of what those in attendance got out of their attendance relative to what the potential might have been.

It takes a different frame of reference to acquire stewardship of the programming, to schect some sacred cows and experiment with things that people might find novel and maybe even attractive.  It is much harder to do that, to badger talent to bring them from the sidelines to the mainstream, to require people exert a little more effort to learn a new Haftarah that was not recycling of their Bar Mitzvah lessons from the year gimmel,  to replace an accounting of members who have come and gone with a coherent plan to make membership more attractive, to infuse a measure of imagination that can be implemented into unique experiences while still filling the mandatory schedules.

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