One of the challenges of being a small town Rav is to maintain a momentum of growth in the community despite limited numbers with which to work. This is important not only to fill the pews on Shabbos morning but also to ensure a functioning daily minyan and a reliable source of dues with which to pay the bills that pile up.
Naturally one way to attract people to shul is through kiruv. There are, of course, many different ways to do that. Some, like Chabad, use a two-pronged approach focusing on the larger number of people and approaching them with superficial things like parties and alcohol while keeping an eye out for the occasional serious recruit who might agree to adopting a shomer mitzvos lifestyle.
However, there is a downside to doing kiruv in a small town. Because of the limited resources available, a serious baal teshuvah eventually discovered that he has outgrown the community he lives in. Whether it's for a higher level of learning, a yearning to be around larger numbers of frum people, or a concern about proper educational institutions for one's children, the serious frummie-come-lately eventually sponsers a farewell kiddush and moves on to a larger Jewish community. In other words, a really successful kiruv experience winds up diminishing instead of growing the local population.
I was thinking about this over Pesach as I spent time discussing the crappy job our low shul does when it comes to kiruv. Despite an avowed interest in the field, the local Rav actually does very little in the way of showing potential new recruits what a genuine Torah observant lifestyle is about. Whether it's the emphasis on social gatherings at which the only Jewish connection is a vague theme (support the local Hebrew day school!) or minimizing the Torah part to actual Jewish events- ALL NIGHT GRILL!!!!! (and Shavous learning), HUGE PURIM PARTY WITH BOUNCING CASTLE!!!! (following Purim megillah reading), it seems the only real goal is to get people to walk through the front door of the shul. They may never step inside the sanctuary or open a prayer book, let alone learn an actual word of Torah from a real sefer, but if they just show up they're considered to be mekareved.
Even those few folks who make friends amongst the frummies in town and start to adopt more observances in their lives never seem to make it past the frum-for-fun stage, adopting many of the superficial tapestries of religious living without ever going deep into what makes such a lifestyle unique. And why should they when all they have to do to get a kosher seal of approval from the Rav is simply announce they want to keep kosher?
And as I was kvetching about that it occured to me that this might be the point. As I noted earlier, the danger of succesful kiruv in a small community is losing the candidate to somewhere else where he can grown further. Ironically the people I was kvetching to were former members of our community who had moved on to a bigger community because they had religiously outgrown our little town. But if you never actually start to grow, if your entire experience of Judaism is just about fun and parties and you never really progress beyond that, then there's no danger of that happening.
Perhaps that's been the Rav's strategy all along. If he avoids doing real kiruv he avoids two major problems. One is the frum-for-fun family that suddenly discovers a Torah value that is at odds with secular liberal ones and has to make the wreching decision on which way to turn. The other is the enthusiastic and successfully frum-for-fun family which decides it's time to go to the next level. They never realize there's another level (or never realize that to be really frum you have to go there) and thus they never outgrow the limited setting of the small community. Problem solved.
But is crappy kivuv better than no kiruv at all?