Published in March 2008

Communicating With Decision-Makers (Part 2)
By David Lee Jr., Phd

Breaking down titles, roles and responsibilities in Catholicism and Juadaism.

Communicating effectively with leaders of a House of Worship is essential for achieving successful business. Each religion, and its associated worship facilities, has a unique culture that outsiders probably will never fully understand. We can, however, do some homework and establish enough understanding to determine who their decision-makers are and what their current communication needs are. Answers to these questions will help us to experience successful business. In Part 1 of this series last month, we glanced at Protestant/Christian churches. This time around, we’ll take a peek at Catholicism and Judaism.

• Catholicism: Catholicism is a very old denomination of the Christian faith. A Catholic parish usually is under the structure of a larger archdiocese (i.e., Archdiocese of New York), headed by a Bishop. A Priest is the primary head of the parish. A Cantor most often leads the congregation in song and praise. The ministerial leader of each department will have some influence in the decision-making processes. Most parishes have a pastoral council that also has a voice in extensive decision-making (i.e., large purchases). In the modern world, congregants want a voice in the decision-making process; thus, they routinely voice their concerns to the parish priest and parish ministers.

Small and large parishes have numerous communication needs. They use communication technologies to address these needs found in their offices and worship facilities. Most parishes are using information technology to manage congregant data and perform administrative duties. Many parishes are setting up websites for congregants to find out about weekly, monthly and annual parish information, and make donations online. A recent trend is making audio and/or video podcasts available for download from the parish website.

A growing number of larger parishes is using audio and video production equipment (mixers, cameras, switchers, recorders, etc.) to record worship services, to create the podcast downloads and for distribution on CD, DVD, television and radio. Parishes are also using video projection systems to display persons speaking in order to close the distance between the priest or cantor and the congregation. In addition, parishes currently are upgrading their antiquated sound-reinforcement systems to offer higher fidelity.

I lived and worked in Europe for many years. I visited Notre Dame in Paris often. The sound reinforcement was horrible. On a recent visit, I noticed numerous expensive speakers that were distributed strategically throughout the cathedral, which regenerated clear and articulate sound. In addition, remote-controlled video cameras were installed in discrete locations. The priest was displayed on high-definition LCD monitors that had been attached to each of the very old pillars that support this beautiful edifice. The installation added to the ancient beauty. In my opinion, in no way did it degrade the older, ornate architecture.

•Judaism: Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions. Judaism, like Christianity, comprises numerous denominations, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Liberal, Karaite, Humanistic Judaism and other branches. Obviously, there are differences among these different groups. However, they do have many organizational similarities.

In the United States, the synagogue staff includes a Rabbi, which is the title most often used to denote a leader. A rabbi has studied the Talmud (Scriptures) and the Shulkhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law). Another staff member would be a “Hazzan” (Cantor or song leader), who leads numerous portions of a service. A “Gabbai” typically oversees the maintenance and upkeep of the synagogue. The board of trustees provides organizational oversight. These people typically represent the primary decision-makers in a synagogue in the US.

Many synagogues have stayed with tradition and have not adopted the use of massive sound systems and presentation technologies. However, Judaism has always been an aural religion. Songs and prayers are spoken aloud. So, today, simple but adequate sound reinforcement is being used. Audio and video recording equipment is also being used in a growing number of synagogues to record weekly messages that are made available on CDs and podcasts to satisfy the needs of congregants who want to hear the messages and teachings at more convenient times. Information technology departments are on the rise to address the need to manage the larger volumes of data that are generated in the office of a modern synagogue, and to maintain websites that provide a sense of community among local congre-gants.

This very simplified look at the Catholic faith and the Jewish faith is surely incomplete. Our purpose here is not to learn theology but to understand better the structure, primary decision-makers and communication needs of these established faiths. Christianity, Catholicism and Judaism have additional traditions, ways of working and communication needs that I encourage you to learn. I believe that doing so will increase your chances of gaining their business. And, along the way, I believe you may just learn something that benefits your life. That’s what I believe. Tell me what you believe.

David Lee Jr., PhD, CEO of Lee Communication Inc., Orlando FL, is a licensed minister and has more than 25 years of experience as a systems integrator. He is a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical Council. Send comments to
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