RS701 – Congregational Growth and Development

Instructor: Rabbi Rich Nichol
Dates: March 26–June 6; Spring 2022–2023
Location: Populi (

All Messianic Jewish rabbis should serve within the context of a faith community. This course exposes the future rabbi to practical strategies for developing healthy and maturing Messianic Jewish synagogues, havurot, and independent minyanim. Foundational issues such as solid governmental structure, legal compliance, and financial accountability are covered. Other subtle but vitally important skills imparted are how to deal with difficult people, how to handle disappointments, and how to inspire others. All of these can make communal leadership a lifelong joy for the rabbi, his or her family, and the congregation.

Required for MJTI’s Master of Rabbinic Studies degree.

Messianic Jewish congregations are living, breathing incarnations of two great truths: the Messiahship of Yeshua and the importance of Jewish covenantal life. However, for these twin pillars of truth to permeate the soul of the Jewish world, to be inculcated within the lives of Jewish people, and to have the impact they deserve, our Messianic Jewish synagogues and havurot must grow and prosper. Therefore, the purpose of this course is to facilitate the numerical, relational, and financial growth of Messianic Jewish congregations and havurot, helping them to honor our tradition and our Messiah in the power of the Divine Presence.

As has been the case throughout Jewish history, rabbis have been responsible to understand the “times and seasons” and to foster necessary adjustments in strategies for the health and success of the communities under their care.

The changing times in which we find ourselves today may be one of those critical moments in world and Jewish history which require new thinking about how modern Messianic Judaism may more than survive, but prosper in the years ahead.

So, our class will consider both time honored strategies for growing communities numerically, fostering trust and good will among congregants, establishing worthy financial policies etc. Additionally, we will also explore ways Messianic Judaism must adjust in a post-Covid world. New technologies have presented themselves. How do we evaluate their utility from practical and spiritual perspectives? Members’ expectations as to what normal Messianic Jewish life should look like have implicitly but powerfully challenged. How do we as rabbis accommodate such realities? New communal structures (beyond the traditional synagogue model) are being commended. How do we evaluate these?

Discovering things “both old and new” will be the focus of our course.


Computer and adequate internet access.

Weekly live online class sessions with discussion and homework assignments.

• Attendance to weekly live online class sessions.
• Weekly Reading and journaling.
• Timely completion of all homework assignments, including the pre-class assignment.
• Final Project incorporating factors covered in our discussions and readings. Students will submit a ten-page proposal for planting a Messianic Jewish havurah, congregation or home-based congregation.

REQUIRED TEXTS (Be aware that not all these books are required to be purchased. The books with a double asterisk are required. You must choose two of the remaining books for book reports. See Pre-Class assignment under Course Outline.)

• Banks, Robert and Julia. The Church Comes Home. Hendrickson, 1988.
• Dauermann, Stuart, “Thriving, Not Just Surviving: Reconciling Community for a Better Tomorrow.” Kesher, A Journal of Messianic Judaism 40, 2022, 47–67.
• Kaunfer, Eli. Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2010.
• Nichol, Richard. The Unique Place of Gentiles in Messianic Jewish Life.
• **Nichol, Richard, “Messianic Jewish Synagogues: Coping with COVID”, Kesher, A Journal of Messianic Judaism 40, 2022, 25–46.
• **Warren, Marcus and Jim Wilder. Rare Leadership.: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy and Engagement in the People You Lead. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2016.
• **Wilder, Jim and Michael Hendricks, et al. The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2020.

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