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Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations Go and Make Disciples Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes by Alexei Krindatch akrindatch aol com in cooperation with Fr Eric Tosi Fr John Parker and Adam L Roberts People are looking for Orthodoxy even though they don t know it They want family stability true worship and spiritual challenge a quote from one of the parish priests who participated in this study Contents Executive Summary p 3 Introduction Background and Need for the Study p 9 I Approach Goal and Procedure of the Study p 12 II Defining Orthodox Evangelism Not an Easy Task p 16 III The Parishes Participating in the Study Is There Anything Special about the Membership of the Parishes that are Exemplary in their Evangelization and Outreach Efforts p 25 IV The Clergy in Exemplary and Normal Parishes and Their Evolving Vision of Priestly Vocation p 39 V How Exemplary Parishes Achieve a High Degree of Involvement of Their Members in the Life of a Parish p 51 VI Four Distinct Features of Religious Education in the Parishes that Are Exemplary in their Evangelization and Outreach Efforts p 58 VII Church Governance and Finances in Exemplary and Normal Parishes p 61 VIII Programs and Ministries in Exemplary and Normal Parishes p 70 IX The Secrets of Being a Parish that Attracts and Welcomes New Members Eight Good Practices of Welcoming First Time Visitors and Inquirers about the Faith p 84 X The Question of Visibility of American Orthodox Churches in Their Local Communities p 102 XI Relations and Cooperation of Exemplary and Normal Parishes with Non Orthodox Religious Congregations p 112 1
Assembly  of  Canonical  Orthodox  Bishops  of  the  United  States  of  America      Committee  for  Agencies  and  Endor...
XII The Lessons that Other Parishes Could Learn p 118 XIII Six Lessons that Church Leadership Bishops Could Learn p 127 XIV The Common Problem of the Exemplary and Normal Parishes the Non Evangelistic Nature of their Websites p 133 XV The Ultimate Goal Witnessing Orthodox Faith in 21st Century America p 136 XVI The Collective Portrait of the Exemplary Parishes the Key Features That They Share p 144 XVII In Conclusion The Law of the Natural Attraction as the Major Model of the Orthodox Evangelization in America Where Do We Go from Here p 148 Appendix 1 Map of Parishes Participating in the Study p 152 Appendix 2 Guide to Building Good Parish Website Ten Steps to a Great Parish Website p 153 Appendix 3 Questionnaire Used in the Study p 172 Appendix 4 Selected Quotes from the Clergy Participating in the Study that Can be Helpful for Other Parishes p 187 2
XII.  The    Lessons    that  Other  Parishes  Could  Learn                                                               ...
Executive Summary An urgent need exists in Orthodox parishes in the United States for a much stronger emphasis on evangelization and outreach The national studies conducted in 2015 2016 indicated that without paying serious attention to evangelization and missionary outreach the Orthodox Church in the United States is likely to stagnate lose its vibrancy and vitality and decline in members The Go and Make Disciples Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes is the first ever national study on evangelization and outreach practices in US Orthodox Christian Churches It examined the strategies and practices developed by some Orthodox parishes that can be viewed as exemplary as defined by their jurisdictions in their evangelization and outreach efforts The study summarizes the experiences of these exemplary parishes so that they can be adopted by other normal parish communities The selection of both exemplary and normal parishes was done by seven jurisdictions participating in this study The examples of what is discussed in this report include How do exemplary parishes achieve a high degree of involvement of their members in the life of a parish Four distinct features of religious education in the exemplary parishes The secrets of being a parish that attracts and welcomes new members Eight good practices of welcoming first time visitors and inquirers about the Faith Six lessons that Church leadership can learn from the exemplary parishes The study found that few clergy in both exemplary and normal parishes place a strong emphasis on an active search for and bringing in new members Instead a majority of clergy define evangelism in the Orthodox Church as passive i e Come and see evangelism In short most Orthodox clergy both in normal and exemplary parishes believe that the people will be drawn into the Orthodox Church merely by discovering the power and truth of the Church s teachings and practices and the beauty of Orthodox Liturgy This finding suggests that when it comes to the question of evangelism Orthodox priests rely heavily on their perceived natural attractiveness of the Orthodox Church for many religious seekers 3
Executive  Summary      An   urgent   need   exists   in   Orthodox   parishes   in   the   United   States   for   a   mu...
However while most priests adhere to similar definitions and general approaches to evangelization the clergy in exemplary and normal parishes differ significantly in how they practice these approaches and embody them in reality That is all clergy believe in the power of witnessing the Orthodox Faith through the genuine Christian lives of the individuals and their entire parish communities but exemplary parishes provide a much better example of such life than the normal parishes Similarly all clergy believe that the richness of Orthodox liturgical life lived out in a parish can attract new disciples to the Orthodox Church but the exemplary parishes offer more inclusive engaging and meaningful experience of the Orthodox worship than the normal parishes Go and Make Disciples Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes describes in detail the distinct features of the exemplary parishes that make them stronger magnets for new members and inquirers about the Orthodox Faith than the normal parishes Of a particular interest for the church leadership could be the chapter on Six Lessons that Church Leadership Could Learn This study thus far was based exclusively on experiences information and perceptions on the part of the parish clergy While the priests approaches towards Orthodox evangelization and outreach are very important since they help shape their parish communities the voices of the laity both parish leaders and ordinary people in the pews must be carefully heard as well Accordingly the next stage of study on Orthodox evangelism and outreach in the United States will approach our lay church members old and young cradle Orthodox and converts to Orthodoxy those who are very involved in their parishes and those who participate once in a while The following table offers an abridged overview of the most salient features of the exemplary parishes that distinguish them from the normal parishes The table also indicates the pages of the full study report where each of these features are discussed in greater detail 4
   However,  while  most  priests  adhere  to  similar  definitions  and  general  approaches  to  evangelization,  the   ...
Major Distinct Features of the Parishes that Are Exemplary in their Evangelization and Outreach Efforts in Comparison with Normal Parishes Area of church life MEMBERSHIP Demography of membership Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 32 35 of the full study report Other distinct features of membership Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 36 39 of the full study report PRIESTHOOD Demography of priesthood Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 41 44 of the full study report Changes in priest s understanding of his role of a pastor and leader of a parish over period of time Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 48 51 of the full study report INVOLVEMENT of parishioners in the life of a parish and in evangelization and outreach Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 52 54 of the full study report RELIGIOUS EDUCATION 5 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Much stronger presence of converts to Orthodoxy among parishioners Significantly higher percentage of persons with college degrees among parishioners Significantly higher percentage of persons who are new to the parish in the past 3 years among parishioners Significantly smaller percentage of senior citizens age 65 among parishioners Significantly higher percentage of households with children at home High ethnic and cultural diversity among parishioners Steady growth in number of parishioners which is typically accompanied by increasing diversity among members More converts to Orthodoxy Clergy have typically much longer tenure i e they stay longer time with their churches Much lower percentage of converts to Orthodoxy Significantly lower percentage of persons with college degrees among parishioners Significantly lower percentage of persons who are new to the parish in the past 3 years Significantly higher percentage of senior citizens age 65 Significantly lower percentage of households with children at home More homogenous social and ethnic cultural composition of parishioners No significant changes in membership over period of time The original focus on running programs and administration shifted towards being a good teacher preacher and a role model for parishioners As the years go by clergy are becoming increasingly involved in administration management and fundraising tasks Typically half or dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved in all aspects of a parish life Outreach efforts and evangelization are often perceived as the way the entire parish community lives and sees itself Relatively small core group of parishioners does everything in a parish Program approach to evangelization outreach efforts are typically carried out by the designated groups of parishioners Along with religious education for children strong emphasis is given on continuing faith formation of the adult church members Religious education focuses primarily on children and is typically limited to Sunday school Fewer converts to Orthodoxy Clergy have typically much shorter tenure i e they stay shorter time with their churches
Major  Distinct  Features  of  the  Parishes  that  Are    Exemplary    in  their  Evangelization  and  Outreach   Efforts...
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION continued from previous page Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 58 61 of the full study report PARISH GOVERNANCE Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 62 67 of the full study report SYSTEM OF FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY PARISHIONERS Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 67 69 of the full study report PROGRAMS AND MINISTRIES Changes in programs and ministries over period of time Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 71 75 of the full study report __________________ Top two areas of ministries that are seen as the most important by the parishes Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 76 79 of the full study report 6 Religious educators are experimental They design parish s own religious education programs employ a variety of forms of learning about faith and tailor their religious education programs to the needs of particular groups within the parish community Total Parish Education approach with the double goal a involve everyone in a parish in continuing religious education and b encourage as many as possible parishioners to become religious educators and teachers themselves Conciliar model is typical The entire parish community is involved in the process of decision making Decisions are often made by consensus Religious educators prefer to use the standard religious education curriculum and formats developed and recommended by their respective dioceses and jurisdictions Along with pledging stewardship and tithing models many parishes successfully employ a free will offering model In this model parishioners are encouraged constantly to give to the best of their ability but are not required to commit in advance any specified amount of money or percentage of their income Parishes typically embrace changes in ministries and keep trying new programs and activities even if they don t work out Understanding that nothing is carved in stone that programs and activities come and go depending on the parish s life cycle and changing circumstances Parishes are more likely to expand intentionally and significantly the diversity of new ministries Along with pledging stewardship and tithing models many parishes remain with membership dues model a fixed amount of contributions is required to be considered a member __________________________________ Parishes pay primary attention to religious education and faith formation of church members Parishes offer variety of religious education and faith formation programs that address different subjects and issues and are geared to the needs and interests of the various categories of church members The second in importance are outward oriented social outreach and charitable work in the local community ministries and programs A limited group of parishioners is involved in parish s religious education programs The parishes are typically run and decisions made by a limited group of people the members of parish councils boards Parishes are more indifferent with regard to developing new programs and ministries Parishes tend to hold to existing programs and activities Parishes typically add new or improve existing programs in only limited number of areas of a parish life ___________________________ Parishes pay primary attention to religious education and faith formation of church members Parishes prefer to use standard and uniform formats of religious education e g Sunday school for children Bible study for adults etc The second in importance are ministries and programs that focus on social life and fellowship within a parish
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION  continued from previous page   Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp. 58-61 of the full study ...
PARISH COMMUNITY Relations among members Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 86 89 of the full study report Attitudes towards visitors and inquirers Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 90 95 of the full study report PARISH AND ITS LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 103 104 and 106 111 of the full study report RELATIONS WITH NON ORTHODOX RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 116 117 of the full study report APPROACHES TO HOW TO WITNESS ORTHOODX FAITH IN AMERICA continued on the next page 7 Parishes foster mutual care support and practical help among parishioners Parishes maintain overall atmosphere of welcoming and hospitality but do not pay much attention to mutual care and support among parishioners Strong emphasis on welcoming inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors No particular emphasis on welcoming inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors Most parishes think that they are well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhoods Minority of parishes think that they are well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhoods Minority of the parishes have made considerable effort to make themselves better known in their local communities The parishes think that they are known in their local communities primarily because of their ethnic culture and parish based events food sales festivals fundraising events etc Fewer parishes are involved in local inter Christian relations and cooperation Ecumenical cooperation is typically limited to either strictly charitable work running homeless shelters soup kitchens food drives etc or to participation of the Orthodox priests in local clergy associations Majority of the parishes have made considerable effort to make themselves better known in their local communities The parishes think that they are well known in their local communities primarily because of their participation in various community s events initiatives and consistent effort to be a good neighbor More parishes are involved in local inter Christian relations cooperation The parishes engage in a variety of interChristian activities charitable work ecumenical worship services joint social and cultural events picnics concerts work in the area of social justice addressing issues of immigration criminal justice reform urban education etc working together on reducing crime in the neighborhoods etc Pay attention to personal growth in Faith and personal witnessing by everyone in parish community When Church and Faith become more meaningful for parishioners it makes them both more engaged in the parish and eager to share their Faith Pay attention to having a vibrant and full liturgical life not merely formal worship services as one of the keyelements in successful Orthodox evangelism Serve the community you are in not only your own people Be present in multiple settings venues in the local community and offer your own parish Orthodox Christians should hold firm to Orthodox Faith and traditions be proud of them and be willing to explain them to others when and if they find their way to Orthodox Church Witnessing Orthodox Faith to America can simply be done by setting a personal example of being a good Orthodox Christian and living faithful life
PARISH COMMUNITY  Relations among members Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp. 86-89 of the full study report ---...
Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 136 144 of the full study report space for community events and initiatives Make Orthodoxy understandable for the others Make a conscious effort to disassociate the image of the Orthodox Church as being ethnic church and instead try to make it more approachable for the others 8
Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp. 136-144 of the full study report  space  for community events and initiative...
Introduction Background and Need for the Study Most reference books and glossaries agree on a double meaning for the verb evangelize defining it as a to preach the Christian Gospel and b to convert to Christianity Following this simplified definition 1 for the Orthodox Church evangelization would mean making people aware of the Orthodox Christian Faith and subsequently bringing them into the bosom of the Orthodox Church This goal includes An external evangelization That is winning for the Church the hearts of people who do not know the fullness of the Gospel and live without Christian Faith An internal evangelization That is transforming nominal non practicing Orthodox into active members of the Church and re catechizing and further educating existing members In addition evangelization efforts should also reach out to inquirers about the Orthodox Faith those persons who have become disillusioned with their current faith communities and who are in search for a new spiritual home Orthodox social and religious outreach can be broadly defined as establishing an active Orthodox Church presence in new places and settings This can be done in a variety of forms by founding new mission parishes encouraging existing parishes to become more engaged into their local communities and neighborhoods expanding use of social media founding Orthodox educational facilities schools colleges and seminaries et al developing Orthodox mass media creating new OCF chapters in universities and much more Orthodox religious and social outreach and Orthodox evangelization are strongly related to one another Indeed Orthodox outreach should be seen as a key element and crucial factor in successful Orthodox evangelization When Jesus ascended into heaven He commanded Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you 2 Accordingly evangelization sharing our Faith and bringing 1 More discussion on the origins and usage of the term evangelization will be offered in chapter II Defining Orthodox Evangelism Not an Easy Task 2 Matt 28 19 20 9
Introduction   Background  and  Need  for  the  Study   Most  reference  books  and  glossaries  agree  on  a  double  mea...
new believers to Jesus Christ and into the Church is what God commands us and it is at the very center of how we are called to live out our Orthodox Faith However there is also a pragmatic need for this effort Without paying serious attention to evangelization and missionary outreach the Orthodox Church in the United States is likely to stagnate lose its vibrancy and vitality and decline in members The data from the 2015 national study of US Orthodox Churches conducted under the auspices of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops 3 confirm this alarming prognosis One of the study s findings revealed that between 2010 and 2015 the median attendance at weekend services dropped from 90 to 75 persons per typical average American Orthodox parish i e for all US Orthodox Churches combined In simple terms in 2010 half of US Orthodox parishes had more than 90 persons in attendance on a typical weekend and half of them had less than that In 2015 this figure decreased to 75 Among three major American Orthodox jurisdictions between 2010 and 2015 the median weekend attendance in GOA parishes declined from 177 to 150 and it dropped from 85 to 75 in the case of Antiochian parishes Only OCA churches showed a slight increase in the weekend worship attendance See Tab 1 Tab 1 Median attendance number of persons at Saturday and Sunday worship services combined Median means that in the half of the parishes the attendance was higher while the other half of the parishes the attendance was lower All US Orthodox parishes Antiochian parishes GOA parishes OCA parishes Median attendance in 2010 90 85 177 65 Median attendance in 2015 75 75 150 70 3 The 2015 study Orthodox Christian Churches in the 21st Century America was part of a much larger US national interChristian and interfaith study of American religious congregations titled Faith Communities Today FACT The 2015 FACT national survey and study was undertaken by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership CCSP which is an interfaith coalition of religious researchers representing broad spectrum of American faith communities Originally the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas SCOBA and currently the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America has been and remains one of the partners in CCSP cooperative project The study Orthodox Christian Churches in the 21st Century America was conducted via online survey of the local parishes In each parish the questionnaire was completed by one key informant typically a parish priest 580 parishes or 30 of all US Orthodox parishes participated in the Orthodox Parish Life Study 10
new  believers  to  Jesus  Christ  and  into  the  Church,  is  what  God  commands  us  and  it  is  at  the  very  cente...
This decline in church attendance effectively means that from 2010 2015 a number of Orthodox Christians either abandoned their churches altogether or at the best they became more passive and disengaged in the lives of their parishes i e they stopped attending worship services on a regular basis The 2015 national study also indicated that nearly one third of US Orthodox parishes perceive their future as rather grim Being asked Which of the following best describes your sense of this parish s future 15 of the parishes responded We are doing Okay now but the future is very uncertain 11 of the parishes reported We are struggling and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and 4 of the parishes have chosen the answer Not sure that this parish will survive much longer See Tab 2 Tab 2 Which of the following best describes your sense of this parish s future 2015 national survey based on responses from 580 US Orthodox parishes of parishes in each category We are thriving and this should continue 23 We are doing Okay and this should continue 39 We are struggling but the future clearly looks better 8 We are doing Okay now but the future is very uncertain 15 We are struggling and that is likely to continue for the 11 foreseeable future Not sure this parish will survive much longer 4 And yet the vast majority of our parish communities are rather passive when it comes to reaching out to potential new members When asked Overall to what extent are your parishioners involved in bringing new members into this parish less than one in five parishes 18 reported Quite a bit A lot whereas nearly half 47 admitted Not at all A little See Tab 3 Tab 3 Overall to what extent are your parishioners involved in bringing new members into this parish 2015 national survey based on responses from 580 US Orthodox parishes All US Orthodox parishes Antiochian parishes GOA parishes OCA parishes 11 Not at all A little Some Quite a bit A lot 47 32 51 43 35 50 33 35 18 18 16 22
This   decline   in   church   attendance   effectively   means   that   from   2010   2015   a   number   of   Orthodox  ...
But does this imply that our lay church members do not care about greater Orthodox outreach into the wider community The answer to this question is No in fact they care quite a bit The 2015 study Exploring Orthodox Generosity Giving in US Orthodox Parishes 4 looked at 18 different areas in the life of an Orthodox parish and examined how possible potential improvements in each of these areas would affect giving among parishioners The study found that the top desirable changes in the life of American Orthodox parishes that would spark generosity and result in greater giving of church members are a greater social outreach into local community and b stronger emphasis on mission and evangelism programs Less than half of US Orthodox church members are satisfied with the present situation in these two areas of their parish life It is our hope that this study and the following report will energize outreach and evangelization ministries in US Orthodox Churches by offering them some ideas and sharing practices and strategies developed by a number of American Orthodox parishes that can be described as exemplary in their outreach and evangelization efforts I Approach Goal and Procedure of the Study Jesus desires that all people be saved and come to know the truth 5 This means that all works of the Church should ideally have an evangelical dimension This study uses three basic approaches as to what evangelization implies on a parish level I Evangelization is not about the one time projects or events that merely increase the number of people who attend the parish Rather evangelization is the entire way of living of an Orthodox parish community It is a continuing and evolving process that constantly wins new people to Christ and makes current church members more devoted disciples Further evangelism should not be seen as simply one of the various church ministries but it should be treated as the engine that drives motivation and inspires each aspect in the life of a parish II Evangelization is not about the work of the parish clergy or parish leadership or designated group of parishioners Rather evangelization is about efforts of an entire parish community 4 http assemblyofbishops org assets files docs research OrthodoxGenerosity pdf In 1Tim 2 3 4 it writes This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth 5 12
But  does  this  imply  that  our  lay  church  members  do  not  care  about  greater  Orthodox  outreach  into  the   wi...
III Evangelization has two aspects inner evangelization continuing faith formation of the current members of a parish and efforts geared towards passive church members and nominal Orthodox outward evangelization reaching out to unchurched people and non Orthodox inquirers about the Orthodox Faith Regrettably not many US Orthodox parishes have adopted this vision and are passionate about strong emphasis on outreach and evangelism There are several possible explanations for this One is that some parishes have more interest in numbers i e simply having more members rather than winning new souls for the Church Another reason is that many churches are satisfied with where they are right now and with those attending presently their services Yet another very likely reason is that the parish communities simply do not know how to do this to reach out and evangelize It is also feasible to assume that for many parish leaders both clergy and laity evangelization and outreach work is not a priority but something which is put on back burner and remains there The goal of this study is to make a step towards developing a more effective approach to Orthodox evangelization through both religious and social outreach The first stage of this study and the following report will examine the strategies and practices of evangelization work that have been developed by some parish communities that can be viewed as exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts Our hope is that other parishes would be willing to look at to try and to adopt these strategies and practices When the study was designed the preliminary consultations with key persons responsible for the evangelization and mission work in the Antiochian Archdiocese Fr Michael Kaiser Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Fr Jim Kordaris and Orthodox Church in America Fr John Parker revealed that none of three major US Orthodox jurisdictions ever conducted a nationally representative study on evangelization and missionary work in their parishes 6 Therefore a particular effort was made to engage into the study the parishes that represent various Orthodox jurisdictions and operate in various local settings 6 Further the consultations with Association of Religion Data Archives www thearda com indicated that very little has been done in terms of studying evangelization and outreach work on the national level by the other non Orthodox American Christian denominations 13
III. Evangelization  has  two  aspects             inner     evangelization    continuing   faith   formation   of   the  ...
That is Go and Make Disciples Evangelization and Outreach Efforts in US Orthodox Parishes is the first ever national study on evangelization and outreach practices in US Orthodox Christian Churches Inevitably because of the novelty and complexity of the study s subject an element of trial and error was present in the process of designing and administering the study e g methodology used issues to be deeper examined constituencies to work with etc On the following pages we report the findings from the first stage of the study which was focused on the parish level approach to evangelization and outreach The first stage of the study that can also be seen as pilot study helped us to identify the areas and questions that require deeper examination The study was initiated by and conducted under the auspices of the Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations of the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America Bishop Gregory of Nyssa Chairman Mr Alexei Krindatch Assembly s research coordinator was coordinator of the study and principal author of this study report Seven US Orthodox jurisdictions participated in the first stage of the study Living Out Our Faith Evangelization and Outreach Efforts in US Orthodox Parishes Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Sbdn Adam Roberts liaison for the study American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese Fr Andrew Fetchina liaison for the study Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Fr James Kordaris liaison for the study Orthodox Church in America Fr Eric Tosi and Fr John Parker liaisons for the study Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese Fr Julian Anitei liaison for the study Serbian Orthodox Church Fr Gregory Edwards 7 liaison for the study Ukrainian Orthodox Church Fr Myron Oryhon liaison for the study Each jurisdiction participating in the study selected five parishes that from the perspective of the jurisdictional liaisons can be seen as exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts For the purpose of this study on the following pages we will call this group of the parishes exemplary parishes Side by side with the exemplary parishes each jurisdiction also selected a group of normal parishes i e the parishes that could be seen as typical for this or that jurisdiction The comprehensive online survey was completed by the clergy in both exemplary and normal parishes the questionnaire 7 By the end of the data gathering from the parishes Fr Gregory Edwards was transferred to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese 14
That   is,     Go   and   Make   Disciples    Evangelization   and   Outreach   Efforts   in   US   Orthodox   Parishes   ...
is available in Appendix 3 One of the questions in the survey asked Would you say that your parish is truly outreach oriented This question was used as a control question That is if a parish community was designated by its jurisdictional liaison as exemplary in its evangelization and outreach efforts but at the same time responded no or not sure to the question Would you say that your parish is truly outreach oriented such parishes were removed from the sample Similarly if a parish was designated by its jurisdictional liaison as normal i e not placing strong emphasis on evangelization and outreach but at the same time responded yes to the question Would you say that your parish is truly outreach oriented such parishes were also removed from the sample The over sample was done i e more parishes were added by the jurisdictional liaisons to the study until a situation was achieved when all designations of liaisons of the parishes as either exemplary or normal corresponded fully with the parishes self perception as being or not being truly outreach oriented The final study s data set included 75 parishes including 11 parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese 5 exemplary and 6 normal parishes 10 parishes of the American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese 4 exemplary and 6 normal parishes 12 parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese 6 exemplary and 6 normal parishes 12 parishes of the Orthodox Church in America 6 exemplary and 6 normal parishes 10 parishes of the Romanian Archdiocese 5 exemplary and 5 normal parishes 10 parishes of the Serbian Orthodox Church 5 exemplary and 5 normal parishes 10 parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church 5 exemplary and 5 normal parishes The goal of analysis of the responses to the survey was to identify the distinct features and characteristics of the exemplary parish communities It should be emphasized that a significant number of questions in the survey were open ended questions that allowed the priests to write extensive answers and offer their thoughts and reflections on various subjects Most importantly in this survey the parishes shared with us their unique approaches and practices in the areas of evangelization and outreach The online survey was followed up by phone interviews with a number of parish clergy participating in the study 15
is  available  in  Appendix  3 .  One  of  the  questions  in  the  survey  asked     Would  you  say  that  your  parish ...
II Defining Orthodox Evangelism Not an Easy Task HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS The study asked a question about the parish clergy s definition of evangelism Different people clergy and laity alike have different understandings of what evangelization means Can you offer your definition of what good evangelization means Perhaps you can provide some examples from the life of your parish There were no discernable differences in definitions of evangelization between the clergy from various jurisdictions There were no statistically significant differences and no discernable patterns in definitions of evangelization between cradle Orthodox priests and the clergy who are converts to Orthodoxy There was again very little consistent difference between definitions of evangelization provided by the clergy from exemplary versus normal parishes The parishes participating in the study are different in how they practice evangelism and outreach i e exemplary versus normal parishes but this does not mean that there is a difference between them in how their parish clergy understand evangelism A majority of Orthodox parish clergy understand evangelism in the Orthodox Church as passive i e Come and see evangelism The most common definition of evangelism by the parish clergy was about evangelism being described as living a genuine Christian life By this definition evangelism is about personal growth in Christ that is witnessed by others and therefore draws them to Christ That is when one lives a life as an Orthodox Christian people around see and come to a desire to know Christ through that example The second common type of definition of evangelism focused on Orthodox worship and the Liturgy The definitions in this category suggested that one is introduced to the Orthodox Church chiefly through the experiencing the Liturgy By this definition the fullness of liturgical life lived out in a parish is the key element in presenting Orthodoxy to the non Orthodox and attracting them to the Orthodox Church The goal of increasing attendance or church growth via evangelism was NOT the focus of a vast majority of the definitions of evangelism 16
II.  Defining    Orthodox  Evangelism     Not  an  Easy  Task   HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS      The  study  asked  a  question  ab...
DISCUSSION One serious disadvantage in our various missionary efforts is the lack of a general vision of apostolic work 8 Archbishop Anastasios of Albania In order to understand a problem you must be able to define it One cannot understand what one does not identify Defining evangelism is a perfect example The most fundamental term for this study is perhaps the most complicated It appears that evangelism is a sixteenth century term and is limited to Western Christianity In fact the first reference to it is in the secular writings of Francis Bacon an inventor of the scientific method 9 The root term is used some fifty five times in the Bible but found mostly in Acts and almost not at all in the patristic sources While the Bible refers to the euaggelion or Good News as the message of Jesus Christ the verbal form euaggelizesthai is rarely used and usually only in terms of the bringing of the Gospel message although even that usage is open to debate Other connotative terms are used in the New Testament such as martyria meaning witness and kerruso from where we receive the term kerygma meaning to proclaim or herald These terms are also not used often but do assist in understanding the concept of evangelism as an active proclamation By most definitions however evangelism is the proclaiming the good news Thus this act of proclaiming is at the heart of understanding of evangelism 10 This definition is shared by some Western theologians At the center of the act of evangelism is the message announced a verbal out loud assertion of something decisive not known until the moment of utterance 11 In the Christian context this has come to mean the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord a view which is shared by some Orthodox theologians This good news is that God has spoken and acted fully finally and definitively in His Son Jesus Christ God s incarnate Word The blessed message is that by His crucifixion resurrection and glorification 8 Archbishop Anastasios They Kingdom Come Orthodox Witness in the Modern World in Mission in Christ s Way Brookline MA Holy Cross Press 2010 99 9 John Bowen Evangelism for Normal People Minneapolis Augsburg Fortress 2002 13 10 The Greek word is translated as which means good and which means to announce so the full definition is one who announce something good 11 Walter Brueggemann Biblical Perspective on Evangelism Living in a Three Storied Universe Nashville TN Abingdon Press 1993 14 17
DISCUSSION       One  serious  disadvantage  in  our  various  missionary  efforts  is  the  lack  of  a  general  vision ...
Jesus the Messiah has brought God s kingdom to the world 12 Or in more common parlance preaching and teaching However despite this common foundational definition of evangelism its practical application becomes more problematic In reality evangelism is interpreted differently and according to the particular theologies that underpin the various Christian communities Even a cursory reading of anthologies such as The Study of Evangelism Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church highlights the massive number of publications on evangelism from non Orthodox sources each filled with its own nuanced definitions and applications across a wide spectrum of theologies 13 Such a diversity of opinion runs the gamut from traditional Protestant missional practices through emerging issues of postmodernism liberation theology and feminism This diversity of opinions indicates that there is not a unified theology in the entire field of evangelism In addition as the terms took on their modern connotations the Orthodox often adopted them outright in order to find common ground in ecumenical discussions without ensuring identical theological definitions As seen time and again while the words may be same the meanings may be completely different with each side assuming that the other had in mind the same nuance This led to some misunderstandings and it is as if the Orthodox and the non Orthodox are sometimes speaking a different theological language The definitions of evangelism that will be discussed on the following pages are as our respondents the Orthodox clergy interpret this term that is they do not necessarily conform to non Orthodox definitions However this Orthodox self understanding of evangelism is central to this study This study asked the question about the parish clergy s definition of evangelism Different people clergy and laity alike have different understandings of what evangelization means Can you offer your definition of what good evangelization means Perhaps you can provide some examples from the life of your parish 12 Thomas Hopko Speaking the Truth in Love Education Mission and Witness in Contemporary Orthodoxy Crestwood St Vladimir Seminary Press 2004 80 13 Paul W Chilcote and Laceye C Warner The Study of Evangelism Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church Grand Rapids MI Eerdmans 2008 18
Jesus  the  Messiah  has  brought  God   s  kingdom  to  the  world.    12   Or  in  more  common  parlance     preaching ...
