Help me Help our Gurdwaras Serve our Children Better

I am and will always remain highly motivated to see a different future and trajectory of how we run our Gurdwaras

Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh,

I recently finished serving my term on a Prabandhak committee.  It was a profound honor to serve and to engage in Seva – I will forever be grateful to the Almighty for affording me this privilege.  My Seva has not come to a standstill, however.  It is incumbent upon me to share what I have learned, to impart my observations to the cyber Sadh Sangat, and to create a dialogue that will be progressive, constructive and informative to finding better ways to do Seva in our Gurdwaras. 

First, I’m an unlikely candidate to be on a Gurdwara executive committee.  If you saw me, you would look twice – and ask yourselves, how in the world did she get selected to be on a Prabandhak committee?   I’m a square peg in a round hole.  I’m as diverse as diverse could be – female, young (relatively), highly educated, born and raised in the West, progressive, outspoken, Sehajdhari Sikh (but always authentically aspiring to be more…) definitely a square peg in a round hole.

And I will confidently assert that while I cannot speak for others, I was also different in that I had a long-term vision and dream for engaging our Sikh Youth.  After all, they are our future and will carry on the Sikh Khom.  All short-term initiatives were in the pursuit of this higher, noble objective.  

I am and will always remain highly motivated to see a different future and trajectory of how we run our Gurdwaras, our faith based institutions, in such a way that we bring our Youth back into the fold.  The “Old Guard” has had their time, now it’s time to make way for new ways of doing things, using technology, social media, the energy and exuberance of the Youth, tempered by the institutional knowledge of our elders, to come together to create something more evolved.

So, I wish to reflect on some lessons I learned over my term of being on a Gurdwara committee to see how we collectively, as Sadh Sangat, can take measures to improve our processes in our Sikh Temples.

Therefore, I’m going to publish regular articles tackling difficult subjects that remain somewhat un-discussed.  As a woman, I have a unique experience and insight about all topics ranging from operations, Langar preparation, Gurmat school, community outreach initiatives and even working with the Ragi Jathas. 

My intention, again, is simply to see if we can find better, collaborative progressive ways to ensure that our Gurdwaras are and will always continue to be sanctuaries for the Sangat, and protective of the elderly and our future generations.  I welcome your insight and feedback as I engage on this mission. 

My goal from this dialogue is to standardize and create a template for our Sikh Temples in North America such that they fulfill operational mandates, accommodate long term vision, while first and foremost, imparting the teachings of Gurbani and Sikhi to the Sangat. 

Oil hits Water and the Corporation

A notable meeting took place recently and notable comments were made.  Being the lone wolf advocating for more transparency and accountability, I was the drop of hot oil in a bowl of cool water.
 
A Senior Trustee interrupted my discourse (a common occurrence) and said in stern tones:
 
“We cannot run the Gurdwara like a corporation”.
 
Everyone was quiet, even I acquiesced in response to the tone, authority and due to years of conditioning in demonstrating unflailing respect - at all costs towards my elders…even when they are blatantly and exceeding wrong.
 
Some sleepless night later I finally sat up and faced the truth that could no longer be denied.  
 
“Why not?  Why can’t we run the Gurdwara like a corporation?”  It was cathartic and it was a call for action.
 
Certainly, we have a defined mandate to teach Gurbani and impart Sikhi to the Sangat – that part cannot be run like a Corporation – it is our reason for being and will always take precedence over any ‘corporate’ like notions.  
 
However, when it comes to finance, accounting, marketing, budgeting and strategic planning, why can’t we run the Gurdwara like a well-oiled non-profit corporation?  I’d like to explore this concept further in a series of articles discussing the below topics, and with the input and engagement of the cyber-Sangat, understand how we can collectively enhance Gurdwara operations everywhere:

•    Enhancing Leadership skills
•    Promoting Diversity & Empowerment
•    Commitment to a culture of collaboration and respect
•    Empathic Engagement
•    External Opportunities and Challenges
•    Internal Strengths and Limitations
•    Succession Planning
•    Technology and Innovation
•    Change Management

In closing…I feel we can all work together to come to a vision that serves all of us in the Sikh community collectively.  I know we can, we only need to look at  our rich history of continuous progress and contribution to our global community.   Let’s be inclusive and continue to build upon our strong foundation together!  After all, if you take a drop of hot oil, in a bowl of cool water, and you add flour and sugar and heat, you are rendered with fragrant Prasad.  All the ingredients have to work together to create a future that is as beautiful, aromatic and sustaining as Guru Ji's Prasad.

Please be so kind as to share your comments below so that this dialogue may continue.

 

Rajan Sawhney

I am so many things - mother, sister, daughter, wife, Economist, dreamer, activist, writer, uplifter...

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