Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Orthodox Church in America
/ Ministries / Parish Development / Vision
Gospel Centered Parish Vision

A healthy parish clearly understands that its reason for existence is to serve the Living God and to share its love of God with others. This vision provides a foundation for how it behaves, how it presents itself to its neighbors and what it truly values. The vision is based on a realistic context that integrates its past, its assets, strengths, limitations and environment. It includes a clear interest in growth and replicating itself.

Consider the following questions as you work to strengthen your parish vision:

  • What are the elements of a useful vision for our parish? What questions should a parish vision answer?
  • Who in the parish should be involved in defining a vision?
  • Who are the stakeholders" in our vision? Who does our parish vision impact?
  • How do we keep discussions and efforts about visions and purpose from being hopelessly general or overly specific?
  • How is a “parish vision” different from a “dream”? From a “plan”?
  • Do we have multiple competing visions in our parish? If so why?
  • Are we as a community “on the way to somewhere”? Is it where we want to go? Where God wants us to go?
  • How essential is “planning” and setting priorities as part of God’s church?

This section provides articles tools and templates that can help your parish to clarify where you want to head --what you want to look like in the future.

Missions and Mission Statements -- Helping Parishes Engage with Their Future

One important session at the 2017 Small Parish Forum dealt with "Engaging with Our Future: Mission, Values, Identity". The session explored what a parish mission statement is, what it looks like and offered examples of effective and less effective mission statements. Read more.
Core Values

When considering new ideas and initiatives in the parish a set of core values becomes the bedrock upon which future visions of ministry are founded. In fact it could be said that parish values are the building blocks of parish vision --the parameters that define boundaries of the vision and the driving force behind the vision.


What Kind of Parish Do We Envision?

Parishes need to have a defined concept of their future. What they want to be like in 3, 5 or 10 or more years. Without that a parish on a plateau or in early decline can feel helpless and without direction.  Yet, such discussions are difficult they become vague and wander.

Perhaps this exercise can help you to bring focus and enegy to the conversation.

Crafting Your Parish Vision -- A Toolbox

"Who are we and what are we about" is a key question that needs to be front and center for all parishes with a future. Not every moment in time requires big picture conversations, but occasionally it is time to review where we've been and where we're heading. And, since the rear view mirror always seems clearer than the windshield - this isn't easy.

This article offers multiple ideas for how to conduct a productive conversation on a this often difficult topic.

What Do Priest\'s Want?

What Do Priests Want?

Looking to prepare for an anticipated clergy retirement? This article provides insights from four senior priests on what qualities they would look for in a new parish.

See article here.

Orthodox Parishes and Neighborhood Identity

Procession for feast of Dormition - Malankaran Orthodox
Procession for feast of Dormition - Malankaran Orthodox
Procession for feast of Dormition - Malankaran Orthodox

What does the neighborhood think or know about your parish? Would neighbors like to have a conversation with you? Do they see your parish as colorful" but not particularly frindly or hospitable? Has the parish achieved a mysterious, mystical status?

The article found here may provide some insight.

Brighter Future : Looking at Replenishment Ratios

Many of us have read recent studies describing continued decline in N. American church attendance and donations. Similarly many Orthodox parishes are plagued with aging and plummeting membership, minimal stewardship and apathy.
Orthodox Bright Spots
Nonetheless in recent travels we've encountered many blossoming Orthodox parishes. In multiple parts of the country we've heard exciting stories of growth and ministry, numerous converts, active church schools, evangelism efforts and new community ministries.
Encouraging Stats
Statistics in one northern OCA Diocese seem particularly encouraging. Looking not at membership but instead at data for burials, baptisms and chrismations, we find that for every 100 burials the diocese has received approximately 200 new persons through baptisms and approximately 100 adults through chrismation. This' 3:1 "replenishment ratio" seems quite hopeful.
What is an Necessary "Replenishment" Target?
Would a 3.0 replenishment rate lead eventually to actual growth in the number of persons in the body of Christ? What rate is needed to simply remain the same size?
We'll spare you the details but our guess is that a ratio of at least 2.0 is necessary for basic replenishment needs. It is encouraging that 70% of parishes in the Diocese from which we cite these figures exhibit replenishment ratios greater than 2.0.
The replenishment ratio as suggested is an oversimplification. It ignores parishioners who become dormant and it assumes no net gain or loss of persons who transfer/move in or out of parishes. Dioceses in regions of shrinking population will typically be net losers in transfers in vs. transfers out. Since it is a ratio, the metric for individual parishes is, of course, likely to vary widely from year to year. And, parishes with large numbers of funerals will have difficulty scoring well on this metric.
Topic for Parish Conversation?
Even with these limitations we wonder if talking about this metric at the parish level in the correct context could be a useful action? ("Here is an interesting statistic. What do you think? If you're also uncomfortable with this stat... let's discuss it.").
Referring to this as a replenishment effort could sound less daunting than a growth effort.