The ultimate goal was to get a mixture of interpretations and understandings of evangelization across the spectrum of the Orthodox experience in the United States Remarkably only 4 out of the 75 respondents did not have an answer or stated that they could not define evangelization This is significant in that very few clergy felt either unqualified to answer the question or simply chose not to answer the question Almost all of the respondents offered thoughtful and lengthy answers As expected the answers ran the entire spectrum of formulas Again how can we discuss something if we cannot agree on what it means Yet once one gets deeper inside these self generated definitions one can see the influence of Orthodox theology suppositions and even practices As a result the definitions offered by our respondents are not as far off from each other as at first glance The outcomes of the analysis of responses are interesting in two ways First there were no discernable patterns in definitions of evangelization provided by the clergy from various jurisdictions Second most importantly and somewhat surprisingly there was very little consistent difference between definitions of evangelizations provided by the clergy from exemplary versus normal parishes What does this imply from the perspective of the study This finding supports two very important theses as outlined above First there is no one universally accepted definition of evangelism as it relates to the Orthodox Churches in the United States While these may at first seem slightly disorienting it is perfectly understandable and acceptable Different parishes have simply different focuses and approaches to evangelism depending on a particular local parish context Second the parishes are different in how they practice evangelism and outreach i e exemplary versus normal parishes but this does not mean that there is a difference between them in how their parish clergy understand evangelism In other words where these 75 parishes belong in the American Orthodox experience as well as how they function in practice is not necessarily related to how they understand and define evangelism Further examination of the answers of our respondents their personal definitions of evangelization revealed several common themes that provide good insights into the Orthodox understanding of evangelism 19
The  ultimate  goal  was  to  get  a  mixture  of  interpretations  and  understandings  of    evangelization    across   ...
The first most common type of definition of evangelism 22 answers was about evangelism being described simply as living a Christian life By this definition evangelism is about personal growth in Christ that is witnessed by others and therefore draws them to Christ i e something which Veronis refers as passive evangelism 14 That is when one lives a life as an Orthodox Christian people around see and come to a desire to know Christ through that example A few illustrations from the study are helpful One respondent wrote Living the faith first sharing it by living it loving to live it and being as dutiful and faithful as we can be Another defined evangelism as Live the Gospel so that those you meet see something unique about you and want what you have There is no better evangelizing than a life of faith Preach by your actions not your words Yet another clergyman answered the survey by asking We must live in the Gospel to be able to share the Gospel If we do not live the Gospel and have the Gospel in our heart what do we have to share By responses in this category one is reminded of the great examples of the saints such as the early desert fathers St Nino of Georgia St Seraphim of Sarov St Herman of Alaska and so on Their Christian witness was through their lives and accordingly many clergy believe that their parishes can demonstrate their Christian witness through the lives of individual parishioners and entire parish communities The second common type of definition of evangelism 21 answers was intimately connected with Orthodox worship and the Liturgy The respondents in this category emphasized that the fullness of liturgical life lived out in a parish is the key element in presenting Orthodoxy to the non Orthodox That is by this definition one is introduced to the Orthodox Church chiefly through the experiencing the Liturgy It is understandable that Orthodox Christians believe that the Liturgy is in itself an act of evangelism and mission because the goal of evangelism is to ultimately bring a person into communion with the Orthodox Church And this is exactly what the Liturgy does Father Alexander Schmemann a prominent 20th Century Orthodox theologian posed the question Can a Church whose life is centered almost exclusively on the liturgy and the sacraments whose spirituality is primarily mystical and ascetical be truly missionary 15 His own answer to this question The Eucharist transforming the Church into what is transforms it into mission 16 14 Luke Veronis Missionaries Monks and Martyrs Making Disciples of All Nations Minneapolis MN Light and Life Publications 1994 11 15 Alexander Schmemann Church World Mission Crestwood St Vladimir s Seminary Press 1973 210 16 Schmemann Church 255 20
The   first   most   common   type   of   definition   of   evangelism    22   answers    was   about   evangelism   being...
The Church the Liturgy the Sacraments are the central to the life of an Orthodox Christian As Fr Ion Bria wrote Prayer worship and communion have always formed the context for the witness of faith including evangelism mission and church life The missionary structures were built on the liturgy of the word and the sacraments and since the beginning the great variety of liturgies and rites creeds and confessions has been due to the diversity of missionary contexts 17 So as we look at the many commonalities in this second group of answers it becomes clear how such thinking defines evangelism One elegant answer was Evangelization through the way we pray work and celebrate as ONE PARISH FAMILY Another equates it as Making our faith known to the un churched Offering them opportunities to come and worship make known the Orthodox Faith Both the first and the second category of definitions of evangelism show that a majority of respondents 43 out of the 75 understand evangelism in the Orthodox Church as being passive Come and see John 1 39 for example would best categorize the first two categories of definitions of evangelism The remaining set of answers was divided among variety of more traditional understandings of evangelism preaching teaching proclaiming the Good News sharing the Faith with others etc These definitions are active definitions of evangelism They imply getting out into the community sharing the Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ initiating and running programs that serve the parish and the surrounding community thus bringing actively Christ to the people Fr Thomas Hopko reflected This Christian evangelism is always accompanied by teaching didaskalia and confession homologia and defense apologia and witness martyria And it is accomplished in works of love for human beings performed in concrete acts of mercy and compassion without condition or discrimination 18 Here are some answers that demonstrate this statement For example Being a good witness of the faith and consciously striving to share your faith in word and deed Making sure that our parishioners do not feel our faith is a private affair but it is something that they should take into the world and share with others in a gentle and loving way Or as another priest puts it Good evangelism entails a parish community being active in their greater community while also being active regarding their participation in the sacramental life of the parish and liturgically Too often parishes and priests make it an either or debate Parish communities evangelize by serving those who surround their church building and by participating in Confession Repentance and Communion regularly as well as by attending services 17 Ion Bria The Liturgy After the Liturgy Mission and Witness from an Orthodox Perspective Geneva WCC Publications 1996 9 18 Hopko Speaking 70 21
The  Church,  the  Liturgy,  the  Sacraments  are  the  central  to  the  life  of  an  Orthodox  Christian.  As  Fr.  Ion...
beyond Sunday Divine Liturgy Or as another respondent suggested Evangelization means simply sharing the good news of the Gospel A particular important tool in evangelization is starting at a shared level such as a Bible Study or how Orthodox theology handles particular contemporary issues and events This is a process of a first step that opens the door more frequently than others do It should also be noted that the goal of increasing attendance or church growth via programs and evangelism was not the focus of a vast majority of the definitions In fact such goal was rarely seen One clergyman insightfully responded Evangelism is about To be genuinely concerned about the Gospel and not numbers growth per se as an end in itself Or as another wrote Evangelization is not only seeking new people not only welcoming new people but actively making them followers of the Lord Jesus i e discipling them Or as another wrote But most of all live your Orthodox faith it is a way of life Evangelization begins with prayer not programs Evangelization programs always fail because programs by definition have an ending Welcome all and know that you cannot die if you enjoy God s mercy Finally a note should be made on the religious background of the clergy as a possible factor influencing their understanding of evangelism Forty three of the clergy identified themselves as cradle Orthodox or someone who was raised in the Orthodox Church Thirty priests identified themselves as convert or someone who entered the Orthodox Church from another background the remaining two priests did not answer the question about their religious upbringing Statistically the responses of these two groups of priests to the question were not that different In other words the cradle Orthodox and the convert clergy were nearly equally likely to provide the answers that fit into one of the categories listed above However those brought up in the Orthodox Church have a very slight tendency to concentrate on passive evangelism while those who came into the Church in the later stages of their lives are slightly more likely to concentrate on more active modes Paradigmatic of this finding would be these two responses From a clergyman who was raised in the Church Living the faith first sharing it by living it loving to live it and being as dutiful and faithful as we can be From a clergyman who came into the Church It is to preach the actual Gospel both to members and to non members Once a real conversion of the heart happens then the rest can be taught However it should again be noted that these differences between the cradle Orthodox and convert clergy in their definitions of evangelism were not statistically significant the responses from both cradle and convert clergy were nearly 22
beyond   Sunday   Divine   Liturgy.      Or   as   another   respondent   suggested      Evangelization   means   simply  ...
equally present in all categories of answers We conclude the discussion on how the respondents define good evangelization with a few critical notes First most of the respondents believe that evangelism is a central part of the life in a Church Whether they are clergy leading the parishes that are exemplary in evangelism and outreach efforts or the priests serving in the normal parishes and regardless of the jurisdiction evangelism is for them a critical part of Church life Indeed their personal definitions of evangelism and approaches to such areas as preaching teaching and programs or even living the life of the Church may differ but they all believed that evangelism was something that the Church ultimately does Second most respondents place greater emphasis on the passive understanding of evangelism In other words the majority of clergy believe that the people will be drawn into the life of the Church through their own spiritual search and discovering the power and beauty of the Orthodox Liturgy prayer life and Church s teachings and practices This does not discount the need to actively present the Gospel and the Church to the world but it demonstrates the strong belief of our clergy in the natural attractiveness of the Orthodox Church for many religious seekers Third almost all of the answers centered around not just the individual activities but rather around communal i e parish community activities Evangelism was not something that was done in a vacuum but deeply within the context of the Church As one respondent phrased it Good evangelization begins with the people in the parish Philip Schaff the 19th century translator of the Church Fathers concluded that the Early Church grew because every community understood itself to be a missionary society and every Christian was a missionary Another respondent simply put it as Good Evangelization means being a loving and welcoming church family This Christian community and Church centered aspects in evangelism are not uniquely Orthodox but they are certainly manifested uniquely in the Orthodox Church through the liturgical life the sacramental actions and the cycle of feasts and fasts experienced through the life of and in a parish Fr Ion Bria perceptively wrote The Orthodox understanding of the ecclesial character of evangelism means that the Church is the aim the fulfillment of the Gospel rather than an instrument or means of mission Of course a church without evangelism and without mission is one that has abandoned its fundamental calling to be the original and authentic witness of Pentecost The Christian community is 23
equally  present  in  all  categories  of  answers.   We   conclude   the   discussion   on   how   the   respondents   de...
the community of the Gospel the sacramental synaxis where Christ mediates the communion of man with God through the Holy Spirit 19 Fourth the other significant aspect in the responses was their focus on Christ and Bible Almost every answer included a reference to Jesus Christ or the Bible In contrast very often in modern Western evangelism definitions such aspects as social justice or even political issues can become the focus for evangelism None of the answers provided by our respondents focused on this Rather the answers emphasized presenting Christ and the Bible to the world in what the respondents deemed an authentic manner Answers such as these are paradigmatic Being true to Christ s message not in a cheesy or processed way but one that involves interpersonal communication and genuine compassion We have the true faith We should want to share it authentically Or as another respondent stated Bearing witness to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and to all the Good that God has done in our lives individually and corporately and inviting everyone to become disciples of Jesus with us through reception into the Orthodox Church Again the Christ centered Bible centered Church centered notion of evangelism was the key to almost every one of the answers In summary the definitions of evangelism provided by Orthodox clergy from a wide spectrum of local parish contexts resulted in a complex and multi facet concept of the good Orthodox evangelization It appears that each of the study participants focused on certain key elements of evangelism that are or can be employed in his particular parish settings And yet despite variety of parish contexts and circumstances the Orthodox clergy remain focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ when bringing people into His Church For almost every respondent life in the Church was critical in presenting the Church As Fr Ion Bria wrote Prayer worship and communion have always formed the context for the witness of faith including evangelism mission and church life The missionary structures were built on the liturgy of the word and the sacraments and since the beginning the great variety of liturgies and rites creeds and confessions has been due to the diversity of missionary contexts 20 19 Ion Bria The Church s Role in Evangelism Icon or Platform International Review of Mission 64 no 255 July 1975 245 20 Ion Bria The Liturgy After the Liturgy Mission and Witness from an Orthodox Perspective Geneva WCC Publications 1996 9 24
the   community   of   the   Gospel,   the   sacramental   synaxis   where   Christ   mediates   the   communion   of   ma...
The implications from this question on how American Orthodox clergy define evangelism are critical in not only how one teaches evangelism but also in how it is presented in the local parishes Foremost the US parish priests are not looking for programs but rather the Church As noted previously the goal of increasing attendance or church growth via programs and evangelism was not the focus of a vast majority of the definitions Instead our respondents referred to the Gospel and a solid life in the Church as the most powerful witness In many ways the essence of what we learned in this chapter are in the words of Fr Schmemann The liturgy begins then as a real separation from the world In our attempt to make Christianity appeal to the person on the street we have often minimized or even completely forgotten the necessary separation We always want to make Christianity understandable and acceptable to this mythical modern person on the street And we forget that the Christ of whom we speak is not of this world and after his resurrection He was not recognized even by His own disciples 21 III The Parishes Participating in the Study Is There Anything Special about the Membership of the Parishes that are Exemplary in their Evangelization and Outreach Efforts HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS Geographically the parishes involved in this study were spread all across United States they were situated in 28 states The top two states with the greatest number of parishes participating in the study were California and Pennsylvania each of these states had 10 parishes involved in the study Nearly two thirds of the parishes participating in the study are located in communities with a high level of overall religious involvement and participation 63 of parishes described their neighborhoods as either Very religious A lot of religious activities or Rather religious Quite a bit of religious activities Only 15 of the parishes are situated in places where religion and religious institutions are not important i e in neighborhoods that are Rather secular Little religious activities Being asked Do you have any comments about the general religious situation in the community where your parish is located a number of clergy in the exemplary parishes replied in a 21 25 Alexander Schmemann For the Life of the World Crestwood NY St Vladimir Seminary Press 1979 27
The  implications  from  this  question       on  how  American  Orthodox  clergy  define  evangelism       are  critical ...
positive manner That is the clergy serving in the exemplary have a tendency and attitude to view their local religious situation as being one way or other advantageous for their parishes This was not the case however among the priests serving in normal parishes The demography of membership in the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts is different from the demography of parishioners in normal parishes in five aspects Exemplary parishes have a much stronger presence of converts to Orthodoxy among their members than the normal parishes Exemplary parishes have a significantly higher percentage of persons with college degrees among their members than the normal parishes Exemplary parishes have a significantly higher percentage of persons who are new to the parish in the past 3 years than the normal parishes Exemplary parishes are less grey haired than the normal parishes That is exemplary parishes have a significantly smaller percentage of senior citizens age 65 among their members than the normal parishes Exemplary parishes have a significantly higher percentage of families with children at home than the normal parishes When asked Is there anything special or unique about the membership of your parish the clergy serving in exemplary parishes emphasized often a the high diversity among their members and b the ability of their parishes communities to accommodate everyone and integrate these diverse group into one Christian family Unlike normal parishes the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts are a much more prone to dynamic changes in the parish membership and b these changes typically include both a steady growth in the number of parishioners and an increasing diversity among church members 26
  positive  manner.    That  is,  the  clergy  serving  in  the    exemplary    have  a  tendency  and  attitude  to   vie...
DISCUSSION As noted in chapter I seventy five parishes representing seven Orthodox jurisdictions participated in the study Living Out Our Faith Evangelization and Outreach Efforts in US Orthodox Parishes Out of seventy five thirty six were selected as exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts while the remaining thirty nine normal parishes were used for the purpose of various comparisons with the exemplary parishes Geographically the parishes selected for the study were spread all across United States they were situated in 28 states The top two states with the greatest number of parishes participating in the study were California and Pennsylvania each of these states had 10 parishes involved in the study Two maps in Appendix 1 show locations of the parishes participating in the study For each parish the maps show its affiliation with a particular Orthodox jurisdiction and its designations as either exemplary or normal parish The evangelization and outreach efforts of the Orthodox parishes are aimed primarily at the local communities22 in which the parish is situated Clearly the type and distinct features demography race social class religious and economic context of these local communities have significant impact on particular forms of evangelization and outreach work that different parishes can develop and employ The social outreach ministries that are much needed in an impoverished small town with high rates of unemployment and homelessness soup kitchen food pantry homeless shelters wouldn t be relevant for an affluent upper middle class suburban neighborhood Similarly the religious outreach in a community with significant numbers of newly arrived Orthodox immigrants from Europe or Middle East would be different from the evangelization work in for instance a university town with high percentage of US born young well educated and non Orthodox persons In order to better understand the local community contexts of the parishes involved in the study the survey asked several questions 22 Clearly in addition to work with and in a local community there are other forms of evangelization and outreach work that a parish can employ mission trips participation in disaster relief projects in the other parts of the country etc 27
DISCUSSION  As  noted  in  chapter  I,  seventy   five  parishes  representing  seven  Orthodox  jurisdictions  participat...
The first question explored overall religious situation Please evaluate the general religious environment in the community where your parish is located Do this on the five point scale from being very secular no religion at all to being very religious a lot of religious activities Fig 1 presents the answers of the parishes to this question It allows for two major observations Fig 1 Religious Situation in the Local Communities of the Parishes Participating in the Study Please evaluate the general religious environment in the community where your parish is located Do this on the five point scale being very secular no religion at all to being very religious a lot of religious activities Very religious A lot of religious activities 100 8 14 58 46 80 Rather religious quite a bit of religious activities Neither secular nor religious 60 40 21 24 20 Rather secular little religious activities 13 16 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes First nearly two thirds of the parishes participating in the study are located in communities with a high level of overall religious involvement and participation Indeed 63 parishes described their neighborhoods as either Very religious A lot of religious activities or Rather religious Quite a bit of religious activities Only 15 of the parishes are situated in places where religion and religious institutions are not important i e in the neighborhoods that are Rather secular Little religious activities The fact that a vast majority of the parishes operate in rather or very religious places can be seen as both advantage and drawback for Orthodox evangelization and religious outreach It is an advantage because religion plays an important role in the lives of the people populating these communities and therefore they might be interested to also explore the Orthodox option i e to become inquirers about and possibly the converts to the Orthodox Church It is a drawback because Orthodox parishes situated in rather or very religious places must compete with many other religious choices 28
The  first  question  explored  overall  religious  situation     Please  evaluate  the  general  religious  environment  ...
Second Fig 1 shows that there is virtually NO difference between exemplary and normal parishes in how they describe overall religious situation in their local communities The fact that both groups of the parishes operate in similar religious contexts is important because this study will compare various aspects in the lives of exemplary and normal parishes Therefore in order to make unbiased comparisons both groups should be located in similar settings The survey also offered the respondents the possibility to further describe and comment on religious situation in their local communities It asked Do you have any additional comments about general religious situation in the community where your parish is located A significant number of clergy replied to this question and provided more detailed description of the religious communities operating in their neighborhoods The analysis of answers to this question revealed one remarkable difference between the exemplary and normal parishes Unlike the priests in normal parishes a number of clergy in the exemplary parishes answered this question in a positive manner i e describing local religious situation as being one way or other advantageous for their parishes Some of them wrote about cooperation between their parishes and the other faith communities Here is a good example There are many Roman Catholic especially Latino parishes many Lutheran We work with African American parishes of both these groups as well as Baptist churches We work together on social and economic issues that are vital to the health and safety and well being of people in the city We are respectful of other people s faith not dismissive or belittling We do not try to build ourselves by ripping others down as the Scribes and Pharisees did Other respondents described various opportunities of the local religious situation that they can use For instance one clergyman wrote Our city still has a Faith and Values section in the newspaper and 2 or 3 newspapers welcome my writing on a regular basis The other priest mentioned We have lots of religious seekers Similarly the other priest indicated Colorado Springs has an abundance of Evangelical non denominational Protestant ministries headquartered here These folks are less tied to mainstream Protestant church thus open to changing Christian tradition 29
Second,  Fig.  1  shows  that  there  is  virtually  NO  difference  between    exemplary    and    normal    parishes  in...
One more question gathered broader information on the local communities in which the parishes are located Say a few words about your parish s surrounding neighborhood from demographic and economic points of view Are you in a residential suburb downtown area small town or rural area Are you in an expensive and trendy place Are you in an economically growing or rather depressed area Racially mixed or mostly Caucasian Are there any demographic groups that dominate among the local residents Predictably this question produced a great variety of answers Some of them will be used in the following chapters in order to demonstrate the relations between various ministries of the parishes and their local neighborhoods At this point we will simply make two remarks First the answers to this question indicated that the parishes participating in our study both exemplary and normal parishes are located in very diverse neighborhoods Second there was no any discernible difference in responses to this question that came from exemplary versus normal parishes In other words some of the exemplary parishes were in depressed and declining neighborhoods and so were some of the normal parishes Some of them were in flourishing and growing communities and so were some normal parishes Some of both exemplary and normal parishes were situated in predominantly white Caucasian communities but some of them were in racially mixed neighborhoods The parishes involved in the study varied greatly in the size of their membership The survey asked How many persons including children regularly participate in the life of your parish The smallest church community participating in the study had only 10 persons while the largest parish reported 1 500 persons regularly participating in the life of a parish It should be noted that these variances in the size of the parishes were associated not only with the differences between the parishes of various jurisdictions i e typically GOA or Serbian parishes tend to be significantly larger than OCA Antiochian or Carpatho Russian parishes Rather there were significant variances in the size of participating parishes within each jurisdiction Tab 4 demonstrates this fact 30
One   more   question   gathered   broader   information   on   the   local   communities   in   which   the   parishes   ...
Tab 4 The Smallest and Biggest Parishes of Various Jurisdictions Participating in the Study Measured by the Number of Regularly Participating Persons Orthodox Jurisdictions Parishes of all jurisdictions combined Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Orthodox Church in America Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese Serbian Orthodox Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA The smallest parish participating in the study 10 25 30 75 14 10 50 30 The biggest parish participating in the study 1 500 325 200 1 500 350 150 175 200 The median size of all parishes participating in the study was 90 persons That is half of the parishes had less and half of the parishes had more than 90 persons regularly participating in the life of a parish Fig 2 on the next page allows for two observations First it shows that an absolute majority 54 of the parishes involved in the study were relatively small communities with less than 100 persons regularly participating in the life of a parish Only 15 of the parishes were large churches with at least 300 persons regularly participating in the life of a parish Second Fig 2 indicates also that the exemplary parishes tend to be larger in size than the normal parishes Indeed an absolute majority 57 of the exemplary parishes were either medium sized 100 299 persons or large churches 300 persons compared to only 35 in the case of normal parishes Vice versa nearly two thirds 65 of the normal parishes were small communities with less than 100 regular participants compared to only 43 among the exemplary parishes Remarkably this finding the fact that the exemplary parishes tend to be larger in size than the normal parishes was true not only for the whole sample of parishes but also for the parishes of each jurisdiction participating in the study 31
Tab. 4 The Smallest and Biggest Parishes of Various Jurisdictions Participating in the Study  Measured by the Number of Re...
Fig 2 Membership of the Parishes Participating in the Study How many persons including children regularly participate in the life of your parish 100 15 19 24 80 31 300 and more 60 100 299 40 38 65 54 Less than 100 11 43 20 0 All parishes participating in the study Exemplary parishes Normal parishes There are at least two possible explanations for this observation First it is probably safe to assume that the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach effort are much more likely to grow in members than the normal parishes The second explanation is that in order to actually become a parish with a variety of evangelization and outreach oriented activities and ministries a parish should have certain demographic potential That is more people in a parish means more volunteers and talents available greater financial resources etc This does not mean of course that a small parish community cannot be exemplary in its evangelization and outreach efforts But the larger churches are better equipped with various resources that combined with the strong desire on the part of parish community allow them to develop strong evangelization and outreach ministries Are there any particular demographic features of parish membership that distinguish exemplary from the normal parishes The survey asked each parish to estimate the percentage of the following seven categories among all adult church members Persons who have college university degree Converts to Orthodoxy Immigrants persons born outside of US Persons who are new to their parishes in the past 3 years Persons living within 30 minutes of their parishes 32
Fig. 2 Membership of the Parishes Participating in the Study   How many persons  including children  regularly participate...
Senior citizens age 65 Families with children at home The following seven charts show median percentage of these seven categories of church members in exemplary and in normal parishes To remind median percentage indicates the value that is in the middle of the sample For instance Fig 3a shows that the median percentage of persons with college degrees is 70 in the exemplary in comparison with 50 in the normal parishes This means that half of exemplary parishes have more than 70 of college graduates among their parishioners and half of them have less than 70 of parishioners with college degrees In turn half of normal parishes have more than 50 of college graduates among their parishioners and half of them have less than 50 of parishioners with college degrees Fig 3a Median Percentage of College Graduates Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 70 Exemplary parishes 50 Normal parishes Fig 3b Median Percentage of Converts to Orthodoxy Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0 10 33 30 40 50 50 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 20 10 60 70 80
    Senior  citizens  age  65        Families  with  children  at  home      The   following   seven   charts   show   med...
Fig 3c Median Percentage of Immigrants Persons Born Outside US Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0 10 Exemplary parishes 10 Normal parishes 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Fig 3d Median Percentage of Persons Who are New to Their Parishes in the Past 3 Years Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 30 Exemplary parishes 10 Normal parishes Fig 3e Median Percentage of Persons Living Within 30 min of Their Parishes Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Exemplary parishes 70 Normal parishes 70 80 Fig 3f Median Percentage of Senior Citizens Persons Age 65 Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 34 10 20 30 10 30 40 50 60 70 80
Fig. 3c Median Percentage     of Immigrants  Persons Born Outside US  Among Regularly Participating Adult Parishioners 0  ...
Fig 3g Median Percentage of Families With Children at Home 0 10 20 30 40 60 70 50 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 50 30 Figs 3a 3g show that the demography of exemplary parishes is different from the demography of normal parishes in five aspects Exemplary parishes have a much higher median percentage of converts to Orthodoxy among their members than the normal parishes 50 versus 10 Exemplary parishes have a significantly higher median percentage of persons with college degrees among their members than the normal parishes 70 versus 50 Exemplary parishes have a significantly higher median percentage of persons who are new to the parish in the past 3 years than the normal parishes 30 versus 10 Exemplary parishes are less grey haired than the normal parishes That is exemplary parishes have a significantly smaller median percentage of senior citizens age 65 among their members than the normal parishes 10 versus 30 Exemplary parishes have a significantly higher median percentage of families with children at home than the normal parishes 50 versus 30 At the same time there is no difference between exemplary and normal parishes in terms of the presence of new immigrants to US among their members or in terms of the number of people who live relatively close within 30 minutes to the church In a nutshell compared to the normal parishes the members of the exemplary parishes are younger and better educated have more children and many more of them are converts to the Orthodox Faith Also predictably the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts have many more newcomers people who are new to the parish than the normal parishes Clearly these distinct demographic features of the exemplary parishes can be seen as both the reason and at the same time the outcome of being exemplary in evangelization and outreach efforts For instance predictably parishes with a strong emphasis on evangelization and outreach should have more converts to Orthodox Faith At the same time one can also assume that converts to Orthodoxy could have 35 80
Fig. 3g Median Percentage     of Families With Children at Home 0   10   20   30   40   60   70   50     Exemplary    pari...
stronger missionary and evangelization zeal than cradle Orthodox which would result in a fact that the parishes with greater number of converts to Orthodoxy have greater chances to become the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach In order to further examine what is distinct about membership of the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts the survey asked the follow up question Is there anything else special or unique about the membership of your parish The answers that came from the clergy serving in exemplary parishes formed two strong patterns The first and by far biggest group of responses was about very high diversity in members and about ability of the exemplary parishes to accommodate everyone and integrate these diverse groups into one parish community Here are some quotes exemplifying this type of responses Racially mixed Ethiopian and a few American blacks Diverse immigrant membership Some poor many middle class very few upper class Women play an important leadership role in the parish and in liturgical participation to the extent that they are able We are child friendly and woman friendly and minority friendly When we moved from our inner city location about 15 years ago we deliberately targeted mixed marriages while continuing to be sensitive to the ethnics We have 11 nationalities in our parish and they get along just fine thanks and glory be to God We have 35 different nationalities ethnic and racial groups We say the Lord s Prayer in at least seven different languages We have a Spanish Liturgy on Saturday nights and an English Liturgy on Sunday mornings Our parishioners hail from various Orthodox countries represented in the recitation of the Lord s Prayer in approximately 8 languages each Sunday Besides the usual 2nd or 3rd generation Orthodox and Converts from other Christian traditions we also minister to sizeable populations from Poland Ukraine Russia Belarus and Moldova We also had large groups of Kosovars and Ethiopians 36
stronger    missionary  and  evangelization  zeal    than  cradle  Orthodox  which  would  result  in  a  fact  that  the ...
The second large group of responses from the exemplary parishes re iterated what was already discussed previously namely that the exemplary parishes tend to have significant number of converts to Orthodoxy and young people among their members Here are some quotes exemplifying this type of responses Membership is primarily convert and young We have had only four funerals in 9 years and 160 baptisms or chrismations Surprising number of young growing families that rotate in to the parish get involved but rotate out Lots of turnover especially of active young adults Probably 70 of our total membership have converted to Orthodox Christianity either at our parish or in another parish before coming to us We do not have many generational Orthodox The membership of any parish its size demographic social ethnic and other characteristics evolves constantly Some parishes are growing in members while some are declining Some parishes attract newly arrived immigrants with a strong ethnic identity and culture while some have growing percentage of members who are US born converts to Orthodox Church Some parishes have more and more young families with children while in some churches the parishioners are getting grey haired In some parishes these changes in membership go at a slow pace while in some they are much faster and visible But no parish community remains the same forever And as the parish community changes its vision for the future scope of activities its emphasis on certain programs and ministries evolve as well Is there any difference between the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts and the normal parishes in terms of how their membership changes over the period of time The survey asked Have there been any significant changes in membership while you have been with this parish either in numbers or in the socio demographic composition of parishioners Please describe or give some examples The responses to this question that came from the exemplary and normal parishes were quite different in three aspects First nearly all exemplary parishes mentioned some sort of significant change in membership while an absolute majority of normal parishes replied something like no significant changes in membership 37
The   second   large   group   of   responses   from   the     exemplary     parishes   re   iterated   what   was   alrea...
or no other than transient nature of parish That is unlike normal parishes the exemplary parishes are much more prone to dynamic changes in parish community Put differently normal parishes are more static that is the changes in membership occur much slower Second out of 36 exemplary parishes 24 indicated steady and sometimes very fast growth in members We started with 16 8 in my family and we average around 95 to 110 on Sunday At present we have 25 catechumens The majority of this growth has taken place in the last three years or 25 growth per year Launching of new parishes or We started with 6 stewarding families and we now have 112 stewarding families the last response referred to the 9 years period of time Differently out of 39 normal parishes only 6 mentioned growth while 7 reported decline in membership Third unlike normal parishes many more exemplary parishes wrote about constant increase in diversity in parish membership More specifically 13 out of 38 exemplary parishes mentioned that one way or the other their members are becoming more and more diverse 23 compared to only 5 out of 37 normal parishes As an example here is one rather lengthy respond that came from one of the exemplary parishes and describes how this parish community became more diverse over the period of time It was a very Russian parish until the early 80 s but one that lost its 2nd and 3rd generations through its linguistic intransigence its heavy drinking and outside pressures as well Gradually the parish de ethnicized in order to survive This involved the loss of some as it turns out they were the people who indulged in parish politics We are not anti ethnic or obsessively American but multi ethnic multicultural New people don t come as guests but are welcomed into every aspect of the life of the community The Ethiopians in the parish about 30 of us invite new people regularly from their own ethnic community We have a strong connection to 2 major local universities both in terms of ministry and also in terms of membership of students and professors We have an unusually high proportion of Ph D s in the parish not including me Bishop X was attached here for 20 years and attracted a number of Orthodox students to Y University s Theology program Six of these now serve as priests throughout the US and Canada We have long done lots of service activities in our neighborhood Now we are finally beginning to attract neighborhood people not only as friends but as members It takes 23 This would include more diversity in the age of parishioners in the presence of the various ethnic groups in the presence of converts versus cradle Orthodox in the presence of new immigrants versus US born parishioners in the presence of people who belong to different social class etc 38
or      no  other  than  transient  nature  of  parish.    That  is,  unlike    normal    parishes,  the    exemplary    p...
time and patience You can t just be somewhere you have to show that you care about the people there disinterestedly In summary unlike normal parishes the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts are a much more prone to dynamic changes in the parish membership and b these changes typically include both the steady growth in the number of parishioners and in diversity among church members We conclude this chapter with a respond from one of the exemplary parishes that serves as a very good example to the above statement There remains a small core of original parishioners In 2002 there were 35 40 adults today there are 145 adults and 50 children From 2002 the ethnicity of the parish has gone from about 4 groups to 35 today From an ethnic parish of mostly older persons no children in the parish to a majority of converts who are primarily young families IV The Clergy in Exemplary and Normal Parishes and their Evolving Vision of Priestly Vocation HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS Compared to priests serving in normal parishes more clergy leading the exemplary parishes are converts to Orthodoxy 33 for normal versus 50 for exemplary parishes The clergy leading exemplary parishes tend to have much longer tenure i e they have stayed a longer time with their churches Indeed compared to clergy in normal parishes twice as many priests in exemplary parishes stayed with their churches for more than 10 years 35 for normal versus 69 for exemplary parishes The median duration of service of the clergy in normal parishes is 8 years in comparison with 15 years among the priests in exemplary parishes The majority of the responses to the question How did you decide to become a priest what was the most important motivation or perhaps combination of circumstances that brought you to the priestly vocation fell into three broad categories Firm determinations made in childhood by being deeply involved in the church from an early age and being strongly influenced by parents grandparents and or parish priests Decisions made in the later stages of life through the conscious deliberation and personal evolution 39 Decisions made because of some spiritual revelation or experience
time  and  patience.    You  can  t  just  be  somewhere       you  have  to  show  that  you  care  about  the  people  t...
