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Orthodox Church in America
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Leadership & Parish Council Resources

Parish Council Webinar Series

A recent multi session webinar series examined how to transition parish councils from the parish fire department to a shared leadership body that cooperates with the priest to discover possibilities, discern priorities, drive change and prepare the parish for vital ministry.

Session One November 2015...covered an introduction to good parish governance principles based upon Orthodox ecclesiology, a brief history of common parish governance ideas wrongly inherited from the past and a review of the purpose and role of the parish and the parish council. Slides for session one can be found here

Session Two December 2015... covered expectations of parish council members, tasks of parish councils, parish administrative structure and good practices of parish councils. The slides for session two can be found here. 

Session 3 January 2016... covered good meeting practices. The slides for session three can be found here.

Session 4 February 2016... covered attendee rasied issues and practices for handling typical  leadership issues.  slides are here.

Toward Strengthened Parish Councils

A Vision of a Better Parish Council

At a recent conference a woman shared her disappointment in her time on her parish council. "I came wanting to talk about the things our parish was not doing that, it seemed to me, it should be doing," she said. "But all they ever talked about was fixing the steps."

An effective parish council (PC) is critically important for any parish desiring to face forward toward a brighter future. Read more


Toward Strengthened Parish Councils

An effective parish council (PC) is critically important for any parish desiring to face forward toward a brighter future.  Yet too many PCs operate more like brakes than engines. Holding the parish back rather than driving the parish forward. The place where ideas go to die.


Nine Tips to Save Time in Parish Council Meetings

What if you could make parish council (PC) meetings 2X more efficient? What would that look like? If you could get the same results in half the time what would you do with that time? Leave early?  Or (better) discuss meaningful topics that you never seem to have time for under your current system.

Here are nine suggestions>>>


2014 Leaders Day: Parish Council

The 2014 Leaders Day for the Archdiocese was held on Saturday October 18 at St John the Baptist Church Canonsburg PA. Topic of the session was "The Ministry of the Parish Council: Roles, Responsibilities & Leadership Expectations."

Materials from this session can be downloaded here.


Reflections of Six Priests

In planning content for Archdiocesan Leaders Day sessions we asked a variety of experienced and, in our opinion, effective priests from various corners of the OCA to reflect upon and share their thoughts about parish councils.

Their advice is worth reading...( read more)


Eight Good Parish Council Practices

Tired of talking about fixing the church steps? Try this path to reinvigorating your Parish Council. (PC)

1. Decide -- Do You Want to Improve? 
When asked about their effort and results many PCs often opine that they're "doing a decent job". In part because they "do the job" the way its always been done. To stimulate serious introspection ask: "Can this experience be better?" "Can we be more effective?" "Can we have fun doing this?" "Do we make a difference?" "Are we truly pulling the parish into a brighter future?" And: "What are the 2-3 most important things this parish does? How often do we as a council talk about these?"

If your council is truly satisfied with how it operates and the results it generates-- enjoy your rut. However if a reasonable number of members desire to model a sense of excellence and improvement acknowledge that. And get started.   


2. Understand What You (PC) Are NOT

In many cases the assumptions that limit the effectiveness of PCs begin with a poor understanding of its role and purpose. These are often the result of inaccurate and anachronistic influences too numerous to mention.  read more

Delegating Better: Sharing Responsibility to Grow Parish Leaders

During the 2014 Small Parish Forum, clergy and lay attendees caucused separately to write each other an open letter offering suggestions on how each could better fulfill their leadership role. By far, the number one quality that laity expressed to clergy -- mentioned early and often -- was to delegate more often and more effectively.


This made us wonder why clergy were --or were perceived to be -- poor at delegating responsibility.


Basic Barriers

Some obvious answers come to mind. Limited opportunity and experience working in groups of peers or teams and managing staff.  Lack of an active, on site "boss". Limited training in management methods. "They don't teach this in seminary," is an oft heard explanation. And, many clergy, feeling a sense of duty for their roles as overseers, are simply reticent to delegate responsibility to non-clergy. 

Yet we wanted to go a bit deeper --in part because many in parish life are poor at delegating. Church school directors, building and grounds teams, ladies groups and parish councils could all profit from focusing on better ways to share responsibility. 


Empowering New Parish Efforts

Most parishes, at one time or another find themselves stuck in ruts. Past efforts and ministries that once were the heart of parish life no longer seem to fit.

However, as parishes find new ways to engage laity on a project that is valuable, important  and interesting to them -- good things start to happen. Energy builds -- and this energy can become infectious for the whole community's life in Christ.


Reorganizing Parish Ministries

Many parishes are in the midst of re-thinking their set of parish ministries. They are identifying new needs and replacing activities that are no longer useful. If your parish is undertaking this exercise the following information --showing how one parish did just that -- may be of interest to you.


Best Practices Manual

The Parish Council has a duty of care to propoerly oversee financial practices of the parish. Do your parish council  have clear policies concerning:

  • Conflict of interest
  • Donor restrictied gifts
  • Fund raising appealOperational controls of funds and accounts
  • Financial reporting
  • Spending practices

The parish council at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church  in Overland Park KS recently developed a best practices manual for answering these questions. The document has been posted here for your review. Use it as a starting point for your procedures.