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11 Jun

How Your Synagogue Can Avoid the Summer Slide

This article originally appeared in eJP.

Parents sometimes worry that kids will be behind in math in the fall because they forget so much over the summer. Educators call this the “summer slide.” What about the synagogue slide?

Walk into any non-Orthodox temple in the summer and you are likely to see a small service in the chapel, virtually no programming and a skeletal staff. Why are so many temples a 9 month business? Does everyone really go away all summer?

What happens when temples screech to a halt over the summer? What is the message we send?

How can temples stay connected with their congregants and help connect congregants with each other during the summer months? Here are 10 suggestions:

  1. Poll congregants on their summer plans and play matchmaker. Let people opt in to find out if others will be on vacation at the same time and place.
  2. Take services outside to the park or the beach.
  3. Have a pool or beach party or bonfire.
  4. Organize a service project together like a beach clean-up or community gardening.
  5. Invite day camp age kids for a social activity over the summer like movie night or a jointly hosted swim party at the JCC.
  6. Be a resource for congregational teens and college students who are home and looking for jobs or internships by collecting and publicizing opportunities.
  7. Offer teen and college students who are home for the summer a place to hang out and an opportunity to talk with the clergy as a group and individually.
  8. Send letters to your kids at overnight camps and host a re-entry, come talk about camp social for overnight campers late in August.
  9. Create opportunities for learning and enrichment like virtual book clubs or online discussions.
  10. If you have a central location where many congregants have summer residences, plan a trip for your clergy or board executives.

While we certainly all want a break during the summer, synagogues can prevent the synagogue slide by offering tailored communication and summer programming to congregants complete with lots of ice cream and popsicles.

Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is founder and principal of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for nonprofits. She is the author of “On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service.” Nanette can be reached at fridmanstrategies@gmail.com.

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