There is no significant difference between the clergy serving in the exemplary versus normal parishes in terms of their motives and reasons of becoming a priest The majority of responses to the question If your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish has changed please say a few words about how it has changed felt into three broad categories Out of these three categories two were similar for clergy in both exemplary and normal parishes while one category of responses was different in the case of priests serving in exemplary versus normal parishes The first group of answers was about becoming more patient and developing ability to love all in their parish communities The second group of responses was about changes in the clergy style of leadership and especially about moving from being more authoritarian leader to allowing parishioners to run things The major distinction in responses of clergy from the exemplary versus normal parishes was in their different understanding of what a parish priest should concentrate on Typically the clergy from the exemplary parishes wrote that their original focus on running programs and administration shifted towards being a good teacher preacher and role model for parishioners The answers of the clergy from the normal parishes indicated an opposite trend That is as the years went by many of them have become increasingly involved in administration management and fundraising DISCUSSION Seventy five priests serving in the parishes of seven jurisdictions participated in this study They entered the priesthood from a great variety of personal backgrounds Some of them were born into the Orthodox Church while some discovered the Orthodox Faith in the later stages of their lives Some of them grew up in religiously involved families while some were raised by parents who were religiously passive Some of them served in their parishes for many years or were even founding priests while some are relatively new to their current churches Quite different circumstances motivations and reasons brought them to the decision to pursue a priestly vocation As the years of their ordained ministry went by some of them changed significantly their understanding of their role as a pastor and leader of a parish community while some retained their original vision of priestly vocation On the following pages we 40
    There  is  no  significant  difference  between  the  clergy  serving  in  the    exemplary    versus    normal     pa...
will try to outline the collective portraits of the priests serving in the parishes involved in the study and to examine if there are any distinct features that distinguish the clergy in exemplary parishes from the priests in normal parishes The questionnaire asked Which of the following best describes your religious upbringing The respondents were given four options to respond I was raised and have always been active in the Orthodox Church I was raised in the Orthodox Church but was inactive in the Church for a period of time I was raised in a non Orthodox religious tradition and became Orthodox later in life I grew up in a non religious family and joined the Orthodox Church at a later stage in life Given the relatively small number of respondents 75 total for the purpose of analysis the first two answers were combined into one category Cradle Orthodox and the last two answers were combined into category Converts to Orthodoxy Fig 4 shows that compared to priests in normal parishes higher percentage of clergy leading the exemplary parishes are converts to Orthodoxy 33 for normal versus 50 for exemplary parishes Fig 4 Religious Background of Clergy Serving in the Parishes Involved in the Study Which of the following best describes your religious upbringing 100 33 I am convert to Orthodoxy 80 50 60 I am cradle Orthodox 40 67 50 20 0 Clergy in exemplary parishes Clergy in normal parishes 41
will  try  to  outline  the  collective    portraits    of  the  priests  serving  in  the  parishes  involved  in  the  s...
This difference in the presence of converts among the priests in exemplary and normal parishes is very consistent with the difference in the presence of converts among the members of exemplary versus normal parishes Recall the previous chapter indicated that the median percentage of converts to Orthodoxy among the members of exemplary parishes is 50 in comparison with only 10 among parishioners in normal parishes The survey followed up with the question about religious involvement of the families of our respondents when they grew up While you were growing up was the Church either Orthodox or non Orthodox an important part of your family s life The respondents could choose between four answers My family or at least one parent was active in the Church and it was an important part of our family s life when I was a child My family or at least one parent attended church regularly but I wouldn t say that it was truly an important part of our family s life My family attended church but only occasionally My family was not interested in church and it had very little if at all role in my life when I was a child Fig 5 on the next page allows for two observations First nine out of ten 89 of the clergy grew up in households where church was central to their lives or at least in the families with the habit of regular church attendance Only 11 of priests were brought up by the parents who were either fully religiously passive or attended services only occasionally Second there is no significant difference between the clergy in normal and exemplary parishes in terms of their religious involvement during childhood and adolescence In both groups nearly 90 of them were raised in families with a high level of church involvement and attendance 42
This   difference   in   the   presence   of   converts   among   the   priests   in     exemplary     and     normal     ...
Fig 5 Religious Upbringing of Clergy Serving in the Parishes Participating in the Study While you were growing up was the Church either Orthodox or non Orthodox an important part of your family s life My family was not interested in church and it had very little role in my life when I was a child My family attended church but only occasionally My family attended church regularly but I wouldn t say that it was truly important part of our family s life My family was active in the Church It was important part of our family s life when I was a child 6 8 100 80 3 5 5 11 60 40 84 78 20 0 Clergy in exemplary parishes Clergy in normal parishes In summary there is little difference between the clergy in exemplary and normal parishes in terms of their original religious backgrounds i e cradle Orthodox or converts to Orthodoxy and their church involvement during childhood and adolescence What is different between the priests serving in exemplary and normal parishes is the duration of ministry in their present parish communities In short the clergy leading exemplary parishes tend to have a much longer tenure i e they have stayed longer time with their churches Fig 6 shows that compared to clergy in normal parishes twice as many priests in exemplary parishes stayed with their churches for more than 10 years 35 versus 69 The median duration of service of the clergy in exemplary parishes is 15 years in comparison with only 8 years in case of the priests in normal parishes 43
Fig. 5 Religious Upbringing of Clergy Serving in the Parishes Participating in the Study  While you were growing up, was t...
Fig 6 Duration of Clergy s Work in Their Present Parishes How long how many years have you served this parish 100 35 More than 10 years 80 6 10 years 1 5 years 69 60 24 40 14 20 41 17 0 Clergy in exemplary parishes Clergy in normal parishes In addition to a longer duration of service in their current parishes a quarter of priests in exemplary parishes are also founding priests i e they ministered to their parishes from the time when the parish was founded Differently very few only 8 of priests in normal parishes are founding priests Both findings longer tenures of clergy in exemplary parishes and greater number of them being founding priests are relatively easy to explain In many ways clergy shape their parish communities Having a longer time of work with a particular parish and especially being with a parish from its very origins gives the clergy more opportunities to create a parish according to their vision Clearly it is first of all the personal talents aspirations passion and charisma of certain clergy that allow them to gradually develop a parish into a Christian community that is exemplary in its evangelization and outreach efforts Nevertheless having a longer time to influence their parishioners or even building the very foundations of a parish gives these outstanding clergy more opportunities to realize their vision In order to better understand the personalities and aspirations of the clergy serving in exemplary and normal parishes the survey asked two open ended questions The first question was about circumstances that led them to the priestly vocation How did you decide to become a priest what was 44
Fig. 6 Duration of Clergy s Work in Their Present Parishes  How long  how many years  have you served this parish    100  ...
the most important motivation or perhaps combination of circumstances that brought you to the priestly vocation The second question was about the changes in the clergy understanding of their roles as the shepherds of their parishes over the period of time Between the time you were ordained an Orthodox priest and now has your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish changed If your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish has changed please say a few words about how it has changed All 75 clergy participating in the study answered the first question and shared their sometimes very personal stories about their paths into the priesthood The analysis of their answers revealed that there is no significant difference between the clergy serving in the exemplary versus normal parishes in terms of their motives and reasons of becoming a priest despite the variety in individual stories the vast majority of the responses to the question about the motives for choosing the priestly vocation fell into three broad categories These three categories in clergy answers to the question How did you decide to become a priest what was the most important motivation or perhaps combination of circumstances that brought you to the priestly vocation can be described as Firm determinations made in childhood by being deeply involved in the church from an early age and being strongly influenced by parents grandparents and or parish priests Decisions made in the later stages of the life through the conscious deliberation and personal evolution Decisions made through some spiritual revelation or experience Below we provide several examples of the answers for each of these three categories Firm determinations made in childhood by being involved in the church from an early age and being strongly influenced by parents grandparents and or parish priests It was a calling that I had since childhood the priesthood always felt as the natural fit vocation for me Additionally I was mentored by a priest Uniate in my late teens and college years who nurtured that calling by involving me in learning the services attending to various pastoral duties etc 45
the   most   important   motivation    or,   perhaps,   combination   of   circumstances    that   brought   you   to   th...
My Grandmother was the one who kept the faith for the whole family She was the one encouraging everyone including me to stay strong in the faith despite the Communist rule She was the one who believed I would be a priest one day I guess because of my devotion to God and the Church I was taught to love the Church by my father who diligently and lovingly directed my way into priesthood God also blessed me to meet wonderful people from whom I learned a great deal about kindness generosity patience prayer fasting punctuality dedication and other things absolute necessary for this vocation I always wanted to be a priest Interestingly enough I saw the worst the church had to offer in my parish growing up with lots of discord Having a loving and encouraging bishop helped foster that vocation Loved God very much as a child Memorized the services Sat in the front Pew first by requirement then by desire And our priest youth minister cultivated a sense of calling in me from middle school on It was something in me since I was young The priests in my home parish both the pastor and pastor emeritus were great influences My own parish priest growing up would sit with me and talk to me about being a priest and would encourage me I was also called by God to serve Him as a priest Decisions made in the later stages of the life through the conscious deliberation and personal evolution The death of my son and a desire to help others find God s live in similar circumstances I always felt drawn to the priesthood Roman Catholic but I consciously suppressed it for various reasons After converting to Orthodoxy in college my parish priest supported my desire to attend seminary to learn more about the faith It was my confessor in seminary who ultimately vectored me towards ordination though I was content to remain a deacon forever Following graduation it was my bishop who determined that I had the qualities to be a good priest and that he believed it was where I should be I began to discern my calling to ministry late in college as clergy suggested that I might be called to this I then attended a Lutheran seminary where I made the discovery of the Orthodox 46
       My   Grandmother   was   the   one   who   kept   the   faith   for   the   whole   family.   She   was   the   one...
Church in my studies and then converted Archbishop Dmitri encouraged me to continue on the path The Church was and is everything in my life Incremental progression in life in Christ I did not decide to become a priest I simply made myself available to our bishop He decided I always considered myself to be a Christian growing up but I realized during my freshman year of college that something major was missing in my personal faith I was only a Christian intellectually Jesus Christ was not actually a major relationship in my life that informed my everyday decision making I met someone who became a friend and helped me through his own personal witness to realize that I needed to deepen my relationship with Christ At that point in my life I made a commitment to Christ to do whatever He called me to do Tensions between my Roman Catholic upbringing and some experiences I was having in the Evangelical Protestant Tradition motivated me to study church history It was then that I discovered the Orthodox Church I studied Orthodoxy for one year through books and conversations with an Orthodox priest before becoming Orthodox After working a couple of years in the corporate world I felt God s calling to go to seminary to see how I could better serve Him in the Church It was at Holy Cross that I really felt my calling to the priesthood I was very interested in going to the seminary to learn more about the Orthodox Faith and had no desire to become a priest I actually was determined not to get ordained but God s will prevailed over my own Theology was my passion and later on I wanted to offer my spiritual help to the people in need Liturgy was like a magnet to me Decisions made through some spiritual revelation or experience My calling to the Holy Priesthood came through the Holy Spirit inspiring others to encourage me to consider seminary and ordination God called me in a way that I could not refuse When my wife agreed it was decided Being called by the church to do so On the eve when I was preparing to enroll another school during the reading of my evening prayers I felt a strong vocation and that was it 47
Church  in  my  studies,  and  then  converted.  Archbishop  Dmitri  encouraged  me  to  continue  on  the   path.  The  C...
Discovery of the truth of Christ was irresistible and eventually as it became more personal it was shown to me as a powerful calling As the time goes by does clergy s understanding of their roles as pastors and leaders of the local Christian communities change Fig 7 shows that about one third of priests in both exemplary and normal parishes experienced significant evolution of their vision for priestly vocation Indeed 30 of priests in exemplary and 32 of clergy in normal parishes reported that their understanding of their role as a pastor and leader of parish has changed significantly Fig 7 The Changes in Clergy Understanding of Their Priestly Vocation Between the time you were ordained an Orthodox priest and now has your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish changed 100 No it has remained more or less the 80 same It has changed somewhat 60 27 43 34 34 Yes it has changed 40 significantly 20 30 32 0 Clergy in exemplary parishes Clergy in normal parishes The follow up question If your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish has changed please say a few words about how it has changed resulted in a variety of answers However most of these answers felt into three broad categories Out of three categories that will be described below two were similar for clergy in both exemplary and normal parishes while one category of responses was very different in the case of priests serving in exemplary versus normal parishes 48
       Discovery   of   the   truth   of   Christ   was   irresistible,   and   eventually   as   it   became   more   per...
The first group of answers was about becoming more patient and developing ability to love all in their parish communities The answers from this category were equally present among the clergy in normal and exemplary parishes Here are some examples The priest too must learn to love all irrespective of their attitudes and the priest s frailties In a parish with 35 different nationalities it is incumbent on the priest to love and know all show preference to none and always talk about us and we I become much more patient and much less results oriented Strive to remove the ego from what I engage in dealing with people I ve have learned to be more patient with others and in ministry I realized that each soul in the parish is in a different place and that everyone has their own reason or understanding of the role of the church in the lives My understanding has deepened as I gain more experience and mature as a person and a Christian I ve become more patient compassionate courageous and trusting I now better understand that the most important things in the ministry are love understanding and compassion towards my flock rather than external observances and or certain liturgical practices The second group of responses was about changes in the clergy style of leadership and especially about moving from being more authoritarian leader to allowing parishioners to run things The answers from this category were also present among the clergy in both normal and exemplary parishes A few quotes exemplify this type of answers Allowing parishioners to take responsibility for their lives as they stand before God Then I can simply enjoy and love without expectations I was very rigid initially Then I realized that I am not a cop and am not responsible to force anyone to do anything My job is to preach the Gospel and the tradition of the Church It has to be willingly received by the faithful I do not think I was completely prepared for the administrative expectations placed on the priesthood by the parish Learning to delegate those duties has been a learning experience 49 It has become focused much more on personal relationships rather than being an office
The  first  group  of  answers  was  about  becoming  more  patient  and  developing  ability  to    love  all    in  thei...
It was always that of a shepherd but how to be a shepherd has changed As a young priest it was more about getting the people to follow the rules As I have grown older it is about getting them to confirm their lives to God using the tools and rules as a means The major distinction in responses of clergy from the exemplary versus normal parishes was in their different understanding of what a parish priest should concentrate on A significant number of clergy from the exemplary parishes wrote that their original focus on running programs and administration shifted towards being a good teacher preacher and role model for parishioners Differently the answers of the clergy from the normal parishes indicated an opposite trend That is as the years went by many of them have become increasingly involved in administration management and fundraising Here are some examples of responses from exemplary parishes The emphasis on prayer trust in God and co suffering with parishioners has replaced my thinking that I needed to work plans and programs A move away from administration towards services preaching and teaching I realize priests have become more like cheerleaders and fundraisers motivational speakers for the faithful I have learned that my biggest role as a priest is in my own growth in Christ I cannot change others only myself I have also learned that I need to focus on being a shepherd to the faithful the celebrant of the Divine Services the Holy Sacraments and to take seriously my preaching and teaching The laity can do almost everything else and need to in order to be stewards of their own gifts This is how they grow in Christ and actualize their royal priesthood And here very different responses from the normal parishes I had not been aware of how much of an administrative role I would have to play I seem to become more of an administrator and project manager instead of a pastor and priest Taking on the role and responsibility of helping raise funds for the church as well as organizing things in the parish that needed fixing running repair etc I spend very little time doing things that look theological and a lot of time doing leadership management and motivation 50
       It  was  always   that   of  a  shepherd  but   how   to  be   a   shepherd   has  changed.  As  a  young   priest,...
I had certain responsibilities as a young priest such as youth ministries and participation in the services Now however I have to be cognizant of all aspects of ministry I must make sure the bulletins have the correct readings and changing hymns Choir and Chanters are prepared and understand who is to sing the various music The Acolytes are present trained and prepared Ushers are serving the laity In other words make sure that everything has been organized V How Exemplary Parishes Achieve a High Degree of Involvement of Their Members into the Life of a Parish HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS The parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts have much higher degree of involvement of parishioners in all aspects of the parish life than the normal parishes More than two thirds of exemplary parishes reported that at least half or even dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved in all aspects of the life of a parish Differently in absolute majority 57 of the normal parishes only small core group of parishioners does everything whereas most members participate only passively In 40 of exemplary parishes the evangelization and outreach efforts are perceived as the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself Only one quarter of exemplary parishes reported that their evangelization and outreach efforts are carried out by a limited group of designated church members Differently in absolute majority 55 of normal parishes only a small number of parishioners are involved in evangelization and outreach work The study found six strategies that the exemplary parishes use in order to achieve broad involvement and participation of all church members into various aspects of the parish life Creating and careful maintaining a variety of small interest groups Requiring each parishioner as part of membership duties to participate in at least one permanent parish ministry Cultivating the sense of a parish s mission beyond worship services Cultivating the atmosphere of joy and close knit family in a parish Being flexible in scheduling all events activities and ministries accommodating everyone s needs and time constraints 51 Assuring top quality and relevance of worship services for everyone in the church
       I  had  certain  responsibilities  as  a  young  priest,  such  as  youth  ministries  and  participation  in  the ...
DISCUSSION It was noted in the first chapter Approach Goal and Procedure of the Study that genuine evangelization is not about the work of the parish clergy or designated group of parishioners Rather evangelization is about efforts and style of life of an entire parish community That is evangelization should not be treated as merely one of the many church ministries but it should be seen as the engine that drives motivation and inspires each aspect in the life of a local Christian community And indeed the results of the survey indicated that the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts have significantly higher degree of involvement of parishioners in all aspects of parish life than the normal parishes The survey asked Besides attending liturgical services would you say that the dominant majority of your parishioners are actively involved in all other aspects of the life of your parish Or is it rather a core group of parishioners that does everything whereas most members participate only passively The parishes can choose from three answers A relatively small core group does everything About half of parishioners are actively involved Dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved Fig 8 shows that more than two thirds of exemplary parishes reported that at least half or even dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved in all aspects of the life of a parish Very differently in an absolute majority 57 of the normal parishes only a small core group of parishioners does everything whereas most members participate only passively Fig 8 Degree of Involvement of Parishioners in the Various Aspects of the Life of a Parish Besides attending liturgical services would you say that the dominant majority of your parishioners are actively involved in all other aspects of the life of your parish Or is it rather a core group of parishioners that does everything whereas most members participate only passively A relatively small core group of parishioners does everything About half of parishioners are actively involved Dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved 52 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 20 40 32 60 80 16 52 57 100 43
DISCUSSION  It   was   noted   in   the   first   chapter      Approach,   Goal   and   Procedure   of   the   Study      ...
The survey continued with a more specific question Are your parish s outreach efforts carried out by a designated group of dedicated church members or is it rather the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself This question was open ended question so that the respondents could freely write their answers and provide any additional comments All submitted answers were divided into three categories In the first category were responses indicating that the entire parish community is devoted to and engaged in the outreach work The second group was formed by the answers suggesting that it depends i e sometime the whole parish is engaged and sometime only limited group of individuals Finally the third category consisted of responses describing situation when only small number of parishioners participated in parish s evangelization and outreach efforts Fig 9 shows that in 40 of exemplary parishes the evangelization and outreach efforts are perceived as the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself Only one quarter of exemplary parishes reported that their evangelization and outreach efforts are carried out by a limited group of designated church members Differently in an absolute majority 55 of the normal parishes only a small number of parishioners are involved in evangelization and outreach work Fig 9 Are your parish s outreach efforts carried out by a designated group of dedicated church members or is it rather the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself Only designated 100 group of parishioners are involevd in 80 evangelization and outreach It depends both 60 26 34 24 40 20 The entire parish community lives and sees itself this 0 55 40 21 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 53
The  survey  continued  with  a  more  specific  question    Are  your  parish  s  outreach  efforts  carried  out  by  a ...
Overall the content analysis of the answers from the exemplary parishes revealed that their typical attitude is that evangelization and outreach is something that penetrates all aspects of parish s life and defines mindset of a parish community Here are five quotes from the answers to the question Are your parish s outreach efforts carried out by a designated group of dedicated church members or is it rather the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself that exemplify this finding It s not so much a concerted effort rather than just the way we do things Outreach activities are organic we engage all aspects of our parish community Outreach is more of a mindset and way of life rather than a product of a few Having said this though our clergy who are identifiable really attempt to take the lead and reinforce this message This is part of our DNA Significant broad participation with moral and material support from the whole parish We see outreach as something a parish is called to do No one ever questions it or asks to see results Are there any particular strategies that the exemplary parishes use in order to achieve broad involvement and participation of church members into outreach efforts and more broadly onto all aspects of the life of a parish The questionnaire asked If the majority of parishioners are actively involved in the life of your parish how have you achieved this Is there any formal system in place that encourages everyone to attend regularly and participate actively Our respondents the clergy of exemplary parishes offered a variety of answers to this question but essentially their responses boiled down to six recipes on how to assure everyone s involvement into the life of a parish These six strategies are Creating and careful maintaining a variety of small interest groups Requiring each parishioner as part of membership duties to participate in at least one permanent parish ministry Cultivating the sense of a parish s mission beyond worship services Cultivating the atmosphere of joy and close knit family in a parish Being flexible in scheduling all events activities and ministries accommodating everyone s needs and time constraints Assuring top quality and relevance of worship services for everyone in the church 54
Overall,   the   content   analysis   of   the   answers   from   the     exemplary     parishes   revealed   that   their...
Below we provide the quotes from our respondents exemplifying each strategy and offering specific details on how they realize these approaches in their parish communities Creating and careful maintaining a variety of small interest groups We have multiple core groups Thus we have prayer group men s group women s group home schooling group festival group educational group choir reading writer s guild and Sunday school teachers In order to maximize parishioner participation and leadership we do the following 1 When a parishioner opines Father you know we ought to have a group that does ___________ My response usually is You know I believe that is a wonderful idea Why don t you provide me with a proposal I will review it and you can lead it In this way the priest is knowledgeable of what the parishioners may want to do the people are empowered and the priest is always a de facto member of every organization 2 All proposals must be reviewed by the priest and he the priest must author a charter establishing lanes in the road for the new organization The organizational membership agenda meeting times etc must be approved by the priest The priest ought to attend as many meetings as possible as the spiritual advisor The priest may not be able to attend every session but each meeting must produce a documented outcome 3 If any group s activities go beyond the charter the priest must be willing to step in and refocus the entity 4 Praise and recognition must be acknowledged as commensurate with the group activities 5 In our parish there are no ethnic or cultural groups permitted that would exclude anyone No flag exists above a church 6 Of critical importance is outreach beyond the confines of the parish and into the local community A parish that is not growing at a rate of 5 10 per year is experiencing negative growth and soon will find itself in fiscal or spiritual constraints 7 Similarly any parish that is depending on its festival to pay its bills and not the stewardship of its people is placing its future in the hands of the non Orthodox 55
   Below   we   provide   the   quotes   from   our   respondents   exemplifying   each   strategy   and   offering   spec...
We have A variety of ministries serving meals to the homeless at 3 different locations mission work in Tanzania social events and fundraisers for Orthodox charities four Bible studies two of which meet in people s homes youth ministries retreats outside speakers expanding choir encouraging congregational singing in Liturgy etc Requiring each parishioner to participate in at least one permanent ministry As part of membership in the parish every adult is expected to participate in some additional service group or ministry of the Church as part of their stewardship The Church is structured to identify invite and draw new participants into the service groups and ministries The parish is structured in an array of 8 Service Groups which is tasked with the oversight of a particular area of parish life with specific ongoing ministries under each Liturgy servers readers chanters prosphora bakers etc Charitable Works prison ministry immigrant ministry right to life Community Care intercession etc Hospitality events Outreach Evangelization Greeters Religious Formation Church School Adult ed Catechumenate Buildings and Grounds Library Bookstore Parish Administration Board Web committee These groups are encouraged to meet monthly and carry out tasks including planning budgeting and calendar as necessary Each person should be able to find something that they are interested in and good at Our parish theme is Strengthen the Core and reduce the periphery We ask our parishioners on their Stewardship Pledge cards to join at least one ministry We then track their responses and give their names to the ministry chairs to formally and personally invite them to join that specific ministry We also have encouraged our ministry chairs to actively recruit new people to their ministries When someone new to the parish becomes a member we invite them to be a part of a ministry Because we have many ministry opportunities these act as small groups that people can be a part of and not feel like they are an unimportant part of a large impersonal community Finally each Parish Council member is a liaison to a number of ministries helping to keep them active and to help insure that the ministries they are overseeing are actually functioning as true teams that are actually supported and held accountable to fulfill their missions and their goals on an annual basis All ministry chairs meet several times a year in gatherings we call Council of Ministries The purpose of these gatherings is to support one another coordinate our efforts and to streamline and communicate about the Parish s Annual Master Calendar 56
        We  have   A  variety  of  ministries   serving  meals  to  the  homeless  at  3  different  locations,  mission  ...
Cultivating a sense of a parish s mission beyond worship services Church is not a Sunday morning only event There is a vision for parish life that sees all of us together fulfilling the work of God in the world We have a mission and we all need to be involved The clergy s role is to equip the laity and help them mature and find their place to serve Cultivating an atmosphere of joy and family in a parish I believe that parishioners involve themselves in our Parish because we pray study and serve others with joy When others see us enjoying our lives in Christ even in the midst of adversity it s encouraging and inviting Essentially it s an informal mentoring program Our church thanks be to God has been able to maintain a close family feel to it We have teams that serve on the weekends everyone is on a team women s and men s groups that are active we eat and play a lot together outside of services and I contact everyone that is not in attendance on Sunday Being flexible accommodating everyone s needs and time constraints I have an open door policy i e I will have services and or classes no matter how many people are in attendance I will also have classes at anytime during the day or night in order to accommodate peoples crazy and busy schedules I also understand that what worked last year might not work the next year I encourage people to ask questions and share ideas I like having different services hours akathists daily vespers etc that people can attend and experience There is no formal system just an open and patient attitude to listen to the spiritual needs and wants of the faithful People are spiritually hungry and want to be fed I have four different classes during the week Prayer Spirituality Catechism and Old Testament All of them are well attended and interactive People feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their spiritual life Assuring top quality and relevance of worship services for everyone in the church It just is what it is My fellow clergy and I try to preach homilies that relate to people s daily lives homilies that hopeful and positive that concentrate on the Gospel The preaching is heartfelt and not repetitive or hackneyed Our services are bright and accessible and we engage children in them I think that it s the vibrancy and the openness of our life that draws people in 57
Cultivating  a  sense  of  a  parish  s  mission  beyond  worship  services          Church  is   not  a  Sunday   morning...
VI Four Distinct Features of Religious Education in the Parishes that Are Exemplary in their Evangelization and Outreach Efforts HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS In their religious education programs the normal parishes focus primarily on religious education for children Differently the exemplary parishes pay greater attention to and have stronger emphasis on continuing religious education and faith formation of the adult church members The exemplary parishes are experimental in designing their own religious education programs they employ a variety of forms of learning about the Orthodox Faith and tailor their religious education to the needs of particular groups of church members within the parish community Differently the normal parishes prefer to use the standard religious education curriculum and format developed and recommended by their respective dioceses and jurisdictions In their religious education programs many exemplary parishes set the double goal a To involve everyone into continuing learning about the Orthodox Faith and b To encourage as many as possible parishioners to become religious educators and teachers themselves Differently in the normal parishes typically only limited group of church members is involved in religious education programs In many exemplary parishes religious education is viewed not as stand alone program but as a ministry that penetrates all other aspects of the parish life DISCUSSION Evangelization work and efforts can be seen as having two aspects Inner evangelization continuing faith formation of the current members of a parish and also efforts geared towards passive church members and nominal Orthodox Outward evangelization reaching out to unchurched people and non Orthodox inquirers about Orthodox Faith In this chapter we will look at the first aspect inner evangelization by examining and comparing the state of religious education offered to church members in the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts versus normal parishes 58
VI.  Four  Distinct  Features  of  Religious  Education  in  the  Parishes  that  Are    Exemplary    in  their   Evangeli...
