At the HCRJ board retreat in August, our temple leadership decided that a primary goal for the coming year would be to focus on the growth of our congregation. Our 60th Anniversary provides us with a lens through which we can consider our past as we dream about our future. Yet, as my sermon on Rosh HaShanah pointed out, growth can be defined and measured in a variety of ways.
Growth can be defined as the process of increasing in amount, value or importance. Plants grow; companies grow; people grow; ideas grow. We often use this definition of growth when we are trying to expand. From a congregational perspective, this concept of growth might help us in our efforts to increase our membership and broaden our presence in the community.
Growth can also be defined as the process of developing or maturing physically, mentally or spiritually, as in: “we grow wiser with age.” This definition reflects a more internal process, and from this perspective we might direct energy and resources toward engaging members in deeper and more meaningful ways.
Regardless of how we choose to define our growth, it is always important to determine what we want to count as we seek to measure who we are and what we hope to become. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
As a congregation, we need to determine what is most important for us to count and measure as we monitor our growth. What is it that we value most as a congregation? Do we value our intimacy? If so, counting numbers of members may not be our primary matrix. Do we value the dynamics of our programming? If so, we need to consider the fact that programming demands resources, staffing and financial support.
The truth is that there are countless possibilities regarding how we can measure and monitor our growth as a congregation, and as Einstein suggests, there are many growth markers that can be very difficult to identify and measure. In the coming year, our leadership has presented us with a threefold task as we begin to envision a long-term strategy for our future: We need to consider what counts and what does not in terms of how we hope to evolve as a community; we need to consider ways to measure the growth we seek once we define it; and we need to engage as many members as possible as we seek to grow together.