The Small Parish Forum is a conference that offers presentations, discussions, workshops, small group sessions and individual conversations tuned to the challenges faced by small Orthodox churches. Clergy, parish council members, music leaders, Christian educators and concerned laity from many OCA Dioceses and Orthodox jurisdictions attend to become good stewards of their parish future and help them recognize and harness what is good and beautiful in small Christian communities.
We Have Mostly Small Parishes -- And Small Parishes Are Different
The need for the Small Parish Forum is clear. Only a handful of parishes in the Archdiocese have more than 75 adult members. Some have always been small. Some were once large and for various reasons are now much smaller.
However, just as a clinic is not a large metropolitan hospital with fewer beds, small churches are not malnourished, immature, versions of larger parishes. Small parishes think, feel and actdifferent. They have different resources and social structures and need different practices and ministries. Yet small churches can bring people to Christ in intimate and exciting ways. Small parishes can worship well, care for one another, teach, serve their neighbor and share Christ’s love with others. In many cases they do these things better than larger churches.
The fourth Small Parish Forum focused on four aspects of “engagement” that are critical to smaller parishes.
Engage In Worship – Enliven your church’s worship cycle for everyone.
Engage with Neighbors – Break insularity from the world by reaching out in service to your neighbors
Engage Across Generations – Harness the gifts, experiences & mentoring across multiple generations to build a community of love.
Engage with Your Future – Hope in a bright future requires leadership, an understanding of your identity as a Christian community and shared, lived values.
2016 Parish Forum attendee shares hopes for the future of her parish with interested Forum attendees.
To address the unique qualities of small churches, the Small Parish Forum is unlike other events dealing with church ministry and revitalization. The Forum is NOT about telling small parishes of their necessity to grow. Nor does the Forum allow participants to dwell on the difficulties and limitations of small parishes. The Forum provides tools, insights and encouragement that enable small parishes to harness the intimacy and close relationships inherent in their modest size.
Actionable Ideas, Relevant Conversations and a Network of New Friends
Because the forum attracts attendees from many small parishes, Forum attendees are reminded they are not alone in the challenges faced in their parish. They share how other small Orthodox parishes are beginning to make progress on these challenges.