The survey asked parish priests What are the most remarkable and or distinctive characteristics of your parish s religious education programs e g how many people are involved how the process is organized what are the curricula who teaches the classes etc The answers that came from the exemplary and normal parishes were significantly different in four ways First nearly one third of the normal parishes admitted overall poor state of their religious education programs and activities Differently out of all exemplary parishes only one reported These programs i e religious education were cancelled due to lack of interest attendance Second the responses provided by the normal parishes were primarily about religious education for children and especially about the Sunday school programs and activities Differently the answers that came from the exemplary parishes revealed that compared to the normal parishes the exemplary parishes pay greater attention to and have stronger emphasis on continuing religious education and faith formation of the adult church members Third the exemplary parishes are experimental in designing their own religious education programs they employ a variety of forms of learning about the Orthodox Faith and strive to tailor their religious education to the needs of particular groups of church members within the parish community Differently the normal parishes prefer to use the standard religious education curriculum and format developed and recommended by their respective dioceses and jurisdictions Here are several examples of responses from the exemplary parishes that reflect their desire to develop their own creative religious education programs Tailored specifically to each person Nothing generic Nothing cookie cut The church school program is highly flexible it is a one room schoolhouse approach Students gather for a lesson and then are split into age appropriate groups for an activity We rotate through different sets of volunteers every month Here we sort of catch as catch can Our curricula come from several sources chiefly those that are provided by many of the Orthodox publishing groups We have a small group of volunteer teachers who conduct these weekly classes they meet each Sunday I ve used several sources OCA the Greek Archdiocese being prominent 59
The  survey  asked  parish  priests     What  are  the  most  remarkable  and or  distinctive  characteristics  of  your  ...
Our Religious Formation Service Group fosters the life of the parish in a variety of ways In addition to the Church school 20 students 4 classes 7 instructors we encourage financially support youth participation in Church camps For adults we have periodic in home instructions at church is difficult to gather We have instruction series i e History of Christianity in Africa an annual parish retreat special speakers on timely topics If Charitable Works is doing a program it serves as an opportunity for a Religious Formation presentation on the topic Regular topics on stewardship and hopefully the Sunday sermons are formative We have special programs for demographic groups death dying OCF etc More of a topical approach than an ongoing bible study There is also a set series for Inquirers and Converts We offer four to five adult studies each week in addition to our youth program Our youth program is made up of approximately 80 students while our adult program serves between 80 100 individuals I teach both a Bible study and theology course during the week our deacon offers a Bible study every other week the director of our Adult Education offers one or two introductory courses as needed and we have a professor from a local university teaching biblical Greek Fourth and perhaps most importantly a number of exemplary parishes wrote about setting the double goal To involve everyone in the parish into continuing learning about the Orthodox Faith and at the same time To encourage as many as possible parishioners to become religious educators and teachers themselves Further many respondents from the exemplary parishes emphasized that in their parishes the religious education is not viewed as a stand alone program but as a ministry that penetrates all aspects of the parish life Below are some examples of responses that reflect this tendency We have Total Parish Education approach providing opportunities in educating the parish on the Orthodox Faith through every activity and event The whole entire parish is involved in religious education because we feel that each person should be a life long learner Our parents and grandparents are integral in educating the youth 60
       Our   Religious   Formation   Service   Group   fosters   the   life   of   the   parish   in   a   variety   of   ...
We have 15 people involved in Sunday school We have five youth groups with 2 leaders per group We have a weekly adult Sunday school that has around 60 participants This runs concurrent with our youth Sunday school We have two weekly Bible Studies We have a monthly Senior gathering that includes a lecture and discussion and a luncheon We have an annual Inquirers Series that runs 13 weeks and is team taught by six different teachers 2 priests 1 deacon and 3 lay teachers we offer 4 serious retreats per year including one for men one for women one parish wide and one marriage retreat We also have monthly men s breakfasts and lectures discussion as well as one woman s monthly presentation discussion with the priest Every couple of years we offer an in depth series on parenting because we have on staff a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has lots of contacts and colleagues who can give helpful lectures and answer questions Every service is an opportunity for a homily and before each Parish Council and Philoptochos meeting the priest offers a reflection We have a strong adult education program for parishioners and inquirers Please note not all is taught by the priest This is important I strongly encourage subject matter specialists by challenging the parishioners to teach In addition to clergy we involve well trained lay people in leading adult classes Sunday school involves over 30 teachers and teachers aides in the classroom We emphasize religious education in all aspects of parish life and use every opportunity to increase the spiritual development and formation of every parishioner We also focus first on the adult religious education VII Church Governance and Finances in the Exemplary and Normal Parishes HIGHLIGHTS The most important difference in the style of parish governance between the exemplary and normal parishes is that the exemplary parishes pay much greater attention to the conciliarity consensus and the involvement of the entire parish community in the process of decision making Differently the normal parishes are more typically run by the limited group of people the members of parish councils The most important difference between the exemplary and normal parishes in the models of financial contributions of church members to their parishes is that a significant number of 61
We   have   15   people   involved   in   Sunday   school.   We   have   five   youth   groups,   with   2   leaders   per...
exemplary parishes developed and employed successfully the free will offering model The free will offering is a situation when parishioners are encouraged constantly to give to the best of their ability but are not required to commit in advance any specified amount of money or percentage of their income Differently a significant number of normal parishes sill employ the old fashioned model of the membership dues the fixed amount of required minimum contributions to be considered a member DISCUSSION An Orthodox parish may and should strive to reach out into the wider local community but first it needs to organize itself internally That is parish s efforts in the area of evangelism and outreach are not likely to be successful if it has a dysfunctional administration and decision making system The questionnaire asked What are the most remarkable and distinctive characteristics of governance and decision making in your parish Among variety of individual responses seven themes and subjects were often present in clergy s answers First a number of respondents said that essentially there is nothing special about their parishes administrations Or they simply skipped this question The second group of responses focused on some negative aspects and deficiencies in parish administration Sorry we are a hangover from trusteeism A delicate issue that needs to change It takes way to long to make decisions Decisions get dragged out and there is major stagnation on a parish council level Our Board is typical for a parish of our particular origin We struggle with discord and gossip between various families that threaten to undermine our growth This is an area i e parish governance that needs radical change for an authoritarian model is currently in use 62
  exemplary    parishes  developed  and  employed  successfully  the    free  will  offering    model.    The   free  will...
Third a significant number of clergy simply reported that their parish councils parish boards etc are capable and functional Our parish council is cooperative and functions well By and large the members of our church board work well together making church governance rather smooth Parish council is dedicated to well being of the Church It Council is well run The finances are tight but the books are professionally done As a board we do things in a conciliar fashion In the fourth category were responses that emphasized strong and healthy cooperation between parish councils and clergy The parish council is flexible hard working and shows great difference to the role of the priest in all matters Parish priest is getting along very well with the parish council We work like a team parish priest and parish council Decisions are done all by consensus and with full transparency The parish council works very closely with the priest and all decisions are made together Fifth a number of answers was about truly conciliar and family style nature of parish governance when not only clergy and parish council but the entire parish community is fully engaged in the process of decision making We have an expressed rule that no decisions are voted upon per se It must be a consensus We endeavor for transparency in all decision making Consensus model is the predominant approach We are trying to make that universal in the parish Tremendous emphasis on building consensus Making sure minority opinions are heard Transparency regarding finances Cooperation of the church council the priest and the parish People are very helpful respectful and willing hear various points of view 63
Third,  a  significant  number  of  clergy  simply  reported  that  their  parish  councils   parish  boards,  etc.   are ...
We operate as a family Priest is a father and people of God are his children and brothers and sisters to each other We try not to offend God because we need his blessings in order to prosper We don t want to push him away It s open opportunity for all to participate in deliberation and decision making We try to have 100 consensus on major decisions We promote an atmosphere of spiritual discernment rather than a traditional democracy One particular reply in this category of answers deserved full quotation because it described in details how efficient parish administration and ministries could be organized through everyone s involvement and mutual accountability We make a conscious effort to empower and involve our laity to take ownership of their own ministries This means actually having a real ministry team of several members of the parish as opposed to a ministry of one person We hold them accountable to having a mission statement for their ministry a stated vision and annual goals that our Parish Council liaison supports them in fulfilling We make sure that every ministry has a ministry binder that serves as a manual for continuity and successful succession when the time comes We help each ministry to create and manage their own budget and to effectively communicate their budget needs to our Parish Council Treasurer so that the Parish s Operating Budget is a true reflection of the needs of each ministry We try to train our leaders on how to lead and how to in turn train a successor so we do not encourage burn out or parochial insecurity We try to help our members to identify their unique gifts and talents and to encourage them to use them in ministry to the glory of God Sixth in contrast to previous two groups of answers a number of responses indicated that most of decisions in a parish are done predominantly by the clergy Here are some examples Parish Council and people truly follow directions from the priest The church board does not need to convene to decide every possible idea The parish president is not given much status and when things are deferred to him the priest is often consulted 64 They respect the decision of the priest There is little if any conflict Parish is led by vision and conviction of the priest
       We  operate  as  a  family.  Priest  is  a  father  and  people  of  God  are  his  children  and   brothers  and  ...
Seventh a few respondents wrote about Christ oriented process of decision making in their parishes Parish council and others in leadership positions must first and foremost be committed to Christ regularly participate in worship and sacramental life Christ centered The parish council is largely drawn from the most spiritually serious members Our leadership prays and studies together in each gathering and our decision making is collegial People who actually work together for the Glory of God There were also some answers that did not fit into described above seven categories But the number of such answers was relatively small However one of them deserves full quotation because it offers parish governance model which is driven by the strong focus on constant running of some programs or projects beyond liturgical life We remain focused on at least one project per month Something is always occurring We never stand still I subscribe to the biological belief that things are either progressing or regressing In biology there is no such thing as stability This is Leadership 101 If anyone is seeking stability they likely have no idea what they are doing to an organization This attitude affects everyone We keep moving and talk about the movement There was a significant difference between the exemplary and normal parishes in the number of responses that belong to each category See Fig 10 on the next page 65
Seventh,  a  few  respondents  wrote  about    Christ   oriented    process  of  decision  making  in  their  parishes    ...
Fig 10 What are the most remarkable and or distinctive characteristics of governance and decision making in your parish Types of responses Parish priests wrote about Other responses 100 13 24 Dysfunctional governance 80 18 13 Nothing in particular 3 12 Christ centered decision 60 making Parish priest dominates 40 decisions Simply efficient and capable parish council 10 3 3 12 28 8 20 Strong cooperation between clergy and parish council 0 Conciliar governance entire parish community 38 20 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Fig 10 shows that many more exemplary than normal parishes emphasize cooperative decision making and governance style which engages various constituencies within the parish community Indeed 50 of the exemplary parishes reported having either conciliar governance model the entire parish community is involved in decision making or governance model with the strong emphasis on cooperation between clergy and parish council Only 28 of the normal parishes mentioned these two models in their responses Vice versa nearly half of the normal parishes 46 either simply reported having good council or replied that there is nothing special about our governance To compare only 16 among the exemplary parishes provided these types of answers 66
Fig. 10  What are the most remarkable and or distinctive characteristics of governance and decision making in your parish ...
In a nutshell the most important difference in style of parish governance between the exemplary and normal parishes is that the exemplary parishes pay much greater attention to the conciliarity consensus and the involvement of the entire parish community Differently the normal parishes are more typically run by the limited group of people the members of parish councils US Orthodox parishes use a variety of systems for the financial contributions of their members the old fashioned membership dues i e fixed amount of required contribution per individual or per household to be considered a member stewardship pledging i e variable contributions committed in advance by the church members adjustable tithing i e parishioners donating certain percentage of income tithing parishioners donating 10 of income or any combination of the above models In addition the reality of many parishes is that within a single parish some parishioners give nothing or very little while some give a lot some parishioners pay dues some pledge while some aspire to tithe etc Are there any distinct features of the exemplary versus normal parishes in terms of how the systems of financial contributions of the church members are organized The survey asked Which model best describes your parish s system of financial contributions of parishioners See Fig 11 67
In  a  nutshell,  the  most  important  difference  in  style  of  parish  governance  between  the    exemplary    and   ...
Fig 11 Which model best describes your parish s system of financial contributions by parishioners Percentage of responses in each category Any other model or combination of models 5 6 100 Free will offering parishioners give to the best of their ability Tithe or adjustable tithe parishioners give certain percentage of their income Stewardship pledging members make an annual advance commitment to give certain amount Membership dues fixed sum paid annually by family or individual 16 80 20 60 40 46 42 20 33 13 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Fig 11 shows two clear differences between the exemplary and normal parishes in how they solicit contributions from their members First the membership dues system fixed sum paid annually by family or individual is more common for the normal than the exemplary parishes Second and perhaps most importantly only exemplary parishes about one fifth of them have developed and employed the model that can be defined as free will offering Free will offering model can be described as the situation when parishioners are encouraged one way or the other to give to the best of their ability but they are not asked to commit in advance any certain amount of money or percentage of their income Clearly this approach to balancing the budget of the parish may present many challenges first of all the uncertainty in how much income the parish will generate in any given period of time but apparently it works very well for certain parish communities 68
Fig. 11  Which model best describes your parish s system of financial contributions by parishioners    Percentage       of...
Below are several comments from the exemplary parishes that employed free will offering approach and explained how it works We have run this parish through free will giving since its inception No pledges dues or tithes Our parishioners give to the best of their ability No minimums or dues Pledging was tried for years and had a low rate of return Monthly we publish a bottom line summary in the bulletin and the priest draws attention if deficits start to appear People simply give out of love and appreciation It s up to the person to do the best he she can It is successful in that our financial health is steadily improving and our budget is increasing without serious deficits The vast majority of our stewards make an ongoing commitment to the Church that is not based on calendar year weekly or monthly giving We utilize a formal mentoring program Quill that has done wonders We don t talk about financial stewardship in Church but rather provide opportunities to individuals to support other philanthropies of the Parish Metropolis Archdiocese OCMC IOCC Project Mexico We present giving as a spiritual discipline We ask people to give as much as they can joyfully and seek to increase their giving by growing spiritually We don t view charitable giving in terms of a pledge but rather a principle It is worth noting that the above comments in support of the free will offering model of church members contributions came from the parishes representing a variety of jurisdictions that is free will offering approach is not bound to one particular jurisdictional or ethnic culture To conclude when it comes to the financial contributions of church members to their parishes the most remarkable distinction of the exemplary parishes is that a number of them developed and employed successfully the free will offering the approach when parishioners are encouraged constantly to give to the best of their ability but are not required to commit in advance any specified amount of money or percentage of their income 69
Below  are  several  comments  from  the    exemplary    parishes  that  employed    free  will  offering    approach   an...
VIII Programs and Ministries in Exemplary and Normal Parishes HIGHLIGHTS FINDINGS Three differences emerged between the clergy in exemplary and normal parishes in their responses to the question Have there been any significant changes in parish s programs and ministries while you have been with this parish 1 The exemplary parishes typically embrace changes in ministries and keep trying new programs and activities even if they don t work out Differently the normal parishes are more indifferent with regard to developing new programs and ministries 2 Unlike the answers from the normal parishes the responses from exemplary parishes indicated understanding that nothing is carved in stone that programs and activities come and go depending on the parish s life cycle and changing circumstances 3 The exemplary parishes are more likely to expand intentionally and significantly the diversity of new ministries In contrast the normal parishes typically add new or improve existing programs in only limited number of areas of a parish life In their ministries both exemplary and normal parishes pay primary attention to religious education of church members However unlike the normal parishes the exemplary parishes offer a much greater variety of religious education and faith formation programs that address different subjects and issues and are geared to the needs and interests of various categories of church members The outward oriented social outreach and charitable work in the local community ministries play greater role in the exemplary parishes whereas normal parishes focus more on their internal lives on social life and fellowship ministries and programs A number of normal parishes mentioned various ethnic programs and events among their top three most important ministries Differently no single exemplary parish included ethnic programs and events in the list of their top three most important ministries Surprisingly among both exemplary and normal parishes religious outreach programs and ministries work with inquirers about Faith and catechumens mission trips Orthodox mass media education about Orthodox faith for the outside non Orthodox community etc were the least frequently mentioned among top three most important parish ministries 70
VIII.  Programs  and  Ministries  in    Exemplary    and    Normal    Parishes   HIGHLIGHTS FINDINGS      Three   differen...
When asked about one single area of a parish life where a parish can set an example for other parishes a significant number of both exemplary and normal parishes reported that their top strengths are in one of the following areas Being and building a strong and loving local Christian parish community Being friendly open and welcoming community that attracts visitors and inquirers about the Faith High quality and engaging worship services and Liturgical life Relatively few parish communities participating in the study believe that they can set an example for other parishes in one of the following areas Outreach and involvement into a local community Emphasis on including children and youth into the life of a parish Strong religious education and faith formation programs Two strengths that are most uniquely expressed in the lives of the exemplary parishes are high quality and engaging liturgical life combined with the willingness and ability to go out and be involved in the local community In the case of the normal parishes their major strengths are more often related to building strong social relations within the parish community DISCUSSION This chapter will discuss the programs and ministries developed and employed in the parishes participating in the study More specifically we will examine three related subjects Evolution and changes in parish programs and ministries over period of time Ministries and programs that the parishes consider as being most fundamental and important to them The areas of parish life that the parishes are most proud and see as their most fundamental areas of strength Three remarks should be made before analysis of the survey data First the overall approach of this study is not only there is no silver bullet program ministry for being successful in Orthodox religious and social outreach but also Orthodox evangelism and mission are not about programs and ministries It was established in the first chapter that evangelization is not about the projects programs or events 71
    When  asked  about  one  single  area  of  a  parish  life  where  a  parish  can    set  an  example    for  other   ...
that merely increase the number of people who regularly attend the church Rather evangelization was defined in this study as the entire way of living of an Orthodox parish community It is a continuing and evolving process that constantly wins new people to Christ and makes current church members more devoted disciples As such evangelism is not a certain ministry or ministries but it could be seen as the engine that drives motivation and inspires each aspect in the life of a parish From this perspective various parish based programs and ministries can be seen as tools and fuels that help the engine to run smoothly and efficiently Second on the following pages we will discuss a wide range of various parish programs and ministries We are not suggesting however that some of these ministries are more important while some are less important for being a parish that is successful in Orthodox evangelism and outreach Rather following our allegory of evangelism as being a powerful engine that drives and inspires parish community our approach is that the engines are as different as the various parish communities are Therefore the tools and fuels ministries and programs that serve one engine would not work for the other engine The third and final remark is that while the questionnaire asked the respondents about programs and ministries a significant number of priests wrote also about their worship services about changes and improvements in liturgical life of a parish etc Clearly inspiring engaging and meaningful liturgical life of a parish is fundamental to successful Orthodox evangelism and mission Therefore we will include and analyze this type of responses along with the answers of clergy about programs and ministries The questionnaire first asked the parish clergy Have there been any significant changes in parish s programs and ministries while you have been with this parish Change has always been a somewhat challenging subject for the Orthodox Church because our dogmatic teachings are a received handed down tradition While many areas of parish life have no direct relation to Orthodox religious teachings we have always done it that way approach is nevertheless a widespread way of thinking in many Orthodox parishes 72
that  merely  increase  the  number  of  people  who  regularly  attend  the  church.  Rather,  evangelization  was   defi...
Accordingly the first noticeable difference in responses from the exemplary versus normal parishes was that the vast majority of exemplary parishes reported some changes in their programs and ministries and did so always in a positive manner Even in the cases when a certain ministry did not work the way it was planned the answers from the exemplary parishes still sounded upbeat and optimistic As one priest reported We continue to consider and try new things whether they work or not We re obliged to be creative making this our offering to God If a ministry works glory be to Him if not glory be to Him we tried and again think creatively about how we can engage our parishioners and our greater community with love Differently more than one third of the normal parishes either reported no change or some negative change in their programs and ministries And unlike try and try again approach typical for exemplary parishes the tone of answers from some normal parishes was beaten down and defeated Here is an example Some new programs have been attempted but lack of interest caused them to fall away Church school was terminated after my first year as there were no children in the parish but my own and no one wanted to coordinate the program Or Adult study and youth group were instituted However participation varies from month to month due to the seasonal nature of living in X Willingness to serve on established committees such as the sisterhood is in decline In short when it comes to introducing the new programs and ministries the first significant difference between the exemplary and normal parishes is their overall different attitude towards changes While exemplary parishes typically embrace the changes and keep trying new programs and ministries even if they don t work out the normal parishes are more reluctant or indifferent with regard to developing new programs and ministries 24 Related to this first difference the second distinct feature of responses from exemplary parishes was that thy were not simply about adding new ministries but also conveyed a sense that nothing is carved in stone that programs and activities come and go depending on the parish s life cycle and 24 As a side note the more experimental nature of the exemplary than the normal parishes reveals also through the fact that some of them developed truly interesting and creative ways to reach out into the local community Here is a good example Prison Ministry to State Pen Accredited class time at State College on Orthodox Christianity 350 word newspaper articles published regularly for free Public Inquirer classes in new cities where there are NO Orthodox Christians seminar format Guided Wine Tasting at church Social Hall 73
Accordingly,  the  first  noticeable  difference  in  responses  from  the    exemplary    versus    normal    parishes   ...
changing circumstances That is the clergy in exemplary parishes understand that a program that is very important presently may become totally irrelevant in the future Here are a few examples of answers from the exemplary parishes that demonstrate this attitude We try to strive to be cognizant of the natural life of a program or ministry and the need to organically start or cease involvement For example we partnered with a local social service agency by providing ESL classes at our parish That lasted 9 years but was stopped when clients were more fluent in English and less signed up Vice versa some programs that we stopped doing a few years ago e g food distribution were restarted due to an increasing demand of working poor in our local area We have to stop some and bring new one Since we have our own church the activities become in good standing regular service Sunday school religious education seminars on different topics as health education We ve tried a lot of things over the years those things that became consistent became formal ministries with a person identified to help coordinate it Some things serving meals at the Salvation Army did not continue One of the hardest things to do is to keep people active in the leadership planning process All activities are open to participation by anyone in the parish We just completed a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course which served as both an outreach and an inner parish ministry We may well do this sort of thing again Clearly when the normal parishes develop the new programs and ministries they also similar to exemplary parishes do so out of desire to fill the gaps and to add whatever is lacking However their responses did not demonstrate such a clear as it was with the exemplary parishes understanding that the ministries and programs may have their own life cycles from birth to maturity and eventually natural death Third the answers to the question Have there been any significant changes in parish s programs and ministries while you have been with this parish boiled down to four broad areas Changes in worship services and liturgical life Changes in religious education and faith formation programs Changes in ministries that focus on religious and social outreach into the local community Changes in programs addressing the needs and interests of children teenagers and youths 74
changing   circumstances.   That   is,   the   clergy   in     exemplary     parishes   understand   that   a   program   ...
The changes in each of the above categories were mentioned more or less equally frequently by the exemplary and normal parishes The difference however was that many more exemplary than normal parishes reported simultaneously multiple i e related to several areas changes in their programs and ministries That is compared to the normal parishes the exemplary parishes are more likely not simply to add or improve some ministries but also to expand significantly their diversity Differently with certain exceptions normal parishes reported adding new and or improving existing programs and activities in only one of above listed categories Here are examples of answers that were much more typical for the exemplary than the normal parishes We have grown our ministries parish outings parish retreats Youth mission teams to Appalachia soup kitchen adult mission trips ESL classes for the local Latino community started and stopped music concerts No programs or ministries when arrived Now have youth group OCF mom s ladies study men s study We run the youth camps and retreats and annual mission trip Started coffee house bookstore as an evangelical endeavor We had little to no youth programs Now we have numerous children and youth programs a vibrant vacation church camp with 50 kids Greek dance group St Nicholas celebration Christmas pageant godparent grandparent Sunday bible bowl etc Project Mexico Habitat for Humanity Blood drive AA NA Bible studies retreats twice a year numerous guest speakers and other educational programs We have built from the ground basically Development of for example Coffee Hour Teams Greeters Money Counters Garden Team Solid Choir with rehearsals Web team Etc Our church school has been revitalized along with a youth group for teens and a young adult group We have an active FOCUS chapter and raise funds for our local Right to Life and Pregnancy Care Center 75
  The   changes   in   each   of   the   above   categories   were   mentioned   more   or   less   equally   frequently  ...
In addition by developing intentionally a variety of programs and ministries some exemplary parishes attempt to engage in active ministry work all different constituencies within their parish communities In other words different ministries and programs are designed for various small interest groups within a parish community We have created ministries for all ages from annual pilgrimages retreats Bible Study Fellowship nights food feeding programs special events and community building adult education classes web and web based teaching and streaming etc After reviewing the past evolution and changes in the ministries and programs in the parishes participating in the study the logical next question is Where are the parishes now That is beyond worship services what do exemplary and normal parishes focus on now What are the ministries and programs that the parishes consider as being most fundamental and important to them The survey asked What are three ministries programs activities that are most fundamental and essential for your parish The answers provided by the parishes varied greatly both in terms of the types of the ministries and programs e g religious education youth programs etc and in how comprehensive a description of the ministries was e g simply religious education versus more detailed explanation of specific religious education programs Some of the ministries and programs mentioned by the respondents appeared to be truly interesting creative and efficient We selected a number of such responses and offer them as full quotes in Appendix III Selected Quotes from the Survey That Can be Helpful for Other Parishes For the purpose of formal analysis however the answers provided by the respondents were divided into seven broad categories of programs and ministries 25 Religious education and faith formation of church members various forms of children and adult religious education as well as spiritual retreats Youth programs and ministries Social outreach and charitable work in the local community 25 Clearly several replies did not fit into any of these seven categories but there were only few exceptions of this kind 76
In  addition,  by  developing  intentionally  a  variety  of  programs  and  ministries  some    exemplary    parishes   a...
Religious outreach work with inquirers about Faith and catechumens mission trips Orthodox mass media education about Orthodox faith for the outside non Orthodox community etc Ethnic programs and events ethnic festivals dancing competitions language programs ethnic association and groups within the parish communities etc Taking care of parish needs programs and ministries including fundraisers running kitchen and bookstores beautification of church buildings maintenance of church grounds etc Social life and fellowship ministries and programs including various associations small groups brotherhoods and sisterhoods within the parish community parish s various social events etc The first and perhaps most important observation is that both exemplary and normal parishes overwhelmingly focus on religious education and faith formation programs and ministries Among both exemplary and normal parishes the answers in category religious education and faith formation outnumbered by far the replies related to other categories of programs and ministries However while religious education and faith formation ministries appear to be a very central piece in the lives of all parishes there was a noticeable difference in answers from exemplary versus normal parishes Most replies from the normal parishes were short notes and indicate such forms of religious education that are routinely present in most parishes e g Sunday school Adult Bible study etc Differently many replies from the exemplary parishes suggest that they are much more experimental creative and use wider range of forms for religious education and faith formation of church members than the normal parishes Unlike normal parishes many more exemplary parishes wrote about religious education classes addressing particular subjects or classes relating Orthodox teachings with various contemporary issues invited guest speakers and lectures spiritual retreats the studies conducted by the small interest groups etc Further some of the exemplary parishes developed and employ successfully entirely new forms of continuing faith formation of the church members One parish for instance wrote about so called St James House program Here is a description of this program St James House a ministry of our parish provides a one year residential program where young single people live in an extended family setting and become better prepared to live in the world as faithful Orthodox Christian men and women This is accomplished primarily through evening 77
    Religious   outreach    work   with   inquirers   about   Faith   and   catechumens,   mission   trips,   Orthodox   m...
studies household work projects and participation in the liturgical and community life of our parish as well as their daily interaction with one another The household itself is run by a resident family whose goal is to mentor the program s participants in facing everyday challenges responsibly and with faith in God The pastor and clergy of our parish also oversee the program by providing instruction and spiritual direction This particular example combined with the overall greater variety of religious education forms offered in the exemplary than the normal parishes suggest that the religious education and faith formation ministries in the exemplary parishes are also more engaging and designed with a goal in mind to include everyone in one or other form of continuing religious education That is different categories of church members present in a parish should be able to find some religious education program that would address their specific interests rather than joining generic and uniform adult Bible study In summary in their ministries both exemplary and normal parishes pay primary attention to religious education of church members However unlike the normal parishes the exemplary parishes offer much greater variety of religious education and faith formation programs that address different subjects and issues and are geared to the needs and interests of the various categories of church members With regard to other types of ministries and programs the frequency of mentioning of each in descending order was as follows For exemplary parishes Social outreach and charitable work in the local community Social life and fellowship ministries and programs including various associations small groups brotherhoods and sisterhoods within the parish community parish s various social events etc Taking care of parish needs programs and ministries including fundraisers running kitchen and bookstores beautification of church buildings maintenance of church grounds etc Youth programs and ministries Religious outreach work with inquirers about Faith and catechumens mission trips Orthodox mass media education about Orthodox faith for the outside non Orthodox community etc 78
studies,  household  work  projects,  and  participation  in  the  liturgical  and  community  life  of  our  parish,  as ...
The sixth category Ethnic programs and events ethnic festivals dancing competition language programs ethnic association and groups within the parish communities etc was not present at all in the replies from the exemplary parishes For normal parishes the frequency of mentioning of various types of ministries was somewhat different Social life and fellowship ministries and programs including various associations small groups brotherhoods and sisterhoods within the parish community parish s various social events etc Social outreach and charitable work in the local community Youth programs and ministries Ethnic programs and events ethnic festivals dancing competitions language programs ethnic association and groups within the parish communities etc Taking care of parish needs programs and ministries including fundraisers running kitchen and bookstores beautification of church building maintenance of church grounds etc Religious outreach work with inquirers about Faith and catechumens mission trips Orthodox mass media education about Orthodox faith for the outside non Orthodox community etc Even a cursory glance on these two sequences reveals a few observations worth noting First the outward oriented social outreach and charitable work in the local community ministries play greater role in the exemplary parishes whereas normal parishes focus more on their internal lives on social life and fellowship ministries and programs Second as noted already ethnic programs and events have no place in the lives of the exemplary parishes whereas a number of normal parishes mentioned them among their top three important ministries Third and somewhat surprisingly among both exemplary and normal parishes the religious outreach programs and ministries were the least frequently mentioned as part of their top three most important ministries There are however two possible explanations for this finding 79
The   sixth   category,     Ethnic   programs   and   events      ethnic   festivals,   dancing   competition,   language ...
First the chapter on definitions of Orthodox evangelism provided by the parish priests indicated that majority of clergy in both normal and exemplary parishes understand evangelism in the Orthodox Church as mostly passive evangelism i e the emphasis is on come and see approach or on witnessing by setting a personal or parish community example of the genuine Christian life Following this understanding the uplifting and engaging liturgical services strong and continuing faith formation of church members which results in their desire to witness personally and collective witness of the parish community through the social outreach and involvement into local community are more important for the Orthodox evangelism than more proactive religious outreach Second it is also likely that many more exemplary than normal parishes developed and employ successfully various religious outreach ministries However the answers of the respondents were limited to selection of only three top most important ministries and programs That is religious outreach could have been ranked as 4 or 5 in importance but the respondents were not given such opportunity The final question in this chapter is about what exemplary and normal parishes see as the most fundamental areas of their strengths The questionnaire asked If you were asked to name one particular area of your parish life where your parish can set an example for other Orthodox parishes what would that be Clearly while a parish may excel in several various areas of church life this question forced the respondents to pick and choose just the one aspect that they are most proud Nearly all answers to this questions unfolded into six categories They are listed below in order of frequency of their mentioning in the responses from combined exemplary and normal parishes Being and building a strong and loving local Christian parish community Being friendly open and welcoming community that attracts visitors and inquirers about the Faith High quality and engaging worship services and liturgical life Outreach and involvement into a local community Emphasis on including children and youth into the life of a parish Strong religious education and faith formation programs 80
First,   the   chapter   on   definitions   of   Orthodox   evangelism   provided   by   the   parish   priests   indicate...
