Recently I was having lunch with a non Jewish business colleague. I asked him if he was a religious person. He gave me a speech about how he was a “Spiritual” person. Always trying to do the right thing, knowing the difference between right and wrong, etc. When he finished, I said, “That sounds like you do not attend Church. His response, “No, I would not join any organized religion because all they do is ask for money”.
This sums up the situation we, as an organized religion, are in. We are always asking for money and people do not like that. I do not like that either. What to do? I would like to stop asking for money. Then people like the man who I was talking with would not have such a problem with religion.
This, it seems to me, is a marketing problem. Would the same man say, “I will not go to the grocery store, all they want is money”. People have no problem paying for goods and services everyday, but have a hard time paying to be a member of a religious group. There is a lack of perceived value of the service we offer or maybe folks think God will provide.
In times of crisis, life and death, sickness and pain, people call the Shul. They need a Rabbi, they need a spiritual connection. When we get these calls, the Rabbi does not check to see if this person has paid dues or is even a member. He responds on a 24 hour 7 days per week basis. We are like a spiritual 911 call. When a Jew needs to worship, we are open for services ever Sabbath, Friday and Saturday. We offer education for our children and adults. We are a social community for those who want to be part of our family. Yet, when the bill arrives, it goes to the bottom of the pile and is paid only if there is money left after all else is paid. I have done this myself, so I understand.
The question is, how do we communicate the value of what we provide? I am asking for your help, because I do not have an answer. When I volunteered to be President of B’nai Israel, (thank you so much for this great honor), I did it as my way to serve God and thank God for the blessings in my life. I have found that this job entails too much bill collecting, fundraising and listening to people tell me why they cannot or will not pay to be a member. I have no solution and I am asking you to help me. How do we communicate the value of the services we offer?
I return to the statement above, “No, I would never join any organized religion because all they do is ask for money”