Times: Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman Seek Secrets to Synagogue Success from Christian Rev. Rick Warren

Why not try to learn your synagogue business from the most successful competitors in their own markets?

That is what some Jewish leaders were doing back in 2007 - trying to learn how to really succeed from the Christian mega-churches.

Here is our repost of the original article.

On Religion
An Unlikely Megachurch Lesson
Published: November 3, 2007

One Sunday morning in 1995, Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman braked to a halt in an oddly enlightening traffic jam. The line of cars was creeping toward Saddleback Church in Southern California, whose services were drawing thousands of worshipers. As two Jews, Mr. Wolfson and Rabbi Hoffman had crossed the sectarian divide to try to figure out how and why.

As they inched down the road, they spotted a sign marked “For First-Time Visitors.” It directed them to pull into a separate lane and put on emergency blinkers. Bypassing the backup, they soon reached a lot with spaces reserved for newcomers. When Mr. Wolfson and Rabbi Hoffman emerged from their car, an official Saddleback greeter led them into the church.

Those first moments on the perimeter of the church set into motion a dozen years of increasing interaction between a Jewish organization devoted to reinvigorating synagogues and one of the most successful evangelical megachurches in the nation, the Rev. Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

This has not been a studiously balanced bit of ecumenicism. Synagogue 3000, the group led by Mr. Wolfson, an education professor, and Rabbi Hoffman, a scholar of liturgy, went to the church to figure out what evangelical Christians were doing right that Jews were doing wrong or not at all.

“To put it bluntly,” Mr. Wolfson said, “if there are thousands of people waiting to get in, I want to know what’s going on. I want to know what they’re doing that’s tapping those souls.”

The latest outgrowth of this unlikely learning curve is Hallelu Atlanta, a gathering tomorrow of 4,000 members of 18 congregations. With its amalgam of praise songs and spiritual testimonies, Mr. Wolfson describes the event as “a Jewish tent meeting.” A similar event outside Los Angeles in 2002 drew 5,000 participants.

Since 1995, Synagogue 3000 and its precursor, Synagogue 2000, have taken member congregations and seminary classes to Saddleback and had Mr. Warren conduct a workshop in congregation-building for nearly 20 Jewish leaders....more...

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