It should be noted that there was a significant gap in frequency of mentioning of the top three categories versus the last three categories In simple words a significant number of parishes participating in the study are especially proud of themselves because of Being and building a strong and loving local Christian parish community Being friendly open and welcoming community that attracts visitors and inquirers about the Faith High quality and engaging worship services and liturgical life At the same time significantly fewer parish communities believe that they can set an example for other parishes in the areas of Outreach and involvement into a local community Emphasis on including children and youth into the life of a parish Strong religious education and faith formation programs Below we offer a few the most interesting examples of answers to the question If you were asked to name one particular area of your parish life where your parish can set an example for other Orthodox parishes what would that be in each category Being and building a strong and loving local Christian parish community Realizing that we all have weaknesses instead of provoking each other s weaknesses we help each other deal with them We pray for each other We excel at maintaining love between our members We are good at bringing together teams of people with the proper gifts to identify a problem or opportunity and take action We pay a lot of attention to and are really good at getting everyone involved We have programs for people from babies to those at the end of their life It is important at our church that everyone feel like family and that they have a home at Saint Anthony Church We are good at blending the immigrants the old timers and new converts Everyone gets along and respects each other 81
It  should  be  noted  that  there  was  a  significant  gap  in  frequency  of  mentioning  of  the  top  three  categori...
Being friendly open and welcoming community that attracts visitors and inquirers about the Faith Hospitality openness and a welcoming atmosphere Not a lot of attention is paid to this but the whole community is effective at welcoming guests We are really good at welcoming guests Many of our people were once guests in not very pleasant settings so they go out of their way to be kind to our guests We are a very open and inviting community We accept kids with joy Visitors often remark at how easy it is to participate in our community High quality and engaging worship services and Liturgical life We have significant number of people who have learned the services so that we have Matins and Vespers every weekday Liturgical participation of everyone Sunday Worship of the parish family is intimate and spiritually uplifting We have non Orthodox to come and just worship with us because they feel at peace We spend a lot of time on worship services making sure we have a plethora of services to choose from We started a Saint Anastasia Paraklesis once per month to pray for those who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health she is the patron Liturgical life and choir participation at every service leading the congregation in singing the responses Outreach and involvement into a local community Having a goal of tithing ten percent of our budget to the poor Unfortunately we haven t met this goal very often and we wind up patching the driveway or replacing the air conditioning Serving the people of the local community without any strings attached We pay a lot of attention and we are really good at connecting people to the Church Our mission is extremely welcoming and loving 82
   Being  friendly,  open  and  welcoming  community  that  attracts  visitors  and  inquirers  about  the  Faith         ...
Emphasis on including children and youth into the life of a parish Children We encourage families with young kids to sit up front during Liturgy so kids can see what s going on We encourage boys to be altar boys and can have as many as 20 altar boys each Liturgy The little kids come and hold the hand of the priest during the Prayer behind the Amvon We have two distinct Sunday Schools each Sunday The main one after the English Liturgy has approximately 110 kids and a second SS was added a few years ago for our bilingual immigrant kids and approximately 20 attend that session Equipping our parents and educating them to be the 24 hour 7 day a week catechists evangelists and youth leaders of their own children Our expectation is that our children will convert to the Orthodox Faith and make it their own before they leave their homes and go out on their own to college or young adulthood Offering strong religious education and faith formation programs Adult Education we try to come up with many creative ideas each year we try to be creative with our offerings In short we make an effort to ensure that people understand what it means to be Orthodox We pay a lot of attention to faith and science All what was said so far about the question If you were asked to name one particular area of your parish life where your parish can set an example for other Orthodox parishes what would that be reflected the responses that came both from the exemplary and normal parishes When we looked at the answers from these two groups separately three telling differences emerged Significantly more exemplary than normal parishes reported that they could be an example for other parishes because of high quality and engaging worship services and liturgical life Similarly significantly more exemplary than normal parishes reported that they could be an example for other parishes in the area of outreach and involvement into a local community Differently significantly more normal than exemplary parishes wrote that their most fundamental area of strength is being and building a strong and loving local Christian parish community 83
Emphasis  on  including  children  and  youth  into  the  life  of  a  parish            Children   We  encourage  familie...
Do these differences imply that the exemplary parishes are not good at being and building a strong and loving local Christian parish community Or do these differences indicate that the normal parishes do not have high quality and engaging worship services and liturgical life The answer is of course no because this question in the survey forced the respondents to choose just one area in the lives of their parishes which they are most proud of At the same time these differences reflect two different sets of major strengths that distinguish the exemplary and normal parishes The strengths that are most uniquely expressed in the lives of the exemplary parishes are high quality and engaging liturgical life combined with the willingness and ability to go out and be involved in the local community In the case of the normal parishes their major strengths are more often related to building strong social relations within the parish community IX The Secrets of Being a Parish that Attracts and Welcomes New Members Eight Good Practices of Welcoming First Time Visitors and Inquirers about the Faith HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS Three out of ten normal parishes do NOT view themselves as a truly loving Christian community In contrast all exemplary parishes affirmed that they are truly loving Christian communities Only few 14 of the normal parishes think of themselves as truly loving Christian communities because their members care for one another and provide practical help to each other in times of needs Differently a significant number 41 of exemplary parishes reported that caring for one another and providing practical help to each other in times of needs by the parish members is primary reason why a parish sees itself as a truly loving Christian community That is not simply maintaining an overall welcoming atmosphere but fostering mutual support and care among all church members is a benchmark of exemplary versus normal parishes Strong emphasis on welcoming inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors is another benchmark of the exemplary versus normal parishes Only a minority of the normal parishes replied definitely yes to the question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors In contrast three 84
Do  these   differences   imply  that  the    exemplary    parishes   are   not   good   at    being   and   building   a ...
quarters 75 of the exemplary parishes are fully convinced that the inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors would feel very welcomed if they come to this parish Compared to the cradle Orthodox church members the parishioners who are converts to Orthodoxy tend to be especially welcoming to first time visitors and pay more attention to the inquirers about the Orthodox Faith Eight good practices and techniques of welcoming to an Orthodox parish were identified from the personal stories of the parishes about how they meet and greet their first time visitors and inquirers about Orthodoxy These eight practices are described in this chapter and accompanied by the actual quotations from the parishes There is not much difference in how exemplary and normal parishes address the issue of the search for new members Relatively few parishes in both groups place strong emphasis on active going out and bringing in new members Many more parishes believe in winning new members by simply witnessing the Orthodox Faith through the lives of their parish communities and by focusing on welcoming visitors and newcomers to the parishes Only a handful of parishes pay attention to and were able to develop a good synergy of two active search and passive welcoming approaches to acquiring new church members DISCUSSION One of the qualities inherent in the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts is the togetherness of a parish community i e the sense that everyone is on board and has shared vision for parish s mission and goals Indeed we found previously that the exemplary parishes have a much higher degree of members involvement in all aspects of parish life than the normal parishes We saw also that unlike the normal parishes in the exemplary parishes the evangelization and outreach efforts are more often perceived not as programs and activities but as the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself Further it was also noted that when it comes to continuing faith formation many exemplary parishes set the double goal of a involving everyone into continuing learning about the Orthodox Faith and at the same time b encouraging as many as possible parishioners to become religious educators and teachers themselves 85
quarters   75    of  the    exemplary    parishes  are  fully  convinced  that  the  inquirers  about  the  Faith   and  f...
Chapter V discussed several strategies that the exemplary parishes intentionally use in order to achieve broad participation of all members in the various areas of church life However regardless of various techniques that the parishes may employ to increase involvement of their members it would be hardly possible to achieve this sense of togetherness among parishioners without being a loving Christian community the community where all members feel at home and part of a large extended family This chapter will examine two related questions What does it mean for a parish to be a truly loving Christian community What does it take to be a parish that welcomes newcomers first time visitors and inquirers about the Orthodox Faith In addition we will also discuss a question of whether it is important for a parish to actively search for new members The survey asked Would you say that your parish can be called a truly loving Christian community If yes why Can you give some examples from the real life Despite variety in the individual responses nearly all answers from the parishes fit into four major categories In the first category were replies essentially saying that this parish is not or not always a loving Christian community For instance This is an area we need to work on Some parishioners are very welcoming Others not at all to the point that they ask guests to move from their pew Not yet there is work to be done even though they can welcome people in often the community falls short because we are not focusing on the community we are growing in Christ but how to benefit myself Yes and no We are good at welcoming newcomers but tend to ignore them after a few months when they become familiar faces Parishioners claim close ethnic ties but rarely reach out to people outside their own families when a need arise especially if the person is relatively new We have a long way to go We are essentially a Sunday only Eucharistic community of mostly barely evangelized folks that are not quite sure why they re there 86
Chapter   V   discussed   several     strategies     that   the     exemplary     parishes   intentionally   use   in   or...
The second group of responses was formed by the answers simply saying yes i e reaffirming that this parish is indeed a loving Christian community but without any further explanation or examples why this parish could be seen as a truly loving community The third category consisted of answers indicating that this parish is a truly loving Christian community because of its emphasis on welcoming and hospitality Here are some examples We welcome and love everyone who comes into the church When I converted to Orthodoxy I experienced the exact opposite since I was not Greek Today I still have families who come to our parish at the suggestion of other ethnic churches because I am willing to catechize anyone This is a sad reflection on Orthodoxy We have a strong welcoming committee for all entering the church The welcome committee makes it a point to introduce all visitors to the priest and or member of the advisory council We pray for non Orthodox members of parishioner families Do it and let them know you ve done it We never ask a child to be quiet during the liturgy or homily Yes Inquirers and newcomers say we are a very kind and inviting parish As the priest I never have to worry if someone has been greeted or invited to stay and fellowship People mention it all the time when they visit They feel wanted welcomed and loved You can t fake that We have both a Missions and Evangelism Ministry and a Welcome Ministry focused on systematically welcoming visitors to our parish and helping them through the services connecting them with other parishioners and the clergy and respectfully making them feel invited to participate at some level There is real warmth and effort made in the efforts made by our greeters People in Hospitality sacrifice a lot of effort to provide a coffee hour that is engaging The real experience of the loving community is in the Holy Liturgy 87
The  second  group  of  responses  was  formed  by  the  answers  simply  saying    yes     i.e.  reaffirming  that  this ...
Finally the answers in the fourth category focused on the fact that this parish is a truly loving community because its members care for one another and offer practical help to each other when needed For example I would say that we are perceived as a loving parish both by members and by those who have come to know us 1 Women in our parish regularly prepare and deliver meals to new mothers and their families to those who are recovering from long term illness etc 2 People take time to visit those whom we haven t seen for a time letting them know that they are missed and we care for them 3 I have on occasion made visits to people who are not Orthodox but who have been mentioned to me as someone in need 4 We established a St Nicholas Fund a few years ago It is rather like a discretionary fund from which we provide money to those who have needs that aren t easily met Along with my discretionary fund we use this reserve to help people with everything from paying bills to buying medicine We have several people struggling with addiction mental illness people who are shut ins Everyone does their best to help to visit to call to cook to offer rides to visit to pray for them YES The popularity of our Parish charities program financially helping parishioners that experience hardships has proven to be a cornerstone of our community We announce when people are hospitalized or request prayer The outpouring of cards expressing support is incredible Yes People know each other and are helping each other in different ways We help those who are in need for a moment or for the long run Our people give to those that are in need help others move bring food to the sick and suffering invite each other over to eat stay attentive to members that are struggling and reach out to them welcome everyone lead others to Christ I am blessed to be their priest 88
Finally,   the   answers   in   the   fourth   category   focused   on   the   fact   that   this   parish   is   a     tr...
Fig 12 shows the percentage of exemplary and normal parishes providing the answers that fit into one of these four categories Fig 12 Would you say that your parish can be called a truly loving Christian community If yes why Can you give some examples from the real life Percentage of parishes providing answers that fit in four broad categories No or Not always 100 25 Yes but no explanation why 80 60 Yes because of parish s emphasis on welcoming and hospitality 29 40 26 20 Yes because parishioners care for one another and provide practical help to each h h d d 34 41 14 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Fig 12 shows clearly two major differences between exemplary and normal parishes when it comes to the question of being a truly loving Christian community First three out of ten normal parishes do NOT view themselves as a truly loving Christian community Differently without exception all exemplary parishes affirmed that they are indeed truly loving Christian communities The second significant difference is that only few 14 of the normal parishes describe themselves as truly loving Christian communities because their members care for one another and provide practical help to each other in times of needs Differently as many as 41 of exemplary parishes reported that caring for one another and providing practical help to each other in times of needs by the parish members is primary reason why a parish sees itself as a truly loving Christian community In a nutshell fostering mutual support and care among all church members not simply maintaining an overall welcoming atmosphere could be seen as a benchmark of exemplary versus normal parishes 89
Fig.  12  shows   the  percentage  of    exemplary    and    normal    parishes   providing   the  answers   that  fit  in...
In order to better examine the issue of welcoming and hospitality of US Orthodox parishes the survey followed with the question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors See Fig 13 Fig 13 Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors Rather No 5 100 25 18 80 Not sure 33 60 Rather Yes 40 75 44 20 Definitely Yes 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes The single most important observation from Fig 13 is simple Nearly one quarter 23 of the normal parishes do not view themselves as being welcoming places for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors And less than half 44 of the normal parishes have no doubt that they are indeed very welcoming places and replied definitely yes to the question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors In contrast three quarters 75 of the exemplary parishes are fully convinced that the inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors would feel very welcomed if they come to this parish Hence strong emphasis on the welcoming inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors is another benchmark of the exemplary versus normal parishes The question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors also gave respondents the possibility to offer any additional comments Relatively few of them used this option However a number of replies indicated the same idea namely that the parishioners who are converts to Orthodoxy tend to be especially welcoming and pay particular 90
In  order  to  better  examine  the  issue  of  welcoming  and  hospitality  of  US  Orthodox  parishes,  the  survey   fo...
attention to the inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors because of their personal memories of walking first time into an Orthodox parish Here are two responses exemplifying this A significant percentage of our community are converts including the priest and they are extremely happy to see people working their way towards Orthodoxy Most of my people were there at some point They are very sympathetic to this with visitors The fact that parishioners who are converts to Orthodox Church are especially keen on welcoming inquirers about the Orthodox Faith and first time visitors was confirmed when we compared the parishes with different presence of converts among their members with responses from the same parishes to the question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors Fig 14 on the next page shows nearly all 92 parishes where the converts to Orthodoxy constitute majority of parishioners fully agreed that they are very welcoming places for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors To compare less than half 46 of the parishes where converts are in minority among church members replied definitely yes to the question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors 91
attention  to  the  inquirers   about  the   Faith   and   first   time  visitors,   because   of  their   personal   memo...
Fig 14 Presence of Converts among Parishioners and Responses of the Parishes to the Question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors of responses to the question Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors Definitely Yes 100 Rather Yes 8 15 Not sure Rather No 5 12 15 80 37 60 92 40 70 46 20 0 Converts are majority 60 100 About half 40 60 are converts Converts are minority 0 40 Presence of converts to Orthodoxy among parishioners The important practical question is how exactly the parishes meet and greet their first time visitors and inquirers about Orthodox Faith Do they use certain established procedures and protocols What can be learned about the best practices employed by the parishes with the goal to welcome their visitors and inquirers about the Orthodox Faith The questionnaire asked Do you have a designated group of people and an established process that assures that inquirers about the Orthodox Faith and first time visitors feel welcomed in your parish Please describe The analysis of responses from the parishes identified eight good practices of welcoming to an Orthodox parish Below we provide an overview of these eight welcoming practices developed by the parishes For each good welcoming practice listed below we also offer actual quotes from the parishes exemplifying this practice 92
Fig. 14 Presence of Converts among Parishioners and Responses of the Parishes to the Question  Would you say that your par...
First practice Make a point and a policy to not miss a single soul visiting the parish for the first time Every single person no exception coming into the parish receives a personal greeting simply a greeting This is done without pressure and with gratitude for their presence And always with a personal invitation to return and or inquire Second practice Have a designated and trained group of parishioners whose ministry is to greet and welcome visitors Our greeters are trained to be warm welcoming introducing newcomers to others inviting them to coffee hour Many folks have joined the parish specifically as a result of their first encounter at the door We have a vibrant ushering committee that welcomes everyone who walks into the church with smile And we follow up announcing their names walking them to Coffee Hour We have people who when spotting a new face would approach an individual and welcome him to the temple as well as invite them over for a social hour after church worship There are five or ten parishioners who keep an eye out and personally greet visitors I in turn personally greet them at our coffee hour or if they had to leave early write a little note Third practice Simply greeting visitors is not enough welcoming is a comprehensive process It includes providing visitors with information about the parish introducing them to other parishioners inviting to Coffee hour and fellowship after worship etc Our welcoming is comprehensive from guest cards bread follow up after visitation web resources etc The Greeters ministry is a formal part of our Outreach Evangelization service group They are trained assigned and identified name tag to provide a warm welcome to all basic information encourage participation answer questions etc I specifically ask greeters to introduce me to guests If they are new to Orthodoxy we invite them to informal inquirer discussion and introduce them to people with whom they may have something in common work family location etc 93
First  practice.  Make  a  point  and  a  policy  to  not  miss  a  single  soul  visiting  the  parish  for  the  first  ...
Fourth practice Have someone who is available and prepared to explain Orthodox worship process to visitors It is especially important for people who first time walked right into Orthodox liturgy Similarly have some basic educational materials about Orthodox Church readily available for non Orthodox visitors There are people designated to assist visitors in following the liturgy We have greeters who are supported by a liturgy buddy who is ready to help guide newcomers through the worship service if needed I have improved the parish s basic educational materials supply I had the parish order a variety of Ancient Faith tracts that help answer visitors questions while also providing a simple way for the faithful to learn relearn the basics of the Faith for themselves and also to better engage visitors We do have a group of young theologians led by Father Deacon X that is in charge with welcoming first time visitors Fifth practice Regardless of having designated group of greeters the entire parish community should be attuned to welcoming anyone who is new to the parish All of the parishioners are attuned to and respond reflexively to new people who come to our Church We have taught our people to be very welcoming to guests Everyone in the parish makes a point to welcome any visitors at some point The Welcoming Committee the Parish Council members on duty members of the Missions and Evangelism Committee rank and file parishioners our Deacon the Bookstore Staff are all frontline servants focused on the task of welcoming greeting and connecting with visitors inquirers and new faces 94 We have ushers but in general everyone is on board with welcoming guests and inquirers
Fourth  practice.  Have  someone  who  is  available  and  prepared  to  explain  Orthodox  worship  process  to   visitor...
Sixth practice Make the visitors to meet parishioners first break the ice and then introduce them to the priest We have greeters to welcome anyone new and to make them feel welcome This helps them to connect with the priest for follow up welcome and also encourage those who interested in learning more to ask questions and talk more with the pastor The priests of course also participate in welcoming but usually not until these people visitors have already been warmly embraced by the parishioners Seventh practice Always think out of the box what else however small a parish can do to make first time visitors feel welcomed and comfortable Every person that visits receives a Thanks for Visiting Basket that contains some liturgical information a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread a beeswax candle and other small items It is hand delivered to them Each year we sponsor a reception for parish s new stewards at the Pastor s home We dedicate 3 parking spaces near the entrance for visitors We have a junior greeter too i e the greeter for young people Newly received folks new members always have an eye out for newcomers use them as greeters As the rector I make it point to stand outside and greet everyone as they enter church each Sunday Eights practice Remember that there is always something missing something that should be improved in parish s welcoming practices We need to have a more consistent personal follow up such as inviting them into our home for a meal We need to get better For example visitors arrive on time but parish council members ushers and most worshipers arrive late Even if a parish community follows the above good practices of parish hospitality it does not mean that this parish is active in bringing new members into church community Indeed simply welcoming 95
Sixth  practice.  Make  the  visitors  to  meet  parishioners  first,    break  the  ice,    and  then  introduce  them  t...
those who already somehow found their way to a parish and engaging in the active search for new parishioners are two different things What is the position of US Orthodox parishes with regard to the question of recruiting new church members Is there any significant difference in this regard between the exemplary and normal parishes It should be noted that the issue of retaining current and having steady influx of new members is important for all religious congregations even those that are not particularly concerned with the goal of church growth The data from the 2015 national study of US Orthodox Churches 26 suggest that many US Orthodox parishes face decline in number of actively involved parishioners One of this study s findings revealed that between 2010 and 2015 the median attendance in a typical average American Orthodox parish i e for all US Orthodox Churches combined at weekend services dropped from 90 to 75 persons In simple terms in 2010 half of US Orthodox parishes had more than 90 persons in attendance on a typical weekend and half of them had less than that In 2015 this figure decreased to 75 Among three major American Orthodox jurisdictions between 2010 and 2015 the median weekend attendance in the GOA parishes declined from 177 to 150 and it dropped from 85 to 75 in the case of Antiochian parishes Only OCA churches showed a slight increase in the median weekend worship attendance from 65 to 70 This decline in church attendance means that from 2010 2015 a number of Orthodox Christians either abandoned their churches altogether or at the best they became more passive and disengaged in the lives of their parishes i e they stopped attending worship services on a regular basis 26 The 2015 study Orthodox Christian Churches in the 21st Century America was part of a much larger US national inter Christian and interfaith study of American religious congregations titled Faith Communities Today FACT The 2015 FACT national survey and study was undertaken by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership CCSP which is an interfaith coalition of religious researchers representing broad spectrum of American faith communities Originally the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas SCOBA and currently the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America has been and remains one of the partners in CCSP cooperative project The study Orthodox Christian Churches in the 21st Century America was conducted via online survey of the local parishes In each parish the questionnaire was completed by one key informant typically a parish priest 580 parishes or 30 of all US Orthodox parishes participated in the Orthodox Parish Life Study 96
those   who   already   somehow   found   their   way   to   a   parish   and   engaging   in   the   active   search   fo...
Despite this decline in actively involved parishioners the data indicate that the vast majority of US Orthodox parishes are rather passive when it comes to reaching out to potential new members In the same 2015 national survey of American Orthodox churches when asked Overall to what extent are your parishioners involved in bringing new members into this parish less than one in five of US Orthodox parishes 18 reported Quite a bit A lot whereas nearly half 47 admitted Not at all A little See Tab 4 Tab 4 Overall to what extent are your parishioners involved in bringing new members into this parish 2015 national survey based on responses from 580 US Orthodox parishes Not at all A little Some Quite a bit A lot 47 32 51 43 35 50 33 35 18 18 16 22 All US Orthodox parishes Antiochian parishes GOA parishes OCA parishes Why do the vast majority of American Orthodox churches NOT engage in an active search for new members Is this a conscious position or simply the lack of knowledge experience of how to do this In order to shed light on this question the survey asked Some people believe that it is important for a parish to actively look for new members while some think that it is sufficient to simply be a welcoming community that accepts and integrates people who somehow found their way to the parish What is your opinion on this question If you believe that it is important to actively search for new members how do you do this in your church All seventy five parishes participating in our study responded no single parish priest skipped this question The answers provided by the parishes revealed a number of truly insightful findings Perhaps the most important and somewhat surprising was the fact that only relatively small number slightly more than quarter of both exemplary and normal parishes adhere to the position that a parish should place an emphasis on an active search for new members And out of those parishes that affirm this proactive position in theory only few were able to make it a reality whereas the other supported it in principle 97
Despite   this   decline   in   actively   involved   parishioners,   the   data   indicate   that   the   vast   majority...
but for various reasons did not pursue in practice Among the latter group of parishes the ones that support in theory but do not pursue in practice the typical responses were I believe it is important to be searching for new members However we do not do enough Parishioners should be more pro active Active searching is a good thing it has to become a regular part of a parish s activity I m no expert so until unless we have a core group who will work with me on brainstorming and initiating activities I haven t any quick answers I believe we should actively seek out new members We have not done a great job in this area Thus far we are more of a welcoming community for those who come It is critical to seek and speak to new people and socially network feed new members Building friendships and connections are critical But I wish we could better develop the concept and implementation Still have not come up with anything Very few about 10 again among both exemplary and normal parishes were not only willing but able to integrate the active search for the new members into the parish s day to day life Here are examples of replies from such parishes Our Lord commanded us Go and make disciples He did not say wait and welcome visitors The command is Go That said we mostly do the latter I am struggling to develop ways to preach publicly teach publicly This includes newspaper articles etc I have also begun done it three times to invite a group of 20 or so Protestant pastors to retreat lunches on topics of my choosing 3 successes so far We are constantly looking for Orthodox Romanians that don t go to church trying to motivate them and to make them active in the community Passively waiting for growth has not worked for us We are attempting to use deliberate plans for growth It is too early to know if this will work or not We have to actively seek out people Even if the doors are wide open we must seek out and invite people to the church and follow up with them to show we care 98
but       for  various  reasons       did  not  pursue  in  practice.  Among  the  latter  group  of  parishes   the  ones...
A significant number about 40 of both exemplary and normal parishes affirmed that being a welcoming and loving Christian community is sufficient and there is no need to actively search for new members Here is what many respondents from both exemplary and normal parishes wrote I think if we just be the church those looking for truth will find us Of course we can be more visible to help them but if we are generally living a Christian life and striving for holiness people will be organically drawn to it We have found a trickle of folks that come to us through the Jesus prayer group and have yet to find a meaningful way to find more My bias is toward equipping the faithful to be the missionaries but that simply doesn t seem to work very well in Orthodoxy hence we do spend time periodically reflecting together on the state of our hospitality The Church should be present open and welcoming but should not beat the bushes looking for converts or new members This tends to look like desperation and in the case of transfers sheep stealing Actively preaching and living the Gospel is one thing seeking out proselytes is something else entirely We need to do both but mainly to make the parish a welcoming place We can actively seek hundreds of new parishioners but if the parish is not a welcoming and truly Orthodox place then we will either lose or they will get a wrong impression of the church if they do stay Our focus has been on being a welcoming community We have advertised and held inquirers classes but it has been the one on one approach that has been the most successful All the growth that we experienced was not because of programs or projects All the people who came came because they were looking for the Orthodox Church They primarily found us through the internet Internet presence is HUGE Actively search for new members No we do not We pray that God s will be done We have a weekly and sometimes 2 3 times week Stewardship Moleben When we began to pray about three years ago the people came and they continue to come Prayer leads people to search and church If you do not pray you can spend all of the money you want develop all of the programs you d like and no one will come Prayer changes the people in the parish and the Holy Spirit will do the rest We must learn to stay out of the way of the Holy Spirit We are at maximum capacity solely because of prayer Growth must be grounded in prayer 99
A   significant   number    about   40     of   both     exemplary     and     normal     parishes   affirmed   that   bei...
In the 27 years of existence St X has done nothing more that open the doors and minister to whoever God places at our step We have never had any type of recruitment drives etc In addition to the clergy who more or less clearly identified their positions either by favoring the active search for new members or by adhering to the stance that simply welcoming and offering hospitality is sufficient there were also some priests who simply offered their individual recipes on what are the best ways to bring new members into a parish Remarkably most of these recipes were either about witnessing the Orthodox Faith via involvement into local community or by encouraging parishioners to bring to the church their non Orthodox friends Here are some examples of responses in this category While we ve tried all of the usual methods I ve found the sociological data support and I ve emphasized to our parishioners that the most effect method of Church growth is for parishioners to invite their family and friends to come to Church with them And this has been the most effective way Most of my new members come out those people whom I meet when I visit my parishioners Developing an invite them to church mindset among parishioners is extremely important It needs to be part of the parish DNA Our primary way of looking for new members is to encourage existing members to bring their family and friends We are trying to be plugged into the local community We are trying to approach people in a non churchy way To care about them without stings attached Not a sales job Getting a volunteer team to work for Habitat or some similar group may be one way Volunteer at hospitals nursing homes etc This is a small community set in its ways We rely on interpersonal relationships with our neighbors as the means to evangelize For instance much of my evangelism is working on boats with fishermen and deck crews In conclusion There is not much difference in how exemplary and normal parishes address the issue of the search for new members Relatively few parishes in both groups place strong emphasis on active going out and bringing in new members Many more parishes take different approach they believe in winning new members by witnessing the Orthodox Faith through the lives of their parish communities and by focusing on welcoming the visitors and newcomers to the parishes This Orthodox more 100
       In  the  27  years  of  existence,  St    X    has  done  nothing  more  that  open  the  doors  and  minister  to ...
passive way of acquiring new adherents and winning new members for the Church is very consistent with what was found in the chapter that discussed personal definitions of the term Orthodox evangelism provided by the clergy participating in our study Clearly it is beyond the scope of this study to judge the preference of some minority parishes for an active search for the new members or to the contrary the adherence of the majority of parishes to the witnessing the Faith within their parish communities and welcoming new prospective members What was disheartening though was the fact that only a handful of parishes pay attention to and were able to develop a good synergy of two active search and passive welcoming approaches Below we provide three quotes from the parishes that appeared to be able to integrate both approaches into the lives of their communities one response came from the exemplary and two from the normal parishes I think there s a healthy balance that can be struck In general I believe in the growth the attraction model Become a Christ like community and people will gravitate to it Still there are many who may not know that they are welcome to come and join us to that end my parish has offered ads for adult ed in the paper offered tours during our festivals and some parishioners have boldly proclaimed their Orthodoxy to their friends family But that active seeking has always been a natural outgrowth of our parish s faith When they were at a point to receive people warmly in Christ they started asking about getting our name out there Just yesterday a parishioner said we can t hold on to this light selfishly I feel like we need to share it Knocking on doors was ruined by the Jehovah Witnesses as Fr Peter Gilquist of blessed memory joked However active looking for members should involve 1 Inviting others to services 2 Interacting with the greater community para church ministries and religious communities as the parish cares for those in need 3 Participation in campus events with local OCF The above items along with the ability and willingness to discuss the Faith are outstanding ways to engage others We do not necessarily have to look for new members but our living the Christian life personally and as a community places us in the position for those encounters to occur I strongly disagree with the notion that just being a welcoming community that accepts and integrates people who somehow found their way to the parish is sufficient That being said parishes need to take their websites seriously as that is oftentimes the first encounter a potential 101
passive    way  of  acquiring  new  adherents  and  winning  new  members  for  the  Church  is  very  consistent   with  ...
visitor has with a parish X parish does not have a website further contributing to the challenges the parish faces I think it is important to do both I have already addressed this answer in a previous question Suffice it to say that we as Orthodox Christians need to have the same burning love in our hearts for every human being that Jesus Christ has in His heart He first emptied Himself and then He gave up His life for the salvation of each human being He then sent out His disciples to the end of the known earth We should be actively rather than passively doing the same X The Question of Visibility of American Orthodox Churches in Their Local Communities By creating religious congregations in cities and on the frontier Americans embodied the cultural and religious values they cherished in ongoing institutions structures that gave those values and traditions a place to thrive As communities grew and become more complex social welfare and other functions were often moved from the religious congregations to associations of laborers and co ethnics and lodge brothers Still congregations did not disappear for lack of anything to do As some of their functions were taken up by and shared with others they continued to carve out a space for themselves in the lives of persons and neighborhoods Nancy Tatom Ammerman Congregation and Community 27 HIGHLIGHTS FINDINGS The vast majority 61 of parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts have made considerable effort to make themselves better known in their local communities in comparison with only about one quarter in the case of normal parishes Answering the question If you made a conscious effort to make your parish better known in the local community what were the most important strategies and tools that you employed the exemplary and normal parishes were remarkably different in one particular area Participation in the local community events Nearly half 47 of the exemplary parishes participate regularly in various events in their local communities with the goal to make themselves better known in comparison with only 27 in the case of the normal parishes 27 Ammerman Nancy Tatom 1999 Congregation and Community Rutgers University Press New Brunswick p 1 102
visitor  has  with  a  parish.    X    parish  does  not  have  a  website  further  contributing  to  the  challenges   t...
