A Congregational Assessment: What We Learned

Posted on May 4, 2017

Temple Beth-El had the privilege of participating in a pilot data assessment program through the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) this past year. The pilot program included a total of 11 synagogues, all about the same size as TBE, and had three components: a congregational assessment, a Board of Trustees assessment and a financial and operating data benchmarking tool. The URJ partnered with Measuring Success, a company that develops quantitative assessment tools to support foundations and non-profit organizations in measuring and achieving impact. You may recall being asked to participate in a congregational survey in June 2016. The data we received will inform the work of TBE’s Board of Trustees and Oversight Committee for many years to come. We wanted to share some of the “takeaways” with our TBE community.

First the good news. We learned that 90% of those who responded from TBE agreed or strongly agreed that they would be likely to recommend TBE to a friend looking to join a congregation. The URJ considered this the best proxy for measuring overall success. In addition, 79% of those who responded from TBE agreed or strongly agreed that TBE has helped them grow spiritually or intellectually as a Jew. The URJ considers this to be a key outcome question.

Other positive indicators include:

  • 75% agreed or strongly agreed that TBE helped them develop a deeper sense of belonging to a community, something larger than themselves;
  • 81% agreed or strongly agreed that TBE’s professional leadership presents a compelling vision of Jewish life that resonates with them; and
  • 86% agreed or strongly agreed that TBE’s volunteer leadership makes them feel welcome.

While our leadership team was pleased by the positive feedback we received from the URJ data assessment program, we recognize that there is room for improvement at TBE. For example, 27% of those who responded from TBE strongly disagreed, disagreed or neither agreed nor disagreed that the lay leadership represents their interests. Although 73% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, and TBE’s leadership might be inclined to rest on its laurels on this issue, we concluded that a 27% negative or noncommittal response is an important finding that needs to be addressed. Similarly, 43% of those who responded from TBE strongly disagreed, disagreed or neither agreed nor disagreed that TBE effectively manages its budget.

Perhaps the most important lesson we learned by participating in the URJ pilot data assessment program is that there is a strong correlation between those at TBE who have a strong personal connection with our clergy or other staff and increased overall satisfaction. These relationships also correlate strongly with increased spiritual growth. This will be an area of ongoing consideration by TBE’s leadership team.

The next step for TBE’s leadership team will be to identify three or four “big” ideas on which to focus and to develop detailed action plans. This work will be done by our Oversight Committee and Board of Trustees. You will be hearing more about this work in the coming months.

In the meantime, we are grateful to those of you who participated in the URJ data assessment program and hope that many more of you will be involved in the important work of our community as we move ahead. We know that your thoughts, concerns and beliefs about our TBE community form the foundation of the work we do as the leadership team.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about the URJ data assessment program, please contact Andrea Bradley at abradley616@gmail.com or (609) 933-1889.

Originally published in the May-June 2017 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives