7 Secrets of Highly Successful Synagogues — and Churches

Applying Lessons of Megachurches to Jewish World

kurt hoffman

By Lenore Skenazy

Published February 11, 2014, issue of February 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 5)

INTELLIGENT DESIGN

Architecture and interior design also play a role in bringing in new members. According to Richard Lovelace, a senior vice president at Stellar, an architectural firm that works on a lot of megachurches: “Very seldom do you see pews anymore. Now everybody has their own what I’ll call ‘butt space.’”

What’s more, rooms that can be used by different groups throughout the day surround the theaterlike sanctuary. “For instance, what we refer to as the ‘attic’ in our church is sort of a nightclub,” Lovelace said. “The high school kids use it for an hour, then they go down to services and the middle school swaps in, so there’s a shifting and a reuse of all the space.”

This allows the church to tailor its services — each about one hour — to different age groups. And the rest of their time at the church? It’s social. “In my own church we even have foosball tables,” Lovelace said.

TAKEAWAY: Make your house of worship a community center for kids, and the parents will join. Also: Keep the service short.

TWEET JESUS

Everyone’s got a smartphone, but only some churches are smart about using them. So says David Mitroff, founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting, a full-service marketing company in Oakland, Calif., that consults with businesses and congregations. “Some priests, what they’ll do is say: ‘Hey, everyone, pull out your phone. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, I encourage you to tweet about what we’re talking about today.’” And suddenly, the congregation is doing your social marketing for you.

“Pictures and videos are huge, so what you also have to do is say: ‘Hey, everyone! Why don’t you take a picture of the food we put out?’” Mitroff said.

The clergy should also be posting, emphasizing the main attractions of the church. If the pastor does a lot of visiting the sick, for instance, he or she should tweet about end-of-life issues. This creates “brand awareness” (if you will) and also serves as a little advertising campaign for the church throughout the week. And if the message is clever or comforting, members can share it, further widening the church’s reach.

TAKEAWAY: A smartphone is your congregation’s friend, not its enemy. Obviously, this tactic won’t work for synagogues that ban electronics on Shabbat.

THE DATEBOOK OF MORMON

Mormons have more fun. That’s not necessarily the rap on them, but they really seem to have figured out something great: how to make sure everyone stays connected, in a very nice way.

That’s because each worshipper is assigned two people to visit once a month. “We’re not really grouped by age or interest, but we always find common ground, and a lot of it is just kind of helping each other with family things,” said Pamela Layton McMurtry, an artist, writer and parent of seven in Kaysville, Utah.

On these visits, she’ll bring a plate of cookies, or the two ladies might go out to lunch. Meantime, she’s got two women assigned to her! Recently they helped out with a graduation party. By making sure everyone gets visited on a regular basis, no one falls through the cracks. “That way there’s never anybody homeless, or without a meal. It’s a great safety web,” McMurty said. What’s more, “I read that you need contact once a month to retain relationships.” Keeping loneliness at bay is also a mitzvah — though that’s not the Mormon term.

TAKEAWAY: Regular, guaranteed visits knit a congregation closer together.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.