61 of exemplary parishes self evaluated themselves as being well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhoods compared to only 40 among the normal parishes When the parishes were asked If your parish is well known in the local community why or for what reason most of their answers fit into five broad categories Because of the efforts to be a good neighbor through the broad participation in the local community Because of very distinct religious Orthodox identity and or appearance of church building Because of ethnic culture food festivals fundraisers Because of some charities or enterprises coffee shop book store concerts run by a parish Because parish was present in community and neighborhood for a long time An absolute majority of the normal parishes 55 think that they are known in their local communities primarily because of their ethnic culture and events food sales festivals fundraising events etc Differently the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts typically think that the main reason for being well known is their broad religious and non religious participation in the local communities and consistent effort to be a good neighbor DISCUSSION James Luther Adams wrote that voluntary religious institutions and Orthodox churches fit this category function as a creative principle by making way for free interaction and innovation in the spirit of community 28 It is be feasible to assume that the parishes with a strong emphasis on evangelization and social outreach would actively interact with and build multiple connections in their local communities with the local educational institutions charities other faith communities various non for profits mass media government agencies etc But the opposite relation is also true if a parish is well known and visible in its community this helps to promote this parish s evangelization and outreach programs and ministries In short the parishes that strive to be truly outreach oriented should pay great attention to being well known in their communities 28 Adams James Luther 1986 The Voluntary Principle in the Forming of American Religion Pp 171 200 in Voluntary Associations Socio Cultural Analyses and Theological Interpretation ed J Ronald Engel Chicago Exploration 103
    61    of     exemplary     parishes   self   evaluated   themselves   as   being     well   known   in   the   local  ...
Not surprisingly answering the question Have you made a conscious effort to make your parish better known in the local community the vast majority 61 of exemplary parishes replied yes considerable effort Differently only about one quarter of normal parishes have made considerable effort to make the parish better known in the local community See Fig 15 Fig 15 Efforts to Make a Parish Better Known in its Local Community Have you made a conscious effort to make your parish better known in the local community Yes considerable effort 0 20 40 No or little effort 60 61 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Some effort 27 80 34 62 100 5 11 The survey followed with the question about how exactly the parishes are trying to increase their visibility in the local community If you made a conscious effort to make your parish better known in the local community what were the most important strategies and tools that you employed The parishes were offered the list of six strategies and asked to indicate which of those strategies they have employed Active usage of various social media Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest etc Frequent appearances in the local news media television radio community bulletin boards Parish festivals Participation in the local events farmer s markets walks for charities etc Providing social services for local community soup kitchen homeless shelter offering parish facilities for usage to other groups Engaging in social justice work in the community 104
Not  surprisingly,  answering  the  question    Have  you  made  a  conscious  effort  to  make  your  parish  better   kn...
Fig 16 gives a good idea of what exemplary and normal parishes do and what they don t do in order to become better known in their local communities Fig 5 Strategies Used by the Exemplary and Normal Parishes with the Goal to Make a Parish Better Known in the Local Community Percentage of the parishes that employ each of the strategies Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 63 Providing social services to local community 51 55 Active usage of various social media Participation in local events 62 47 27 47 Parish festivals 54 Engaging in social justice work in the local community Frequent appearances in the local news media 29 22 26 27 Fig 16 shows that in many ways the exemplary and normal parishes are similar in their preferences for certain strategies which help them to promote themselves in their local communities In both groups Providing social services to local community and Active usage of various social media play a significant role in making the parishes more visible in their communities Similarly only a small 105
Fig.   16   gives   a   good   idea   of   what     exemplary     and     normal     parishes   do    and   what   they   ...
percentage of both exemplary and normal parishes reported that Engaging in social justice work and Frequent appearances in the local news media is what they do in order to become better known in their neighborhoods 29 At the same time Fig 16 indicates one area where exemplary parishes are significantly different from the normal parishes This area is Participation in local community events Nearly half 47 of the exemplary parishes participate regularly in various events in their local communities in comparison with only 27 in the case of the normal parishes This difference is quite important Indeed out of six strategies offered to parishes this is the only one which fully imply doing things together with the other local social actors In other words compared to normal parishes the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach work are much more prone to socialize and mingle with the other non Orthodox community members and organizations Clearly there are many more ways and possibilities that a parish can use to make itself better known in the local community Therefore the survey also asked an open ended question Are there any other strategies that are being used to make your parish better known in the local community The most important difference in the answers to this question provided by the exemplary and normal parishes was consistent with what was found previously namely that the exemplary parishes pay much greater attention to participation in a variety of community events which are not necessarily related to charitable actions or religious celebrations Indeed when answering the question Are there any other strategies that are being used to make your parish better known in the local community most of responses from the normal parishes boiled down to a either participation in local clergy s alliances or b to some sort of advertising of a parish e g announcements in local newspapers road signs parish hosting various cultural events offering tours of church building and grounds etc 29 Granted providing social services to the local community may also include some cooperation with the other religious congregations or local charities However participation in the local community events definitely means greater degree of the simply visual exposure of the parish community to its neighbors 106
percentage   of   both     exemplary     and     normal     parishes   reported   that     Engaging   in   social   justic...
Differently a significant number of exemplary parishes emphasized that they are trying to be physically present and participate together with other religious and non religious organizations in the various activities and events in their local communities Below we provide a few responses from the exemplary parishes that exemplify this tendency Presence is paramount We also participate in the County Fair We simply have a booth and are willing to engage all comers We find that social media is the least productive aspect of the above options Coffee house bookstore mobile chapel present at local festivals speaking at colleges etc Involvement in local festivals shopping and banking locally etc Active with United Mine Workers in remembrance of miners having died in mine disasters and to protect earned pensions and healthcare Special outreach events like the annual Golf outing for Charity and the Financial Peace University participating in community charity events and organizations Guest speakers for the Va Festival of the Book We re open to try almost anything within reason Not parish festivals really but neighborhood festivals that we host Hence we saw that the strong majority 61 of the exemplary parishes and some 27 normal parishes have made considerable effort to make their church one way or other better known in the local community The next question is What is the outcome of these efforts How well in reality are Orthodox parishes known in their communities and if they indeed are well known for what reason The survey asked two questions Would you say that your parish is well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhood If yes why or for what reason 107
Differently,   a   significant   number   of     exemplary     parishes   emphasized   that   they   are   trying   to   b...
Fig 17 shows that predictably the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts are better known in their local communities than the normal parishes Fig 17 Would you say that your parish is well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhood Percentage of parishes responding Yes 0 Somewhat 20 40 60 61 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Rather no 40 80 18 21 22 100 38 Indeed 61 of exemplary parishes self evaluated themselves as being well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhoods compared to only 40 among the normal parishes Given the size of our sample this difference is significant but not dramatic However what truly distinguishes the exemplary and the normal parishes are the main reasons for being well known in their local communities The question If your parish is well known in the local community why or for what reason was an open ended question That is the clergy had full freedom and unlimited space to explain and describe the reasons for which their parishes are visible and known in their communities Predictably there was great variety in the responses with many individual stories and examples Despite this diversity however most of the answers fit into one of five broad categories The first category of answers was about the fact that the parish is well known in the community simply because it was there for a long time Here are some examples The church is 112 years old and there were 20K Serbs in this town 100 years ago Left a familiarity 108 Mainly because of its prominent history in the community
Fig.  17  shows  that       predictably       the  parishes  that  are    exemplary    in  their  evangelization  and  out...
The church itself has been in the neighborhood for one hundred years it s a local landmark The parish is turning 90 this year so many people have been at some event or another The second group of responses was about some charities or enterprises coffee shop book store or events concerts run and organized by the parish Here are some examples Because of our parish offering the first nursery school in town which continues to operate We organize concerts and invite communities Soup kitchen For our coffee house that is off site from the temple and is very popular The third pattern was formed by the answers that the parish is mostly known for its ethnic culture and events ethnic food sales festivals fund raising events Here are some examples Because of the many food oriented fundraisers that provide a product that is very popular in the community Ukrainian Festival is well attended Best Holubtsi in the area Participates in the Church Open House It seems that the Romanian festival is a good starting point We had also some favorable articles about our church and community published in local newspapers We organize festival and invite the community Because of our Fall and Spring pie sales and our Greek Festival The fourth group of the answers came from the clergy who said that their parishes are especially known in their community because of a very distinct religious Orthodox Christian identity and appearance of the church building Here are some examples Because we are Orthodox and unique especially in the very local community We have a huge sign on which we put different icons of Christ with different biblical sayings or sayings of the holy fathers and mothers of the church Something motivating which would help and soothe the heart of any one who passes by For architectural purposes it was built as a jewel at the epicenter of a new Urbanist community For being in the news all the time For the priest in a cassock 109
       The  church  itself  has  been  in  the  neighborhood  for  one  hundred  years,  it  s  a  local  landmark.       ...
It is the most photographed building in town As the Cathedral it has long made its mark in sustained presence beautiful building strong worship and being the seat of the Metropolis Diocese Finally the fifth groups of answers were about the parishes that are well known in the local communities because of their conscious efforts to be a good neighbor through the broad religious and non religious participation in their local communities Here are some examples We reside in the middle of a neighborhood We engage our neighbors when the opportunity presents itself not for the purpose of evangelizing but for the purpose of being a good neighbor When a neighbor s tree falls we assist in the clean up When snow falls we do not hesitate to clean a part of their drive or sidewalk We just live our life as good Orthodox Christians Vis a vis the local community we yearly give a Pascha basket to the Police Department At the festival we give free meals to the police and fire department personnel We feed the needy We ve given over 16 000 meals to the local community in the last 3 years We work with the neighborhood watch And we maintain routine liaison with the local police department We do a lot to support the town We host Christmas tree lighting and bazaar we participate in the Memorial Day parades offer choral concerts to the town free of charge offer monthly community meal at no charge Active and diverse outreach homeless shelter work food pantry work social justice work nursing home services emergency aid to the poor after school programs free neighborhood block parties etc The outreach ministries change and evolve as circumstances suggest We make it a point to support local charities and make connections when the donation is given The Church needs to be known for what it gives out not for what it receives Most importantly the local Orthodox parish needs to integrate into its local community Shop there attend local events get involved with local neighborhood concerns This will put a real human face on us as well as establish friendships For example our clergy have volunteered to say the opening prayer at City Council meetings We were recently asked to bless their new Fire Truck and participate in a service honoring firefighters We have invited our mayor and local alderman to parish events and picnics 110
       It  is  the  most  photographed  building  in  town.             As   the   Cathedral,   it   has   long   made   i...
The answers fitting into one of the five categories came from both the exemplary and normal parishes However there was a significant difference in the percentage of answers belonging to one or the other category that were provided by the exemplary versus normal parishes Fig 18 shows that the biggest group of the answers from the exemplary parishes 40 of all responses was about being well known because of parish s conscious efforts to be a good neighbor through the broad religious and non religious participation in their local communities Very differently absolute majority of the normal parishes 55 are well known in their local communities primarily because of their ethnic culture and events ethnic food sales festivals fundraising events etc In addition to these two major differences the exemplary parishes also leave a stronger footprint than the normal parishes in their local communities because of the distinct religious Orthodox Christian identity Fig 18 Five Broad Reasons for Being Well Known in a Local Community Exemplary Parishes Versus Normal Parishes If your parish is well known in the local community why or for what reason Percentage of parishes replying Because parish was present in community and neighborhood for a long time Because of some charities or enterprises coffee shop book store concerts run by a parish Because of ethnic culture food festivals fundraisers Because of very distinct religious Orthodox identity and or appearance of church building Because of the efforts to be a good neighbor through the broad participation in the local it 7 100 17 7 80 16 60 30 7 55 40 20 40 14 7 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes 111
The   answers   fitting   into   one   of   the   five   categories   came   from   both   the     exemplary     and     n...
XI Relations and Cooperation of Exemplary and Normal Parishes with the Non Orthodox Religious Congregations HIGHLIGHTS FINDINGS More than three quarters of priests in both exemplary and normal parishes support idea of building good relations and working jointly with non Orthodox religious congregations situated in their local communities From the perspective of the Orthodox parish clergy the following are main reasons for building good relations and cooperating locally with non Orthodox Christian Churches all Christian churches should join their efforts in fighting the growing secularism in America building good relations and fellowship with non Orthodox religious groups is a good way to promote Orthodox Christianity that is to make non Orthodox Christians more aware of the Orthodox Churches and possibly to attract more inquirers about the Faith and converts the local Orthodox parishes are typically small and their resources are very limited to do much for the local community Hence partnering with the non Orthodox churches is the only way to be efficient in social ministries active participation in the local ministerial associations is personally important to many Orthodox priests because these local inter Christian alliances of clergy function as support networks for all persons who have chosen pastoral vocation There were two differences between the exemplary and normal parishes in their answers to the question If you think that it is important for an Orthodox parish to develop cooperation and fellowship with the non Orthodox congregations give us a few examples of what your parish does together with other Christian churches in theory both exemplary and normal parishes are equally supportive of cooperating with religiously other but in reality exemplary parishes are more engaged in various forms of inter Christian relations and cooperation ecumenical relations and cooperation of the normal parishes are typically limited with certain exceptions to either strictly charitable work running homeless shelters soup kitchens food drives etc or to participation of Orthodox priests in the local clergy associations Differently the exemplary parishes engage in a much greater than simply charitable work variety of joint inter Christian activities 112
XI.  Relations  and  Cooperation  of    Exemplary    and    Normal    Parishes  with  the  Non   Orthodox   Religious  Con...
DISCUSSION We saw in Chapter III The Parishes Participating in the Study that nearly two thirds of both exemplary and normal parishes are located in the communities with a high level of overall religious involvement and participation Indeed 63 of parishes described their neighborhoods as Rather or Very Religious Only 15 of the parishes are situated in the places where religion and religious institutions are not important i e in the neighborhoods that were described by the clergy as Rather secular little religious activities 30 In other words about two thirds of both exemplary and normal parishes are surrounded by and coexist with many other non Orthodox religious organizations that have significant impact on the local communities lives In this chapter we will examine how Orthodox parishes relate to the non Orthodox churches situated in the same communities More specifically we will look at three questions Are Orthodox parishes interested in building relations and working cooperatively with other non Orthodox religious congregations located in the same communities If the answer to the first question is yes how exactly Orthodox parishes cooperate with the non Orthodox churches Is there any significant difference between the exemplary and normal parishes in how they relate to and interact with the non Orthodox religious congregations situated in their communities The questionnaire asked In your opinion is it important for an Orthodox parish to work cooperatively and develop relationships with other non Orthodox religious congregations located in the same community See Fig 19 The most important conclusion is that more than three quarters of both exemplary and normal parishes are in favor of building good relations and working cooperatively with the non Orthodox churches situated in their local communities 30 The remaining 22 of the parishes evaluated their communities as Neither secular nor religious 113
DISCUSSION  We   saw   in   Chapter   III      The   Parishes   Participating   in   the   Study      that   nearly   two ...
Fig 19 Relationship of the Exemplary and Normal Parishes with the non Orthodox Religious Congregations Located in the Same Community In your opinion is it important for an Orthodox parish to work cooperatively and develop relationships with other non Orthodox religious congregations located in the same community Percentage of parishes replying 100 I would stay away from this Not sure 8 14 16 78 76 80 60 40 Desirable or Important 8 20 0 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes The priests were also given an opportunity to provide any additional comments explaining their desire or reluctance to foster relations and work jointly with non Orthodox churches There was not much difference in the comments that came from exemplary and normal parishes and most of them focused on two subjects The first subject addressed by a relatively small number of clergy was about setting clear borders as to what is permissible and what should be avoided when building relations and partnering with non Orthodox religious congregations In a nutshell most priests were open to joint work in various social ministries but were weary of the ecumenical worship services and especially joint prayers that would involve open communion or female clergy from other denominations Here are a few examples It depends on what kind of relationships we are talking about A collaboration on social charitable issues is suitable but as you well know according to the holy canons of the Orthodox Church we should refrain from praying with non Orthodox and especially with non Christians Orthodox Christians should observe the Orthodox Canon Law tradition even if this might seem politically incorrect 114
Fig. 19 Relationship of the  Exemplary  and  Normal  Parishes with the non-Orthodox Religious Congregations Located in the...
Past history with the local clergy association has put our parish in the awkward position of refusing to participate in ecumenical services that feature open communion gender neutral prayer and other innovations This is difficult outside of social ministry efforts To be frank we as Orthodox do not play well with others For example we will probably not coalesce to others liturgical ways if we host an event nor will we allow other churches to use our facilities for religious purposes It seems that quite often we cannot return the favor Therefore we limit our ecumenical gathering to simply joining the local Roman Catholics for various Right for Life events The second and much more numerous group of comments was about why it is indeed important to build good relations communicate and work jointly with non Orthodox churches The Orthodox clergy offered quite a variety of reasons for cooperating with the religiously other Some of them thought that all Christians should be united in their resistance to growing secularism in the American society As one priest wrote First of all we have to work together with the other non Orthodox Christian communities we have to be united to fight progressing secularism in our country The other clergy believed that building good relations and fellowship with non Orthodox religious groups is a good way to promote Orthodox Christianity that is to make non Orthodox Christians more aware of the Orthodox Churches and possibly to attract more inquirers about the Faith and converts Here are three comments exemplifying this approach It is perhaps the best advertising for us that there is This is how you become known and most of the converts will come from some other religious background It has the affect of countering their misrepresentation that we Orthodox are somehow not Christian Start with the Roman Catholics Their dissatisfied members are the first to become Orthodox and the RC Church doesn t seem to mind that Many see them as a threat to Orthodoxy but I don t see that at all in fact quite the reverse 115
       Past   history   with   the   local   clergy   association   has   put   our   parish   in   the   awkward   positi...
Yet another group of comments was about the fact that each Christian denomination or local congregation has something good and special to offer to others so that by sharing everyone will benefit As one clergyman reported Other ministers and their congregations can inspire us to a more faithful Christian life and we have treasures that we are called to share with them Some clergy offered a pragmatic consideration that local Orthodox parishes are typically very small and their resources are fairly limited to do much for the local community Hence partnering with non Orthodox churches is the only way to be efficient in social ministries Here is the comment reflecting this thought We are not big enough to necessarily operate on our own in a significant way Why not partner with an already existing and successful organization and help them and us to have an even more significant impact on the greater community Finally a number of priests wrote that active participation in the local ministerial associations is personally important to them because these local inter Christian alliances of clergy function as support networks for all persons who have chosen pastoral vocation I meet with the pastors each week to learn from and to fellowship with them It s been invaluable for me to call them friends and brothers The fact that the vast majority of clergy in both exemplary and normal parishes think that developing relations and working cooperatively with the non Orthodox religious congregations is desirable and important does not necessarily mean that the Orthodox parishes actually engage in such relations and joint inter Christian work Therefore the survey followed with the open ended question If you think that it is important for an Orthodox parish to develop cooperation and fellowship with the non Orthodox congregations give us a few examples of what your parish does together with other Christian churches Predictably there was great variety in answers to this question when the respondents described their local circumstances and particular forms of joint work with the non Orthodox religious groups There were however two obvious differences in responses that came from the exemplary and normal parishes 116
Yet   another   group   of   comments   was   about   the   fact   that   each   Christian   denomination   or   local   c...
First significantly fewer normal than exemplary parishes answered this question and gave specific examples of building relations and partnering with non Orthodox churches That is in theory both exemplary and normal parishes are equally supportive of cooperating with religiously other but in reality exemplary parishes are more engaged in various forms of inter Christian relations and cooperation As a clergyman from one of the normal parishes admitted Thinking that it i e inter Christian relations and cooperation is important and carrying that out is not the same thing There are no examples on the part of our parish The priest from the other normal parish echoed by saying Our parish needs to cooperate with non Orthodox communities ministries charities But we don t This is why some have the impression the parish is closed The second difference between the normal and exemplary parishes was that examples of ecumenical cooperation from the normal parishes were typically limited with certain exceptions to either strictly charitable work running homeless shelters soup kitchens food drives etc or to participation of Orthodox priests in the local clergy associations Differently the responses from exemplary parishes indicated that they engage in a much greater than simply charitable work variety of joint inter Christian activities including ecumenical worships services joint social and cultural events picnics concerts etc work in the area of social justice addressing jointly with other churches the issues of immigration criminal justice reform urban education etc working together on reducing crime and violence in the neighborhoods and much more To conclude The exemplary and normal parishes are equally supportive of the idea of building good relations and working jointly with the non Orthodox churches However when it comes to the practice the exemplary parishes are much more active in the area of interfaith relations and joint work and they are much more willing to embrace a variety of forms of cooperation and partnering with religiously others 117
First,   significantly   fewer     normal     than     exemplary     parishes   answered   this   question   and   gave   ...
XII The Lessons that the Other Parishes Can Learn HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS The parishes were asked In a nutshell tell us what is most special about your parish that would distinguish it from the other parishes in your diocese or jurisdiction The following four patterns emerged from the responses of the exemplary and normal parishes Both exemplary and normal parishes were equally likely to describe themselves as very loving welcoming and friendly Christian community Both exemplary and normal parishes were equally likely to describe themselves as the parishes with high quality and intensity of liturgical and Eucharistic life Unlike the normal parishes only exemplary parishes wrote about parish s ability to integrate a variety of ethnic and cultural groups and create one close knit community that is free of ethnic or cultural divides Unlike the normal parishes only responses from exemplary parishes indicated parish s strong sense of mission and vision for the parish s future The parishes were asked Based on your experience of building parish community could you give any advice to other parishes in your jurisdiction as to what they should pay more attention to If you think that many parishes tend to make the same mistakes over and again what are those mistakes The following four patterns emerged from the responses of the exemplary and normal parishes A significant number of exemplary but not normal parishes wrote about the need for an Orthodox parish to open its doors for the others and or take Orthodox Faith to the others A significant number of exemplary but not normal parishes suggested that a parish should pay attention to making Orthodox Church and worship relevant and understandable to as many different people as possible Both exemplary and normal parishes offered some advice on how to build healthy parish community Both exemplary and normal parishes offered some suggestions on how to improve and deepen the liturgical and Eucharistic life of a parish 118
XII.  The    Lessons    that  the  Other  Parishes  Can  Learn   HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS      The   parishes   were   asked    ...
DISCUSSION Two related questions will be discussed in this chapter The first question is from the perspective of each parish participating in the study what is its most special remarkable characteristic that would distinguish this parish from the other Orthodox parishes in the respective diocese and jurisdiction Clearly this question is very subjective i e it is about self perception of a parish and general i e the answer could be about anything However the replies to this question will help to discern what really matters for this or that parish The second question examined on the following pages is again from the perspective of each parish participating in the study are there any unique qualities experiences approaches areas of church life that this or that parish is especially proud of so that it can set an example to the other parishes The survey first asked In a nutshell tell us what is most special about your parish that would distinguish it from the other parishes in your diocese or jurisdiction Predictably this general question yields a great variety of responses For instance one parish described a unique outlook of its building We have what we half jokingly call a Hoosier Byzantine Church Our new building is by no means a clone of a temple from one of the Greek islands or of a place in Russia It is clearly not a Protestant Church since it has three golden tri bar crosses on the roof It does have the lineaments of a Midwestern church architecture on the outside however The other parish community reported that its most remarkable feature is the cleanliness and neatness of its facilities We have tried to do everything with tastefulness and decorum Too many parishes are dirty dated and give of the general appearance of being poor and ill designed Even in our old cinder block building people have often cried upon entering the church for the first time because of its simple and elegant beauty We have worked very hard to make our temple our music and our services be an icon of the Kingdom of God in all the fine details without however becoming stiff or inflexible Yet another parish s most distinct feature is being a place of pilgrimage at the relics of St Herman 119
DISCUSSION Two  related  questions  will  be  discussed  in  this  chapter.  The  first  question  is   from  the  perspec...
Most of the answers however touched on more substantial matters something about parish community liturgical life programs relations with neighboring community etc Two common themes appeared relatively often in the answers of both exemplary and normal parishes One theme was about a parish being a loving welcoming and friendly Christian community The following examples of answers were equally likely to come from both exemplary and normal parishes Truly loving welcoming people who deserve to grow and feel secure in the future of the parish How well we have been able to integrate new immigrants to our parish We are the friendly church Welcoming and friendly atmosphere Hospitality close community and making sure that Orthodox services are accessible to American visitors through congregational singing and sensible liturgical practices Welcoming Friendly Warm Our love for God and each other We bear with one another well and are welcoming The second theme of the answers from both exemplary and normal parishes was the quality and intensity of liturgical and Eucharistic life Again the following examples were equally likely to come from both exemplary and normal parishes Divine Liturgy is served by the WHOLE Parish participating ALL Children take active part in the service by holding candles during the Gospel Reading and singing the prayer of Our Father in Ukrainian singing hymns before Holy Communion by themselves High degree of participation in the liturgical life of the parish as well as other groups throughout the week We are a worshipping community We have many faithful that participate in our worship on Sunday mornings as well as other days We try and offer each week a variety of services We re a parish that continues to mature in faith and grow in numbers We have a rather robust liturgical life for a parish of our Archdiocese and also emphasize study It seems to be a good combination all to the glory of God 120
Most   of   the   answers,   however,   touched   on   more   substantial   matters    something   about   parish   commun...
The Eucharistic life of our parish is vibrant I can t think of another parish in our deanery and possibly the diocese that has people preparing for and receiving Holy Communion on a consistent basis We have a resident House on campus of the University of X and a vibrant OCF ministry We have sent many young men to the Seminary from this parish The priest also serves a small community St Y Chapel in Z 45 miles to the East Serving three Churches makes this ministry in X truly special Spiritual enthusiasm Side by side with similarities there were also some remarkable differences in responses from the exemplary and normal parishes First a number of normal parishes replied that there is nothing really special about us or we are fairly similar to other parishes in our diocese or jurisdiction Differently no single exemplary parish provided such answer Second the subject that was often present in responses of the exemplary but not normal parishes was about parish s ability to integrate a variety of ethnic and cultural groups and create one close knit community which is free of ethnic or cultural divides Here are some examples of answers that were typical for exemplary but not normal parishes Unity in diversity A place of refuge for people that have suffered from heavy handed pastoring A belief in the God given and Godlike primacy of freedom We have successfully combined three distinct communities Liturgies to function as one family Thirty five different nationalities and ethnic groups and five different racial groups all present because of God and His Holy Orthodox Church We are multiethnic We have many converts Multi ethnic and open to new comers 121
       The  Eucharistic  life  of  our  parish  is  vibrant       I  can  t  think  of  another  parish  in  our  deanery ...
Finally and perhaps most importantly a number of answers that came from the exemplary but not normal parishes were about parish s strong sense of mission and purpose Some of the answers in this category were related to evangelism and outreach while some were not But in any case unlike normal parishes a significant number of exemplary parishes indicated their strong vision for the parish s mission and future Here are several examples We are a parish founded on the idea of bringing Orthodoxy to anyone We are not ethnically or parochially focused and we have attracted large numbers of converts who have integrated themselves into the life and community of cradle born Orthodox We are a parish that is geared to share the Gospel to the seekers and lapsed We are largely made up of people continuously and actively converting to the Orthodox Christian Faith We know what seekers and inquirers are experiencing We have been there ourselves and are uniquely equipped to help them find the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church We re trying to do what God would have us do We have so much to live and share in Orthodoxy we ve only scratched the surface The idea that all 30K people living in town can eventually become Orthodox The outreach educational work in publishing and podcasting This has often served as a gateway for new members We are grateful to God to be a good example of a new Romanian missionary church on the land of America 95 or our people converted to Orthodoxy and they desire to share it with others in word and deed In summary When it comes to the features and characteristics that the parishes are truly proud of both exemplary and normal parishes are equally likely to see themselves as the welcoming and friendly Christian communities that have high quality and intense liturgical and Eucharistic life At the same time the exemplary parishes are different from the normal parishes by having much stronger sense of mission and vision for parish s future and by the ability to integrate various ethnic and cultural groups into one united Christian community 122
Finally,   and   perhaps   most   importantly,   a   number   of   answers   that   came   from   the     exemplary      b...
The survey followed with the question about any advice that the parishes participating in the study could offer to the other parishes in their dioceses and jurisdictions Based on your experience of building parish community could you give any advice to other parishes in your jurisdiction as to what they should pay more attention to If you think that many parishes tend to make the same mistakes over and again what are those mistakes Similarly to the previous question because of the general nature of this inquiry it resulted in a great variety of responses Their analysis revealed several insights that are worth mentioning First only normal parishes provided answers that essentially said nothing to advise or think about or difficult to tell Second only normal parishes provided answers that were focused on various mistakes that the parishes tend to make rather than offering some sort of suggestion In contrast all exemplary answered this question in a positive manner by providing certain advice to the other parishes or by sharing some of their experiences that could be useful for the other parishes Third a significant number of the advices was about the need for an Orthodox parish to open its doors for the others and or take Orthodox Faith to the others Nearly all with few exceptions answers in this category were from the exemplary parishes Below are a few examples that can be interesting and helpful for other parishes We can never be content simply to be Orthodox for ourselves Strive to gain a vision of Christ s heart for the world to minister and bring Christ and His Church to them for their salvation To quote St Tikhon This Orthodox faith is not for you alone Accept people from the outside as having valid previous experiences with God and always find a way to show LOVE Befriend the non Orthodox at every opportunity you have I do know one thing if we don t open our doors to everyone and anyone as Christ wants us to our churches will die out and close down Focus more attention on serving the local community Be open to people in local community Be more welcoming to the guests Do not go ethnic Open the door to other Orthodox and converts Set aside line item funds money to go out and do mission work 123
The   survey   followed   with   the   question   about   any   advice   that   the   parishes   participating   in   the ...
Fourth Another group of answers suggested that a parish should pay attention to making Orthodox Church and worship relevant and understandable to as many as possible Again all answers in this category came from the exemplary parishes Add Christian to the title of your Church Name i e not just Orthodox Church Delete ethnic designation It is a hurdle But do not lose the lineage of authenticity English at least 95 Token use of other languages is fine and a nice courtesy Less about ethnicity and more about the faith The Church is here for all not just people with a certain kind of last name Be more intentional in explaining Orthodox theology and traditions in a less esoteric manner Be less ethnically based and inward looking and more outgoing I can respond in this way offering the Liturgy in a way it may be understood by all Fifth Predictably the largest number of responses contained some advice on how to build healthy parish community These type of answers were provided by both exemplary and normal parishes Below we offer some examples that can help other parishes Learn Family Systems theory That has been key in helping me us survive transitioning from a toxic past to a more stable hope filled future Emphasize charity within the parish visiting the sick helping those in need Our parish structure keeps key church ministries in the forefront of what we re supposed to be about The more we do charity and hospitality to others as well as to those within the community the more love is present God is present Each parish has a distinctive charism and it is for the pastor and his flock to discover that and foster it as the Spirit leads Many faithful need to be helped to feel accountable in a loving way People want to give to a winning team make sure your parish is a winning team Pay more attention to ALL the faithful not just those who give Make everyone feel special Be aware of founder vs newcomer dynamics Have zero tolerance for anonymous complaints and triangulation Stewardship from the very beginning Don t accept what I can afford give first and best in all areas of Church life Priest and parishes are afraid to lose people who might be causing problems but who might give a lot of money Don t give in to threats If you don t do what I say or want I ll leave Let them go They need to leave in order to make room for more spiritually healthy people The Church and 124
Fourth.   Another   group   of   answers   suggested   that   a   parish   should   pay   attention   to   making   Orthod...
mission and evangelization is about the Truth not about numbers Speak the Truth Teach the Truth preach the Truth Don t worry about numbers One plants another waters it is God that gives the growth I was successful and re energizing the last parish I served 8 years We need to foster ministry leaders train them and empower them and protect them from all the naysayers and gatekeepers Give everyone a voice from young to elderly I think the Wednesday Family Nights are a good idea A lot of work but everything valuable always is Make use of the existing professional talent within the community i e legal advisors medical professionals counseling teaching etc This involves having a good understanding of who is in your congregation Pray hard and play hard Do things to help build community like get together for meals have a talent show VBS youth camps celebrations throughout the year etc this has to be coupled with a full liturgical life as well Lastly I have seen parishes that have factions that exist within it My advice is do not have groups with presidents or formal leaders This keeps little churches and power structures from existing within the parish itself Instead have volunteers not recognized officers My advice a Support campus ministry for those parishes near a college university b Work with other groups to care for those in need c Budget for and encourage your pastor s to receive ongoing Professional Development d Have a line item in the budget for support of charities outside of the parish community e Instill the notion that every member of the parish should participate in at least one ministry of the parish Finally a significant number of advices from both exemplary and normal parishes addressed the importance of improving and deepening the liturgical and Eucharistic life of a parish Encourage your people to be active in worship Especially in understanding the feasts and the fast When people visiting see people who are serious about living their Orthodox Faith that will be attractive to others 125
mission   and   evangelization   is   about   the   Truth   not   about   numbers.   Speak   the   Truth,   Teach   the   ...
Every parish must pray admit to being counter cultural teach of God s mercy and encourage the Holy Mystery of Repentance If the parishioners participation is not vibrant in this sacrament something is wrong Foster congregational singing Make the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church the center of the life of your parish Invite people to confession A good confession is worth a 1000 sermons Become more serious about repentance We can t offer what we don t have If our people are not excited about The Faith and growing in it then why do we expect anyone to be interested in exploring it Have Daily services and prayers so that the church is open daily for prayer Involve more and more children in liturgical life of parish The more services the better In the same category a lengthy but very emotional and insightful answer came from one priest He emphasized that the regular and frequent participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion should be central to any parish community It is worth to quote his answer in full I cannot speak to the jurisdiction as a whole but I can speak to my diocese and I feel comfortable saying that there is a stagnant Eucharistic life The vast majority of parishes do not have people that regularly communion or if they do it is a fair few that encompasses the elderly and the children We have encouraged this behavior and told people to flee from the chalice for fear of condemnation There are those still who actively tell their parishes twice is enough Those from other jurisdictions came to the funeral of a beloved priest and witnessed as not one of the hundreds of mourners took communion at the Liturgy I witnessed priests gathering in unity from across the diocese only to have 5 or 6 take Communion out of more than 40 priests present The mistake in my humble opinion is that we have allowed and encouraged people to become disconnected from their Liturgical participation Divine Liturgy is a show and therefore it is not important for children to be present so they have school during Liturgy and not even parents need to be present except for when the important and holy days happen We have encouraged and allowed a complete disconnected from the Eucharist and it has effected the whole of the life of the church Am I saying that becoming a parish with many communicants will solve every problem and make the people holier Not at all I am saying that having a sincere Eucharistic life in a 126
       Every  parish  must   pray   admit  to  being  counter   cultural   teach  of  God  s  mercy   and  encourage   the...
community will radically change things however faith does deepen in terms of joy experienced and repentance sought after In both of my parishes a concerted effort was made to bring a sense of Eucharistic life to the communities That was my primary effort in both communities and if you talk to my parishioners I bet they would tell you that as well This was done through adult education primarily preaching when it could be appropriately alluded to coffee hour in conversation and in the home talking with people outside of church The importance of the Eucharist to Liturgy and to the life of an Orthodox Christian was never far from my lips it filled me with a certain joy and continual need for repentance and I think people recognized that and were curious about having that joy repentance as a part of their lives a deepening faith In a few years time leaders in both parishes began receiving Holy Communion regularly and then many others With that Eucharistic growth came growth in all areas of church life fasting it was far from perfect for many at first but then became a regular part of their lives outreach what were closed communities in survival mode became warm and welcoming optimism for many the negative and dire effects of the few became intolerable to the community as a whole Bad behaviors were confronted and self policed and so much more If growth will happen in our communities and our diocese I firmly believe that Christ and the Eucharist will be at the heart of that growth XIII Six Lessons that Church Leadership Bishops Could Learn HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS The parishes were asked about desirable help on the part of the bishops that would support and encourage evangelization work In your opinion how could the bishops better help to support and encourage evangelization work in their parishes From a variety of responses six types requests were frequently sent to the bishops Be more frequently present in a parish and directly involved in the parish s life and evangelization work Set a personal example in the area of evangelism and outreach provide broad and strong vision in which would take each parish beyond limited parish s fishbowl Be more like a father supportive spiritually and approachable as a person Provide guiding materials and educating opportunities for the parishes both for clergy and laity on 101 of Orthodox evangelism 127
community   will   radically   change   things,   however    faith   does   deepen   in   terms   of   joy   experienced  ...
Encourage inter Orthodox cooperation between the local parishes in evangelism and outreach efforts Allow for more adaptation of the Orthodox Church to American realities DISCUSSION The Orthodox parish is a local Christian community However this community does not exist on its own rather it is an integral and inseparable part of the Orthodox Church at large Each parish belongs to a certain ecclesiastical family the Orthodox Church jurisdiction Figuratively speaking one can liken the national Orthodox jurisdiction to being each parish s extended family while the dioceses can be seen as each parish s immediate families In most dioceses the direct communications and cooperation among the parishes are scant and irregular Much greater role in making this immediate diocesan family functional and healthy belongs to the diocesan centers and personally to the ruling bishops True most parishes can feasibly survive without any practical diocesan support and be self sufficient but they would nevertheless benefit greatly if their diocesan centers and ruling bishops would pay more attention to their needs Therefore the questionnaire asked In your opinion how could the bishops better help to support and encourage evangelization work in their parishes The analysis of the answers to this question revealed that there is no discernible difference between the exemplary and normal parishes in what they ask their bishops in terms of possible help and support in the area of evangelization work Among variety of responses six requests to bishops from the local parishes were repeatedly present in the individual answers These six requests to bishops can be described in summary as follows in order of the frequency of answers in each category Be more frequently present in a parish and directly involved in the parish s life and evangelization work Set a personal example in the area of evangelism and outreach provide broad and strong vision in which would take each parish beyond limited parish s fishbowl Be more like a father supportive spiritually and approachable as a person Provide guiding materials and educating opportunities for the parishes both for clergy and laity on 101 of Orthodox evangelism 128
      Encourage   inter   Orthodox   cooperation   between   the   local   parishes   in   evangelism   and   outreach   e...
Encourage inter Orthodox cooperation between the local parishes in evangelism and outreach efforts Allow for more adaptation of the Orthodox Church to American realities Below we provide actual answers from the parishes exemplifying each category of responses and requests to the bishops Be more frequently present in a parish and directly involved in the parish s life and evangelization work Send out pastoral letters not solely on an ecclesial season or feast day but as a reflection on what the bishop has learned seen and or wants to share with us absent requests for money provide a straight pastoral reflection that will affect us Focus less on meaningless diocesan events camps or publishing projects and by supporting the work of the priests in their manifold concrete struggles to maintain the Faith and nourish their flocks Bishops can personally endorse a lecture or some other idea with a short letter since parishioners tend to react more to bishops due to being so familiar with the priest s many calls to attend certain activities The true work of the Church is founded in a local ministry with a unique people around an altar in a particular town I would suggest that parishes will grow through a greater commitment by our bishops to fund local ministries Hierarchs could also remain open to sharing in the work of a local parish beyond simply celebrating feast days and services what a witness this would be to parishioners and non parishioners alike Regular annual at least visitation to the parishes and missions no matter how small On those visits to have supper with the catechumens and inquirers Have smaller dioceses so that bishops could be more actively involved in the day to day life of their parishes I and my parish want to see more of them not less I want them to see where my people are spiritually what they struggle with on a day to day basis I as a parish priest need their help to minister to their parishes and people 129
      Encourage   inter   Orthodox   cooperation   between   the   local   parishes   in   evangelism   and   outreach   e...
Show up and put some sweat equity into the life of the parish Too often the bishop shows up the parish has a party and the bishop leaves with no notable impact or lasting change in the life of the parish Be a part of what is happening in the local community Set a personal example in the area of evangelism and outreach provide broad and strong vision in which would take each parish beyond limited parish s fishbowl One of our bishops once said that the best idea he had for retirement was to lay aside the crown and go establish a mission I can t think of a better idea than that I don t think priests see themselves as aggressive evangelizers so the bishops need to broaden the vision kindle the Apostolic zeal give priest laity permission encouragement to get out there and make things happen Then we d need lots of discussion of methods strategies and when they might prove effective They should encourage parishes to think beyond our own people They should encourage us to seek out catechumens and to even develop mission parishes Casting a vision for it and committing resources to it After having attended several Clergy Laity conferences regarding this theme and seeing the continual decline in membership in the GOA the spirit is willing but our flesh is weak Sadly I believe evangelization is not a priority Bishops need to lead from the front We are a hierarchical church If our bishops are not missionary minded and evangelical how do we expect their priests and the laity to be By writing and speaking about Evangelization all the time Become more evangelized themselves Drop most of the imperial trappings of their office and become joy filled disciples who know love and serve the Lord and can help others to do the same Be more like a father supportive spiritually and approachable as a person Don t be an aloof and distant Archpastor Know your priests encourage them and support their efforts Our diocesan Hierarch has proven himself to be a great example of a humble and loving pastor 130
       Show  up  and  put  some  sweat  equity  into  the  life  of  the  parish.  Too  often  the  bishop  shows  up,   t...
Send a clear and consistent message by being in the midst of their flock not distant and too busy by administrative affairs Teach more and delegate the day to day administration Meeting each parish and their Faithful on their level and lead them to perfection Very important not to impose the authority but rather earn it by being a Light Support the clergy in their ministry and uplift them during pastoral visitations Listening to the concerns of their people He might get to know his priests better and help them avoid damaging life problems ahead of time But try telling a bishop what to do A stone wall with ears is what one often gets hope that is not to blunt for this survey By offering spiritual support Bishops need to be better pastors to their clergy feeding their spiritual needs They also need to become true pastors to their flocks by spending time with them instead of fly by in and out visits focused on liturgical services Provide guiding materials and educating opportunities for the parishes both for clergy and laity on 101 of Orthodox evangelism 1 Have diocesan grants available for training and resources Diocese X does this 2 Provide more diocesan workshops and training for parish councils who oversee the budgets and should be supporting the vision of the priest 3 Don t just verbally support campus ministry and other endeavors but actually support it with funding for priests to serve as campus ministers and in other para Church capacities that place clergy and lay leaders in the position to encounter people outside of their parish community Priests sometimes turn down opportunities to serve an OCF 4 Increase opportunities for laypersons men and women to be trained as catechists and lay ministers chaplains Train priests that work well with people and are willing to nurture them into disciples Offer seminars to parishes and speakers who challenge us to do more Offer regional workshops by qualified clergy and bishops who are successful in this area Teach mission development in the seminary and send students to missions in the summer 131
       Send   a   clear   and   consistent   message   by   being   in   the   midst   of   their   flock   not   distant ...
Provide better resources and training at level of clergy and laity for how to evangelize in our communities More teaching and training on how to effectively move our parish communities from being more ethnic and inward looking to more diverse and outward looking Encourage or mandate Adult Education Educating parents pays dividends with the children Our deanery education meetings focus primarily on youth education How are our church schools and folklore groups What are the numbers How many teachers What curriculums do they use And so on Our children however will learn far more at home from their parents than they will in a church school lesson Do they know the Old Testament Maybe something from church school Do they pray before meals cross themselves and make faith a part of their everyday living Their parents will be most impactful there That education is a vital part of mission work as that interior growth happens in the parish evangelization will naturally happen or be easily encouraged by a leader Our Diocese has provided us with excellent material for establishing and conducting stewardship education in our parishes I would hope that our hierarchs would do the same for evangelism Having in hand resources that can be studied and put into practice having resources that are pragmatic would be a great help Provide us with video teachings on evangelism it may be a great help Encourage inter Orthodox cooperation between the local parishes in evangelism and outreach efforts Primarily our bishops need to encourage our missions and parishes to work together If we are not united then we are divided and can only bring a hypocritical message to those we are trying to evangelize How can we proclaim the Gospel of Christ when the local Greeks Russians and Arabs cannot stand each other or do nothing together This does not reflect Christ s love in any form or fashion Last thought on this if there is only one Orthodox parish in a town of 200 000 to 800 000 people instead of saying this is our territory say I pray our bishops encourage other canonical Orthodox jurisdictions to join them in their local vineyard for the fields are white for harvest Stop discouraging inter Orthodox parish cooperation Encourage inter Orthodox parish cooperation Think about preaching the Gospel first and climb out of a phyletistic paradigm 132
       Provide   better   resources   and   training   at   level   of   clergy   and   laity   for   how   to   evangeliz...
Influence the local clergy to reach out to their Orthodox brothers They can best do this by working closely with their brother Orthodox Bishops on specific projects that will positively effect evangelization Bishops should encourage local Orthodox churches to cooperate together We need one Church jurisdiction in this country now Our people suffer due to the ethnic ghettoization that is taking place in the Holy Orthodox Church in this country Allow for more adaptation of the Orthodox Church to American realities They have to resist narrow Orthodox fundamentalism and allow Orthodoxy to naturally and slowly take on an American flavor Orthodoxy cannot just be about preserving things It is much more alive than this We once said to one hierarch If Orthodoxy is the mother church then we should start acting like it and reach out as a mother would to her lost children to help the sincere and true Christians come home Encourage the parishes to better reflect and be opened to the immediate neighborhoods around them and to set conditions for this to happen XIV The Common Problem of the Exemplary and Normal Parishes the Non Evangelistic Nature of their Websites It is common today to hear someone say that he will search for or validate certain information by googling it an expression which did not exist 10 years ago Not only are we constantly online beginning in 2013 the majority of internet browsing in America is being done on smartphones For those who want to face reality the situation is clear in a very short time the world has changed in the way people receive information and learn about something new If the Orthodox Churches are serious and intentional about evangelism and outreach if they want to make Orthodox Christianity better known to American society they must express their mission on the internet The first and most basic element of this internet based mission of the Orthodox Church is a local parish website Therefore in addition to the survey we examined the web sites of the parishes participating in the study This examination focused on two aspects 133
       Influence   the   local   clergy   to   reach   out   to   their   Orthodox   brothers.   They   can   best   do   ...
We looked specifically at parishes homepages that is the front pages of their web sites that the people see first and before any further digging into a web site s content We evaluated those elements as described below that are especially crucial for attracting and informing the first time visitors and inquirers about the Orthodox Faith Seven criteria were chosen for evaluation 1 Whether or not a parish had an active website 2 Whether the dominant language of a website was English 3 The presence of information addressed specifically to visitors 4 The presence of calendar and schedule of worship services 5 The presence of contact information phone in particular 6 The presence of directions or an address of the church 7 The presence of outdated content In summary the analysis revealed that There is no significant difference between the websites of the normal parishes and the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts The dominant majority of the web sites were not very evangelistic by their nature That is the websites were not user friendly or sometimes even understandable for non Orthodox Here are two most common deficiencies that could be bothersome to non Orthodox first time guests to these websites First the high majority of the websites look old and dated which suggests that the churches do not care about their appearance for virtual visitors Second nearly all parishes in the study either failed to have a welcome message for non Orthodox visitors on their homepages or this message was not very effective Browsing websites of many Orthodox parishes allows one to find some examples of a welcome message for non Orthodox visitors that were appealing inviting and understandable For instance We warmly welcome you to join us for a service In the meantime explore our visitor section for some introductory information about Orthodox Christianity This message is simple does not make assumptions about the 134
    We  looked  specifically  at  parishes    homepages   that  is,  the    front    pages  of  their  web   sites  that  ...
visitor wanting to worship and also offers guidance to look into available resources for visitors that is already on the website Here is another example of a simple and inviting welcome message You are welcome to visit us during one of our services or you can contact the office to schedule a visit at a different time Our priest loves to meet with visitors and we also offer tours of the church The message above makes it clear that visitors are welcome anytime not only at the services One more effective message We are a Christ centered church who loves to have visitors Whether you are a Christian or not you are welcome to join us anytime The above message is effective because it communicates who the church is but at the same time makes it clear that all types of people are welcome to visit A critical item missing from almost all homepages of the parishes participating in the study were videos for non Orthodox visitors Videos offer powerful and easy to digest way of communicating information on the internet It is not incidental that YouTube has become the second most popular search engine In response to these and other shortfalls we offer a short eBook for those wanting to make their parish web sites more evangelistic Entitled 10 Steps to A Great Parish Website it can be found in the Appendix of this study report 135
visitor  wanting  to  worship,  and  also  offers  guidance  to  look  into  available  resources  for  visitors  that  is...
XV The Ultimate Goal Witnessing Orthodox Faith in 21st Century America HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS The parishes participating in the study were asked Given the fact that Orthodox Christians are a small religious minority in America what are the best ways for our Church to bear witness to our Faith in 21st century America Can you provide some examples of how it is done in your parish Most of responses that came from the normal parishes offered two suggestions Orthodox Christians should hold firm to Orthodox Faith and traditions be proud of them and be willing to explain them to others when and if they find their way to Orthodox Church Witnessing the Orthodox Faith to America can be done simply by setting a personal example that is by being good Orthodox Christian and living faithful life Most of responses that came from the exemplary parishes were about four approaches to witnessing Orthodox Faith in today s America Serve the community you are in not only your own people That is be present in multiple settings venues in the local community and offer your own space for the other This will put a human face on your parish and make your parish community recognizable by the others Make Orthodoxy understandable for the others Make an effort to disassociate the image of the Orthodox Church as being ethnic church and instead try to make it more approachable for the others Emphasize the importance of personal growth in Faith and personal witnessing by everyone in parish community These two emphases are related when Church and Faith become more meaningful it makes people more engaged in the parish and also eager to share their Faith Pay attention to having a vibrant and full liturgical life not merely formal worship services as one of the key elements in successful Orthodox evangelism 136
XV.  The  Ultimate  Goal   Witnessing  Orthodox  Faith  in  21st  Century  America   HIGHLIGHT FINDINGS      The  parishes...
DISCUSSION One of the study participants wrote People are looking for Orthodoxy even though they don t know it They want family stability true worship and spiritual challenge But we have to figure out ways to interact with others invite them and follow up His words can be seen as the very quintessence of this study That is we are firm in our conviction that the Orthodox Christianity is a true Faith which offers the most important things that a person needs But we often struggle with how to introduce the Orthodox Faith to the others and to show how relevant it may be for their lives This chapter is central to this study report because it will examine how the clergy serving in exemplary and normal parishes approach this challenging goal introducing and sharing Orthodox Faith with religiously others The survey asked Given the fact that Orthodox Christians are a small religious minority in America what are the best ways for our Church to bear witness to our Faith in 21st century America Can you provide some examples of how it is done in your parish The lengthy and thoughtful responses provided by many clergy indicated that they pondered this question not one time There was a clear difference in the answers to this question between the exemplary and normal parishes The vast majority of responses from the normal parishes fell in two categories In the first category were the answers indicating that the clergy have various ideas and recipes for Orthodox evangelism but for some reason were unable to implement these ideas in their parishes For instance Outreach outreach outreach I have served as a priest for over 20 years pleading with congregations that I have been honored and privileged to serve But we are perceived as a closed community even the property is gated there is no sign etc Participation in ecumenical activities social outreach feeding the hungry etc and more are in my opinion what is needed But when a parish does not actively involve itself outside into the community it becomes self enclosed in my pastoral experience and it simply atrophies spiritually and in membership We need more effort in PR That would best be exemplified in a saintly person as St Paul was but a process of educating our people with unified Archdiocese wide concepts some kind of PR campaign to get the word out on the life and truth of our faith not its small accomplishments but its big ones Also efforts to break down the xenophobia of our members a willingness to share 137
DISCUSSION  One  of  the  study  participants  wrote     People  are  looking  for  Orthodoxy,  even  though  they  don  t...
and build word of mouth knowledge to our friends Most of this is impossible with how we are at present but a steady push over a long period of time could change things The best ways for our Church to bear witness is to have a concerted organized way to receive educate and engage visitors new members non Orthodox persons But I have no examples to provide in my parish The second category of responses that came often from the normal parishes boiled down to the notion that the Orthodox Christians should hold firm to Orthodox Faith and traditions be proud of them and be willing to explain them to others when and if they find their way to Orthodox Church In other words the responses from normal parishes were mostly about passive welcoming into Orthodox Church those who somehow discovered Orthodox Christianity Here are some quotes exemplifying this line of thought It is very challenging how to motivate those in the pews each Sunday How do we encourage the unfaithful faithful to share the Good News of Jesus How can we equip our churches to become inwardly strong yet outwardly focused with people who are ablaze with the love or Jesus That is part of the Western challenge As Christians and as the church of Jesus Christ we are called by our Lord to Go and make disciples The call to bear witness is part of God s plan to bring the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven Yet many of the evangelistic magic bullets that worked in the past are now not as effective particularly in the West Our Community is traditional community our only way to bear witness to our faith is to live the Gospel out in our lives and welcome people in or ushering them in Standing firm in the faith of our fathers and making sure everyone in the community knows how we stand One of the best ways is to keep our true Orthodox faith and tradition by raising our children this way Be honest about your faith do not be ashamed of your faith Have a festival or annual event that people could come to the facility and find out who you truly are 138
and  build  word  of  mouth  knowledge  to  our  friends.  Most  of  this  is  impossible  with  how  we  are   at  presen...
In addition to these two major categories of responses from the normal parishes some of them also suggested witnessing Orthodox Faith to America simply by setting a personal example to an outside world that is by being good Christian and living faithful life I think the most effective way to witness our Orthodox Christian faith in a secularized American society is our personal life our example where we work our friendly and modest attitude toward our co workers or neighbors who belong to another Christian denomination or another religion To show our faith by our lives and actions People must not only hear or read what it is like to be an Orthodox Christian they must see examples of it from its members We encourage the membership to think of church as not just a Sunday only obligation but a life to be lived The answers that came from the exemplary parishes were significantly different Unlike replies from the normal parishes most of the exemplary parishes one way or the other suggested some proactive approach to sharing Orthodox Faith with the non Orthodox America 31 In summary the approaches of the vast majority of exemplary parishes to witnessing Orthodox Faith in today s America can be described as being based on four corner stones Serve the community you are in not only your own people That is be present in multiple settings venues in the local community and offer your own space for the other This will put a human face on your parish and make your parish community recognizable by the others Make Orthodoxy understandable for the others Make an effort to disassociate the image of the Orthodox Church as being ethnic church and instead try to make it more approachable for the others Emphasize the importance of personal growth in Faith and personal witnessing by everyone in parish community These two emphases are related when Church and Faith become more meaningful it makes people more engaged in the parish and also eager to share their Faith Pay attention to having a vibrant and full liturgical life not merely formal worship services as one of the key elements in successful Orthodox evangelism Below are actual quotes exemplifying each of these approaches 31 In fairness some of the normal parishes also offered responses which were more typical for the exemplary parishes but the number of such responses from the normal parishes was small 139
In   addition   to   these   two   major   categories   of   responses   from   the     normal     parishes,   some   of  ...
Serve the community you are in not only your own people That is be present in multiple settings venues in the local community and offer your own space for the other This will put a human face on your parish and make the parish community recognizable by the others Take a view that world is my parish view not parish is my world invite the whole community to all events and services Take advantage of our religious minority status Write as a minority religion in the newspaper Send in ceaseless press releases Become acquainted with editors of papers Get in the neighborhood newsletter Get out of the 4 walls of the church to meet and serve people in the neighborhood and in the city showing that we care about them and their lives Why should they believe us when we say we love them if we don t serve them To love people in the city not to fear them look down on them flee from them Not to divide people into the good and the bad the worthy and the unworthy That s not the Gospel Examples seeking out and reaching out to unchurched immigrant groups active outreach homeless shelter work food pantry work social justice work nursing home services emergency aid to the poor afterschool programs free neighborhood block parties etc Encouraging parishioners to live their faith through actions not only lips Doing fundraisers for people in local community Helping out our town 2 years ago our Parish allocated 15 of its annual income for care giving purposes of those who are locally in need Having some of the services outside the Church Vespers with blessing of the animals Memorial Service for 9 11 in front of the church Inviting local community to join for social gatherings We opened our doors for local Cub Scout Pack to have their meetings fundraisers for free Serving food every first Monday of the month at local homeless shelter Collecting children cloth and hygiene items for homeless Collecting food for Thanksgiving for veteran families in simple words serving God His people Serving the community we are in What I want the parish to be known for is our love for each other and how we try to share that love and our blessings with our community We try to be active in our community We support the local hospice program with a 5K Road Race I am the chaplain for the local Lions Club We sponsor concerts in our church in which the entire community is invited I try to have the parish be normally and actively involved in the community I want the parish to be seen as a normal part of the local community that is supportive of the community needs 140
Serve  the  community  you  are  in       not  only  your  own  people.  That  is,  be  present  in  multiple   settings v...
Most importantly the local Orthodox parish needs to integrate into its local community Shop there attend local events get involved with local neighborhood concerns This will put a real human face on our membership as well as establish friendships For example our clergy have volunteered to say the opening prayer at City Council meetings We were recently asked to bless their new Fire Truck and participate in a service honoring firefighters We have invited our mayor and local alderman to parish events and picnics We do a monthly community meal for the town and we typically attract about 130 150 people each month The goal is to serve them without any catch to provide them with an opportunity to fellowship with others and to create a sense that the church is the center of life in the town It has helped us to achieve a positive attitude towards the church from the town Related to this category of answers were few mentions of the parish s work with the OCF chapters not only for the sake of the Orthodox students but because as one priest put it down Overall university environments are oftentimes much more open to dialog and discussion regarding matters of Faith Make Orthodoxy understandable for others Make an effort to disassociate the image of the Orthodox Church as being an ethnic church and instead try to make it more approachable for the others Take a step and simply actively make Orthodoxy available Not judging others Priest accessible and approachable to general public Socially enjoying ALL the people God has given us beyond parishioners IE Loving them Making the broader community more aware of what the Orthodox Church in reality is i e debunking the ethnic Church myth that has persisted for so many decades This has been done through participating in community social and religious organizations Having Bible Study classed open to the general public doing seasonal Orthodoxy lectures incorporating tours of the Church and talks about the Faith as part of food and other festival events We do need to think about ORTHODOXY as opposed to GREEK Orthodoxy RUSSIAN Orthodoxy etc My family and I were indeed fortunate to have been in a predominantly English language parish when we began our journey Since that time we have worshipped in many communities where music icons and overall ambience were beautiful But in several of those 141
       Most   importantly,   the  local   Orthodox   parish   needs   to   integrate   into   its   local   community.   S...
beautiful temples we only knew what was going on because we had the Liturgy already in mind Our parish uses only English We have found many ethnic sources for music that Greek people know or that Russians Romanians Serbians know but the language is what we speak in this country I don t wait to have an inquirer s class or appoint a set time for such As soon as someone professes an interest I begin meeting with the person or family with study materials and question answer times I ve tried the class approach and there s never a good time or a good day So with the best intention I try to meet newcomers as and when time is available When I bless a home for example I ask the family or the individual to bring as many other people as possible I begin with a short explanation of what is going to happen and after the blessing I encourage people to ask me questions Emphasize the importance of personal growth in Faith and personal witnessing by everyone in parish community These two emphases are related when Church and Faith become more meaningful it makes people more engaged in the parish and also eager to share their Faith The best method is through the personal growth of our membership and word of mouth As members grow in their relationship with Christ and experience His grace and healing they become more active in the life of the parish and are excited to share the good news of what Christ is doing in their lives with those around them Members need to be invigorated with the message of the Gospel to bring in their family and friends We do this mainly through adult education It is important for our people to invite others family and friends to services The laity are the ones that are among the people outside of the Church all week When they come across someone that has a need or is hurting it is important that they connect these people to Christ via the Church Our parish focuses on interior growth that is growing and deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ From that there are natural expressions of our faith that bear witness to Christ in our homes and communities Examples One new family came to our church because during a haircut he got into a nice religious conversation During that conversation he invited the person to come meet the new priest During his visit the community warmly embraced him He along with his wife and three children have been coming for two years One new family came because 142
beautiful  temples,  we  only  knew  what  was  going  on  because  we  had  the  Liturgy  already  in  mind.     Our  par...
one of our inquirers talked about how much he liked the class and how the community was like a family Our focus on Adult Education in my opinion is where this comes from Those parishioners who take their faith seriously and can cultivate it in the parish will become missionaries because it is the natural extension of who they are in Christ In our Mega Church area curious people will often stop by If they find Christ in the church in greeters in warm words in worship etc they will be curious to find out more Having opportunities to learn more for adults is essential As an aside we advertised our classes once for free in the paper and we got two faithful people from that one advertisement The most important aspect is the education Educating our kids youth and adults they will be able to bear witness about our faith Pay attention to having a vibrant and full liturgical life not merely formal worship services as one of the key elements in successful Orthodox evangelism Orthodoxy should be outspoken courageous and engaged When convert Americans go to Church they want to participate and not just listen to chanters or a choir only sing We encourage congregational singing and try to find music from various traditions that is singable Our liturgical practices and our buildings need to be beautiful and all form has to allow its meaning to be clear Multiple clergy in a parish encourage lay participation and allow for a variety of ministries to grow We connect with people over their interest in meditation and centering prayer by way of our weekly Jesus prayer group where we gather to learn about and practice the Jesus prayer together Maximizing liturgical life Having a good witness when people come is extremely important How our people worship and pray the beauty and orderliness of the worship services the church and the overall campus are extremely important The preaching the music the piety and seriousness the friendliness and follow up are all important witnesses of a healthy Faith and a healthy church community We also use the classes and retreats we offer as a means to bring people to attend and get a taste of Orthodoxy Be willing to explain the need for Repentance lovingly Our rate of those practicing the Mystery of Holy Repentance has increased yearly It is not unusual to hear 20 25 confessions in a week in 143
one  of  our  inquirers  talked  about  how  much  he  liked  the  class  and  how  the  community  was    like   a   fami...
a parish of 200 total Willingly engage the parishioners during a homily not often but every once in a while Isn t that right Tom Engage the one who is listening never the one who is not listening Doing this places everyone on their toes We conclude this chapter with two notes First the answers to the question Given the fact that Orthodox Christians are a small religious minority in America what are the best ways for our Church to bear witness to our Faith in 21st century America Can you provide some examples of how it is done in your parish do NOT suggest that the normal and exemplary parishes are different in their willingness to share the Orthodox Faith with religiously others and to do so in an inviting and welcoming manner However it is clear that the exemplary parishes are much more proactive in and use a variety of approaches to bringing Orthodox Faith into non Orthodox America whereas normal parishes typically prefer to simply offer Orthodox Christianity to those who somehow found their way into an Orthodox parish Second this chapter described four major approaches strategies that are viewed by the exemplary parishes as the best ways for our Church to bear witness to our Faith in 21st century America It is our hope that by revealing these four strategies in this study report more normal parishes will be willing to employ one of these strategies developed by the exemplary parishes more exemplary parishes will learn from each other and complement their current approaches to witnessing Orthodoxy in America by the approaches used in the other exemplary parishes XVI The Collective Portrait of the Exemplary Parishes The Key Features That They Share Fifteen chapters of this study report provided a great deal of information about American Orthodox parishes that can be seen as exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts Each chapter discussed some area of church life and each was accompanied by the highlight findings the summary of the most important findings Some readers especially those who looked only at limited number of chapters may find it helpful to have a very abridged aggregate overview of the most salient features of the exemplary parishes that distinguish them from the normal parishes The below table provides such overview The table also indicates the pages of the full study report with detailed discussion and actual data on each finding presented in the table 144
a   parish   of   200   total .   Willingly   engage   the   parishioners   during   a   homily,   not   often,   but   ev...
