1. Why do we need this program?
In 2019 'church' is not on the radar of most people. Church attendance competes with innumerable secular activities and an abundance of leisure time. Church affiliation and attendance is seen as optional or even irrelevant.
Yet, Orthodox Christianity – through vibrant Orthodox parishes – is highly attractive to people who thirst for:
- Worship that embodies the holiness and majesty of God
- Doctrinal integrity rooted in continuity with the apostles and not shifting with the times or prevailing fads
- A Gospel message of hope and salvation that is alive, authentic, and meaningful in today's world.
People are attracted to the Orthodox faith when they see energetic worship beyond Sunday mornings, charitable ministry and budgets, open hospitality to strangers, serious generosity of time and treasure, and warmth and love.
Yet most parishes are operating in well worn-grooves. We ‘do what we’ve’ always done’: Sunday only liturgy, picnics, fundraising sales, dues, and social clubs. This internal focus may have enabled parishes to maintain themselves in times of large families, when children grew up and stayed in the area. But in today’s mobile, secularized society, flourishing parishes with a future open their doors to attract non-Orthodox -- and Orthodox who are new to the area.
These are people who likely have different needs and expectations.
The Parish Revitalization Initiative seeks to stimulate parishes to rethink how they reach out and encounter the world around us. The Initiative encourages parishes to undertake a specific effort to overcome parish insularity and isolation, to learn our Orthodox faith, to share it with friends and neighbors, and to welcome new persons to the Body of Christ.
2. What is the theme of this initiative? Why was that theme selected?
Our theme for the next two years is, Building a Bright Parish Future: Growing in Faith, Sharing Our Faith, Welcoming Others.
Obviously every parish is in a different situation. We offer a theme that while narrowing the focus to areas of known parish opportunity, is also broad enough to allow every parish to identify a clear opportunity to grow as the Body of Christ. It allows the parish to focus effort internally or externally. On community, worship, Christian formation, integrating new members, sharing the gospel, showing hospitality.
The lead-in to our theme is the simple message: “You Can Do This”! It's a reminder to parishes that while strengthening your parish takes work, it is not an impossible task. Every parish that wants to become healthy can do so. It requires prayer and effort on the part of parish leaders.
This initiative offers a nudge to parishes to move beyond the gravitational pull of the past and to strengthen their life as the Body of Christ.
3. What are the qualities of a good parish project for the new initiative?
As you search for a new project, realize that the best projects will:
- Identify a significant change from the current practice
- Have clear ownership -- a person or group committed to moving it forward
- Impact a broad cross-section of the parish.
- Be an ongoing effort, not a one-time event
- Be visible to the parishioners on a regular basis
- Communicate a sense of hopefulness
4. Do we need to focus on a problem area or deficiency?
Most people tend to gravitate toward identifying, describing, and fixing problems. Therefore most projects tend to focus on weaknesses. However it can often be even more effective to identify what your parish does well and expand that. “Become great at what we’re good at.”
5. Do we need to undertake something new? We can hardly keep up with our current efforts!
Good point. Consider a two part effort. First, pare back 20% of long standing clubs, ministries, or programs that are no longer productive but that use people’s time. Second, identify an existing area that needs to be improved. Find a good step for your parish to build a bright future.
6. Does our project need to last for the full two years, 2019 and 2020?
Projects that take time to get started and build momentum may require the full period. Others will be shorter in duration.
For those projects completed in a shorter time frame, we suggest:
- Take a breath: take stock of what was effective and what was not.
- Celebrate as parish: “We did it!”
- Begin again with another project that builds on or compliments the first one.
7. Do you have suggestions for good starter projects?
This list of questions should help start discussion.
This list of project ideas may also be useful.
8. Is help available?
Yes! Chairperson Joe Kormos and members of the Parish Development Committee are happy to offer assistance and coaching. We can help to convince the parish to get on board, to examine parish life and select an effective project for your parish, to help you to get started, and to execute the project. Assistance can be provided by phone, in-person, email, or by video conference, whatever is most convenient for your parish. We can put you in touch with existing materials and connect you with other parishes in similar situations who have been successful.
9. Are we required to have people from the Parish Development Committee involved with our effort?
No, certainly not. Many parishes will prefer to ‘go it alone’. However, realize that most parishes (and persons) lack the perspective to see and understand their weaknesses, strengths and needs. An outside view is often enlightening and helpful. Likewise, involving the Parish Development team creates an accountability mechanism of sorts, someone who is paying attention, encouraging you, and urging you forward.
10. What if our desired project doesn't fit with the three theme subcategories? Or what if we want to choose more than one project in different subcategories?
There is no absolute requirement to fit your project into the theme boundaries. However, having a clear organizational process under the theme subcategories helps us to provide parishes with materials and tools that assist in achieving good outcomes.
Likewise, more than one effort is workable as well. However, in our experience, most groups try to do too much. We can help you to refrain from overloading yourselves.