Tab 5 Major Distinct Features of the Parishes that Are Exemplary in their Evangelization and Outreach Efforts in Comparison with Normal Parishes Area of church life MEMBERSHIP Demography of membership Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 32 35 of the full study report Other distinct features of membership Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 36 39 of the full study report PRIESTHOOD Demography of priesthood Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 41 44 of the full study report Changes in priest s understanding of his role of a pastor and leader of a parish over period of time Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 48 51 of the full study report INVOLVEMENT of parishioners in the life of a parish and in evangelization and outreach Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 52 54 of the full study report RELIGIOUS EDUCATION 145 Exemplary parishes Normal parishes Much stronger presence of converts to Orthodoxy among parishioners Significantly higher percentage of persons with college degrees among parishioners Significantly higher percentage of persons who are new to the parish in the past 3 years among parishioners Significantly smaller percentage of senior citizens age 65 among parishioners Significantly higher percentage of households with children at home High ethnic and cultural diversity among parishioners Steady growth in number of parishioners which is typically accompanied by increasing diversity among members More converts to Orthodoxy Clergy have typically much longer tenure i e they stay longer time with their churches Much lower percentage of converts to Orthodoxy Significantly lower percentage of persons with college degrees among parishioners Significantly lower percentage of persons who are new to the parish in the past 3 years Significantly higher percentage of senior citizens age 65 Significantly lower percentage of households with children at home More homogenous social and ethnic cultural composition of parishioners No significant changes in membership over period of time The original focus on running programs and administration shifted towards being a good teacher preacher and a role model for parishioners As the years go by clergy are becoming increasingly involved in administration management and fundraising tasks Typically half or dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved in all aspects of a parish life Outreach efforts and evangelization are often perceived as the way the entire parish community lives and sees itself Relatively small core group of parishioners does everything in a parish Program approach to evangelization outreach efforts are typically carried out by the designated groups of parishioners Along with religious education for children strong emphasis is given on continuing faith formation of the adult church members Religious education focuses primarily on children and is typically limited to Sunday school Fewer converts to Orthodoxy Clergy have typically much shorter tenure i e they stay shorter time with their churches
Tab.  5    Major  Distinct  Features  of  the  Parishes  that  Are    Exemplary    in  their  Evangelization  and   Outrea...
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION continued from previous page Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 58 61 of the full study report PARISH GOVERNANCE Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 62 67 of the full study report SYSTEM OF FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY PARISHIONERS Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 67 69 of the full study report PROGRAMS AND MINISTRIES Changes in programs and ministries over period of time Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 71 75 of the full study report __________________ Top two areas of ministries that are seen as the most important by the parishes Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 76 79 of the full study report 146 Religious educators are experimental They design parish s own religious education programs employ a variety of forms of learning about faith and tailor their religious education programs to the needs of particular groups within the parish community Total Parish Education approach with the double goal a involve everyone in a parish in continuing religious education and b encourage as many as possible parishioners to become religious educators and teachers themselves Conciliar model is typical The entire parish community is involved in the process of decision making Decisions are often made by consensus Religious educators prefer to use the standard religious education curriculum and formats developed and recommended by their respective dioceses and jurisdictions Along with pledging stewardship and tithing models many parishes successfully employ a free will offering model In this model parishioners are encouraged constantly to give to the best of their ability but are not required to commit in advance any specified amount of money or percentage of their income Parishes typically embrace changes in ministries and keep trying new programs and activities even if they don t work out Understanding that nothing is carved in stone that programs and activities come and go depending on the parish s life cycle and changing circumstances Parishes are more likely to expand intentionally and significantly the diversity of new ministries Along with pledging stewardship and tithing models many parishes remain with membership dues model a fixed amount of contributions is required to be considered a member __________________________________ Parishes pay primary attention to religious education and faith formation of church members Parishes offer variety of religious education and faith formation programs that address different subjects and issues and are geared to the needs and interests of the various categories of church members The second in importance are outward oriented social outreach and charitable work in the local community ministries and programs A limited group of parishioners is involved in parish s religious education programs The parishes are typically run and decisions made by the limited group of people the members of parish councils boards Parishes are more indifferent with regard to developing new programs and ministries Parishes tend to hold to existing programs and activities Parishes typically add new or improve existing programs in only limited number of areas of a parish life _____________________________ Parishes pay primary attention to religious education and faith formation of church members Parishes prefer to use standard and uniform formats of religious education e g Sunday school for children Bible study for adults etc The second in importance are ministries and programs that focus on social life and fellowship within a parish
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION  continued from previous page   Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp. 58-61 of the full study ...
PARISH COMMUNITY Relations among members Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 86 89 of the full study report Attitudes towards visitors and inquirers Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 90 95 of the full study report PARISH AND ITS LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 103 104 and 107 111 of the full study report RELATIONS WITH THE NON ORTHODOX RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 116 117 of the full study report TYPICAL APPROACHES TO HOW WITNESS ORTHOODX FAITH IN AMERICA TYPICAL APPROACHES TO HOW WITNESS ORTHOODX FAITH IN AMERICA continued on the next page 147 Parishes foster mutual care support and practical help among parishioners Parishes maintain overall atmosphere of welcoming and hospitality but do not pay much attention to mutual care and support among parishioners Strong emphasis on welcoming inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors No particular emphasis on welcoming inquirers about the Faith and first time visitors Most parishes think that they are well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhoods Minority of parishes think that they are well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhoods Minority of the parishes have made considerable effort to make themselves better known in their local communities The parishes think that they are known in their local communities primarily because of their ethnic culture and parish based events food sales festivals fundraising events etc Fewer parishes are involved in local inter Christian relations and cooperation Ecumenical cooperation is typically limited to either strictly charitable work running homeless shelters soup kitchens food drives etc or to participation of the Orthodox priests in local clergy associations Majority of the parishes have made considerable effort to make themselves better known in their local communities The parishes think that they are well known in their local communities primarily because of their participation in various community s events initiatives and consistent effort to be a good neighbor More parishes are involved in local inter Christian relations and cooperation The parishes engage in a variety of interChristian activities charitable work ecumenical worship services joint social and cultural events picnics concerts work in the area of social justice addressing issues of immigration criminal justice reform urban education etc working together on reducing crime in the neighborhoods etc Pay attention to personal growth in Faith and personal witnessing by everyone in parish community When Church and Faith become more meaningful for parishioners it makes them both more engaged in the parish and eager to share their Faith Pay attention to having a vibrant and full liturgical life not merely formal worship services as one of the keyelements in successful Orthodox evangelism Orthodox Christians should hold firm to Orthodox Faith and traditions be proud of them and be willing to explain them to others when and if they find their way to Orthodox Church Witnessing Orthodox Faith to America can simply be done by setting a personal example of being a good Orthodox Christian and living faithful life
PARISH COMMUNITY  Relations among members Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp. 86-89 of the full study report ---...
Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp 136 144 of the full study report Serve the community you are in not only your own people Be present in multiple settings venues in the local community and offer your own parish space for community events and initiatives Make Orthodoxy understandable for the others Make a conscious effort to disassociate the image of the Orthodox Church as being ethnic church and instead try to make it more approachable for the others XVII In Conclusion The Law of the Natural Attraction as the Major Model of the Orthodox Evangelization in America Where Do We Go from Here The title of this study Go and Make Disciples Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes was chosen when the study was planned and designed but before it was completed As we analyzed the results and prepared this report it has become clear that of the two imperatives used in the title go and make disciples only make disciples can be seen as the nature of Orthodox evangelism in the United States Indeed the American parish communities make new disciples for the Orthodox Church And the parishes that were selected by the jurisdictions for this study as being exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts are especially successful in this task However they typically do not go out in terms of the active search for the new Church members and this is generally true for both the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts and the normal parishes An important finding discussed in chapter IX was that among both exemplary and normal parishes relatively few place a strong emphasis on an active search for and bringing in new members Instead the majority of parish clergy take a different approach They believe in witnessing the Orthodox Faith by setting an example through the lives of their parish communities and by focusing on welcoming visitors newcomers and inquirers about the Faith to their parishes This Orthodox more passive way of winning new souls for the Church is very consistent with what was concluded in chapter II Recall Chapter II discussed the definitions of the term Orthodox evangelism provided by the clergy participating in the study A majority of clergy in both exemplary and normal parishes define evangelism in the Orthodox Church as passive i e Come and see evangelism 148
Detailed discussion of this subject is on pp. 136-144 of the full study report      Serve the community you are in - not o...
More specifically The most common definition of evangelism provided by the parish clergy was about evangelism being described as living a genuine Christian life By this definition evangelism is about personal growth in Christ that is witnessed by others and therefore draws them to Christ That is when a person or entire parish community lives a life as an Orthodox Christian people around see and come to a desire to know Christ through that example The second common type of definition of evangelism was about Orthodox worship and the Liturgy The definitions in this category suggested that one is introduced to the Orthodox Church chiefly through the experiencing the Liturgy By this definition the fullness of liturgical life lived out in a parish is the key element in presenting Orthodoxy to the non Orthodox and attracting them to the Orthodox Church In short the majority of Orthodox clergy both in normal and exemplary parishes believe that the people will be drawn into the life of the Church by discovering the power and truth of the Church s teachings and practices and the beauty of the Orthodox Liturgy This fact does NOT necessarily prove that the clergy fully discount and dismiss the need to actively present the Gospel and the Church to the world However it definitely suggests that when it comes to the question of evangelism Orthodox priests rely heavily on their perceived natural attractiveness of the Orthodox Church for many religious seekers An inevitable question that the readers of this report would probably ask at this point So what is the difference then between the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts and the normal parishes if their parish clergy define and approach Orthodox evangelism in more or less the same fashion The answer is simple Most priests in both exemplary and normal parishes adhere to similar definitions and general approaches to evangelization At the same time they are quite different in how they practice these approaches and embody them in reality That is all clergy believe in the power of witnessing the Orthodox Faith through the exemplary Christian lives of the individuals and their entire parish communities but exemplary parishes provide a much better example of such life than the normal parishes And of course exemplary parishes focus on the evangelical dimensions of the parish life more intentionally or one can say self consciously than the normal parishes 149
More  specifically        The  most  common  definition  of  evangelism  provided  by  the  parish  clergy  was  about  ev...
Similarly all clergy believe that the richness of Orthodox liturgical life lived out in a parish can attract new disciples to the Orthodox Church but the exemplary parishes offer richer experience of the Orthodox worship than the normal parishes Richer means not simply having more services but the services being more inclusive engaging and meaningful Using an allegory while all clergy believe that the people can be naturally attracted to and drawn into the life of the Church the exemplary parishes are the magnets that are much more powerful than the magnets of the normal parishes Not one but a variety of sources of attraction contribute to the power of the parish magnets And the exemplary parishes are better users of these sources of attraction than the normal parishes Previous chapters of this report discussed one by one these various sources of attraction to a parish In each case we indicated what are distinct features of the exemplary parishes that make them stronger magnets for new members and inquirers about the Orthodox Faith than the normal parishes How internal relations in a parish are being built how much attention is being paid to everyone s involvement into daily life of a parish and continuing Faith formation how parish governance is organized how clergy understand their role within a parish community how much emphasis is given to welcoming visitors and inquirers about the Faith how creative parish s education programs are and how carefully are they tailored to the needs of the certain groups of parishioners how strong and multifaceted is parish involvement into the local community how open parish is to communicating and cooperating with non Orthodox religious congregations how flexible the parishes are in developing new and adjusting old ministries and programs to changing circumstances etc all these makes a difference for how powerful is the parish magnet This study made a good but only very first step towards better understanding of Orthodox Christian evangelization and outreach in America It offered a number of insights into the lives of the parishes that are exemplary in their evangelization and outreach efforts It is our hope that the other parishes as well as diocesan and national church leadership will be willing to use these insights and to employ them in many other local parish communities At the same time the following stages of this study should address at least two further questions and issues 150
Similarly,  all  clergy  believe  that  the  richness  of  Orthodox  liturgical  life  lived  out  in  a  parish  can  att...
First while the natural law of attraction is presently the major model of Orthodox Christian evangelization and outreach in the United States and while most exemplary parishes are very successful at using this model there are still parish communities that take more proactive approach to religious outreach that is these parishes place stronger emphasis on going out and active searching for new disciples A few such parishes were present in our sample but not enough for making any statistically sound conclusions Either another survey based study with significant representation from parishes that are more proactive in their religious outreach or more in depth qualitative study of a few such parishes is needed in order to better examine and explore this alternative model of Orthodox evangelization Second and perhaps most importantly all that was discussed and concluded in this study was based exclusively on experiences information and perceptions on the part of the parish clergy While priests approaches towards Orthodox evangelization and outreach are very important and while they are the ones who shape their parish communities the voices of the laity both parish leaders and ordinary people in the pews should be carefully heard as well The opinions of lay church members about the best ways to make Orthodoxy better known in America and be more successful in Orthodox evangelical mission may or may not always correspond with clergy s points of view Or the laity s way of thinking about evangelization and outreach may complement and enrich clergy s way of thinking In the final count lay parishioners build local Orthodox Christian communities Until we know their opinions and concerns it will be very difficult to make any sound conclusions about Orthodox evangelism as being a way of life for entire parish communities Therefore the next stage of study on Orthodox evangelism and outreach in America should approach and listen carefully to our lay church members old and young cradle Orthodox and converts to Orthodoxy those who are very involved in their parishes and those who participate once in a while Everyone s opinion matters 151
First,   while   the     natural   law   of   attraction     is   presently   the   major   model   of   Orthodox   Christ...
Orthodox Parishes Participating in the Study on Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Christian Churches 2016 WA ME MT ND MN OR VT NH ID SD WI WY Chicago IA NE San Francisco NV Denver CO UT CA IL MO AZ IN Wichita KS Los Angeles MI MA RI CT Pittsburgh New York NJ PA OH MD DE WV VA Detroit KY AR NM NC 1 Atlanta MS NY TN OK AL SC GA TX AK LA C 152 FL HI Boston Orthodox Church Jurisdiction of the Parishes Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Carpatho Russian Diocese Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Orthodox Church in America Romanian Archdiocese Serbian Orthodox Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Orthodox Parishes Participating in the Study on Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Christian Churches  2016      W...
10 steps to a great parish website What Every Orthodox Church Needs To Know 153 Adam Lowell Roberts
10 steps to a great parish website  What Every Orthodox Church Needs To Know  153  Adam  Lowell  Roberts
Is your website as beautiful as your temple 154
Is your website as beautiful as your temple  154
Did you know YouTube which only has videos is the second largest search engine In 2015 more people used a smartphone instead of a desktop computer at google com Big words are intimidating such as Theotokos Parish websites are the first impression to a visitor 155
Did you know  YouTube, which only has videos, is the second largest search engine In 2015 more people used a smartphone in...
Part of the equation of a healthy parish is a healthy website Does your website speak life to its visitors or do they leave disgruntled Your website should be as easy to use and understand as a children s book We have laid out the 10 steps to create a great website for an Orthodox parish 156
Part of the equation of a healthy parish is a healthy website. Does your website speak life to its visitors or do they lea...
Additional help is available at the end of this eBook on the Resource page Also at the end is a glossary of terms commonly identified with websites 157
Additional help is available at the end of this eBook on the Resource page. Also at the end is a glossary of terms commonl...
01 The Language Of The People English should be the default language on your website If you are a parish with other languages then add a link on the home page for that language As a web designer told me when helping me write this guide without English the rest of the steps will not matter English by default other language as an option Next Action Ideal Hire someone to rewrite all pages in English Also have the contractor install a language plugin Resource Limited Create a to do list for every page and commit to a certain amount of pages every week 158
01  The Language Of The People  English should be the default language on your website. If you are a parish with other lan...
We warmly welcome you to join us for a service In the meantime explore our visitor section for some introductory information about Orthodox Christianity 02 Welcome Message What could be wrong with We welcome all visitors desiring to worship with us or All visitors are welcome who are seeking a deeper relationship with God Sadly these statements leave people out What if someone is just curious Look to the left for an example from St George in Prescott AZ Also consider adding this message We are open for tours Next Action Ideal Hire a web developer to change add your welcome message Resource Limited DIY or find someone in your parish who can update your content 159
 We warmly welcome you to join us for a service. In the meantime, explore our visitor section for some introductory inform...
St Paul Katy TX 03 ShortVideo Have a video front and center on your website that is 2 minutes or less in length The best case scenario is a video of your priest Or record a lay person who is comfortable with public speaking The welcome message should be simple friendly and inviting Include a short description of something interesting about your parish such your demographic makeup or an outreach activity Next Action Ideal Hire a videographer Resource Limited DIY with a smartphone Pay attention to your background lighting sound and use a tripod 160
St.  Paul,  Katy,  TX  03  ShortVideo  Have a video front and center on your website that is 2 minutes or less in length. ...
04 This Sunday we will be celebrating Jesus Christ ascending into heaven You are welcome to be our guest at this and all services No Orthodox Lingo Have explanations instead of terms Phrases like Come visit to learn more about the Holy Orthodox Faith are confusing to visitors Also information about saints is great but only if written at a 5th grade level To introduce Orthodox terms have a glossary on your website Having a simple message allows us to discuss the nuances of our faith To work the other way round is to lose an opportunity Next Action Ideal Hire a journalist PR Rep to rewrite the terms as explanations Resource Limited Find a parishioner who is an author blogger or teacher professor 161
04  This Sunday we will be celebrating Jesus Christ ascending into heaven. You are welcome to be our guest at this and all...
05 Mobile Friendly Make sure the layout of your mobile version is clean and simple Everything that is on the desktop version needs to be available in some form on the mobile version Limiting information on the mobile version is frustrating to your visitors 8 of the population has stopped browsing on desktops If it is not available on the mobile version then they will never see it Next Action Ideal Purchase a responsive website with Mobile in mind Resource Limited Add a mobile version and a link to the Full Site 162
05  Mobile Friendly  Make sure the layout of your mobile version is clean and simple. Everything that is on the desktop ve...
Why does this matter according to research of Americans participate in the life of the Orthodox Church This includes Oriential Orthodox Christians This means only 0 35 of visitors to your website understand Orthodoxy 163 0 35
Why does this matter  according to research of Americans participate in the life of the Orthodox Church. This includes Ori...
Al Saints Of America Homer AK 06 Schedule Phone Location Have clearly marked links to all three items to save space on your mobile version On the desktop version you will have plenty of space for all of this initial information and more For the contact page consider listing your priest s name and cell phone number Many parish phones are left unmonitored Listing a cell phone helps visitors to the website feel welcome Next Action Ideal Hire webmaster to design your mobile website vs the desktop website Resource Limited Use one of the website providers listed on the Resources page 164
Al  Saints  Of  America,  Homer,  AK  06  Schedule, Phone, Location  Have clearly marked links to all three items to save ...
Assumption Cathedral Moscow Russia 07 Dated Content We all hate websites with outdated information If you do not have an available webmaster who can update content weekly then remove all dated content Also an empty calendar is awful At a minimum put in all services If you decide to have a blog remove the dates This way people will not know how old your blog posts are Next Action Ideal Regular fresh content uploaded by a professional webmaster Resource Limited Remove all dated content and use one of the website builders listed on the Resources page 165
Assumption  Cathedral,  Moscow,  Russia  07  Dated Content  We all hate websites with outdated information. If you do not ...
Mt Athos Greece 08 Test It Show your new website to snake people protestants and nonChristians Snake People are honest about websites Expect negative feedback Do not trust the opinion of your own parishioners or other Orthodox because they too biased Also you need to add Google Analytics see glossary Next Action Ideal Have non parishioners give feedback Have a webmaster install Google Analytics Resource Limited Have parishioners give feedback Install Google Analytics yourself 166
Mt  Athos,  Greece  08  Test It  Show your new website to snake people, protestants, and nonChristians. Snake People are h...
09 Implement Then Repeat After you implement the changes return to those same people and ask for new feedback Also consider recruiting some new people to test your website out Repeat this process until most people LOVE and I mean that word your website Once people LOVE your website you are on the right path Next Action Ideal Have previous and new people give you feedback Put the link to your website on Social Media and ask for honest feedback Resource Limited Have parishioners give feedback 167
09  Implement, Then Repeat  After you implement the changes, return to those same people and ask for new feedback. Also co...
Our Lady The Joy of All Who Sorrow ROCOR 10 Parishioners Add a link to the home page titled Resources This is the new location for all parish information such as Sunday school chanters etc Some churches may like the idea of adding a sub domain see glossary for their congregation Now inform educate your parish about your new website and the outreach nature you are trying to embrace Include this new information in all parish communication emails newsletter Sunday announcements etc It might take a few weeks or months for parishioners to get used to the new location of member information on the website That s okay This kind of change is good for you and your parish 168
Our  Lady,  The  Joy  of  All  Who  Sorrow,  ROCOR  10  Parishioners  Add a link to the home page titled  Resources.  This...
RESOURCES Here is a checklist of the 10 steps Languages Welcome message Video Terms vs explanations Mobile friendly Schedule contact directions Dated content Test the new website Test the feedback Inform the Parish 169 St George Tbilisi Georgia
RESOURCES Here is a checklist of the 10 steps. Languages   Welcome message   Video   Terms vs. explanations   Mobile frien...
RESOURCES DIY Website Builders Squarespace com Easiest to use however not lots of bells whistles Wix com Almost as easy as squarespace Has lots of bells whistles Wordpress com If you plan on having a blog consider using Wordpress Hosting Companies Fatcow com Bluehost com Internet goarch org Hostgator com OrthodoxInternet com Media Places Flickr com A website to find free images for your website Unsplash com A website to find free images for your website Professional Web Developers MTurk com Online marketplace of web developers hosted by Amazon Upwork com Online marketplace of web developers and programmers The latest information will be maintained at adamlowellroberts com internet 17o
RESOURCES DIY Website Builders  Squarespace.com  Easiest to use, however not lots of bells   whistles. Wix.com  Almost as ...
GLOSSARY desktop having to do with a computer which has a full size screen such as a laptop or desktop computer domain the address of a particular website on the internet For Google the domain is www google com Google Analytics a free tool to monitor the traffic to your website html a programming language which is used behind the scenes to design a website HTML is not seen by the end user mobile having to do with a mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad social media noun usually used with a plural verb Digital Technology websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts Examples include Facebook Twitter LinkedIn sub domain a modified address which relates to the main domain in place of the www For example a sub domain of google is mail google com webmaster the person who is in charge of a website or is the primary contact person when changes updates need to be made This person may or may not perform the actual changes website noun Digital Technology a connected group of pages on the World Wide Web regarded as a single entity usually maintained by one person or organization and devoted to a single topic or several closely related topics Definition is from dictionary com 171
GLOSSARY  desktop  having to do with a computer which has a full size screen, such as a  laptop or desktop computer. domai...
Appendix III Questionnaire used in the study Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America First things first Dear Father Please read this short introduction It is important Your parish was selected for the national study Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America The study is being undertaken by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA The purpose of the study is to discover how local Orthodox communities bear witness to our Faith in today s America There are many ways to pursue this goal and each parish is unique Our hope is to gather insights and experiences from various parishes so that their best practices can be shared with and adopted by other parishes Please consider this study as an invitation to tell your parish s story A number of questions in the following survey are open ended questions where you can freely express your thoughts and concerns We understand that all parish clergy are overloaded with the pastoral work and that it may be difficult to find a sufficient time to finish the survey in one sitting To assist you this survey is designed in a manner which allows you to save a partially completed survey and to return to it later in order to finish it or to edit your answers To do so please follow these simple steps 1 Answer the questions in the order they are asked Do not jump between questions 2 If you feel that you need to take a break finish the survey page that you are working on each page has only 4 5 questions then click NEXT at the end of this page this will save your answers and close your browser 3 To resume the survey simply use the same invitation email save it with the web link that was given to you The only requirement is that the entire survey should be completed on the same computer or tablet Please consider each question carefully and take your time to respond all of them If you have any questions about this study please communicate with me directly at 773 551 7226 akrindatch aol com Asking your prayers and thanking you for your help Alexei Krindatch Research Coordinator Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America 1 The name of your parish 172
Appendix III. Questionnaire used in the study. Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America First thing...
2 In what state is your parish located Please select the state from the dropdown menu State 3 In which Orthodox jurisdiction is your parish Please select church jurisdiction from the drop down menu Orthodox Church jurisdiction 173
  2. In what state is your parish located  Please, select the state from the dropdown menu State     3. In which Orthodox ...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America Please say a few words about yourself 4 Which of the following best describes your religious upbringing I was raised and have always been active in the Orthodox Church I was raised in the Orthodox Church but was inactive in the Church for a period of time I was raised in a non Orthodox religious tradition and became Orthodox later in life I grew up in a non religious family and joined the Orthodox Church at a later stage in life Any other answer Please describe 5 While you were growing up was the Church either Orthodox or non Orthodox an important part of your family s life My family or at least one parent was active in the Church and it was an important part of our family s life when I was a child My family or at least one parent attended church regularly but I wouldn t say that it was truly an important part of our family s life My family or at least one parent attended church but only occasionally My family was not interested in church and it had very little if at all role in my life when I was a child Would you like to add anything about your religious life when growing up 6 How did you decide to become a priest what was the most important motivation or perhaps combination of circumstances that brought you to the priestly vocation 174
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America Please say a few words about yourself    4. Which of the f...
7 Between the time you were ordained an Orthodox priest and now has your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish changed Yes it has changed significantly It has changed somewhat No it has remained more or less the same If your understanding of your role as a pastor and leader of a parish has changed answer 1 or 2 please say a few words about how it has changed 175
7. Between the time you were ordained an Orthodox priest and now, has your understanding of your role as a pastor and lead...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s neighborhood 8 Please evaluate the general religious environment in the community where your parish is located Do this on the five point scale from being very secular no religion at all to being very religious a lot of religious activities Very religious A lot of religious activities Rather religious quite a bit of religious activities Neither secular nor religious Rather secular Little religious activities Very secular No religion at all Do you have any additional comments about general religious situation in the community where your parish is located 9 Say a few words about your parish s surrounding neighborhood from demographic and economic points of view Are you in a residential suburb downtown area small town or rural area Are you in an expensive and trendy place Are you in an economically growing or rather depressed area Racially mixed or mostly Caucasian Are there any demographic groups that dominate among the local residents e g blue or white collar workers students families with children senior citizens etc 176
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s neighborhood...    8. Please evaluate ...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s membership 10 Approximately how many persons are involved in any way in the life of your parish Include in this number adults and children regular and occasional attendees and paid and unpaid stewards Total number is about 11 How many persons including children regularly participate in the life of your parish About 12 Of all regularly participating adults in your parish estimate the percentage in the following categories please answer each line Few 0 20 Some 21 40 Persons who have college university degree Converts to Orthodoxy Immigrants i e persons born outside of the United States Persons who are new to this parish in the past 3 years Persons living within 30 minutes of your parish s church building Senior citizens 65 Families with children at home Is there anything else special or unique about the membership of your parish 177 About half 4160 Many 61 80 Majority 81100
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s membership    10. Approximately, how m...
13 Besides attending liturgical services would you say that the dominant majority of your parishioners are actively involved in all other aspects of the life of your parish Or is it rather a core group of parishioners that does everything whereas most members participate only passively A relatively small core group does everything About half of parishioners are actively involved Dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved Any additional comment that you may like to make 14 If the majority of parishioners are actively involved in the life of your parish how have you achieved this Is there any formal system in place that encourages everyone to attend regularly and participate actively 178
13. Besides attending liturgical services, would you say that the dominant majority of your parishioners are actively invo...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About how this parish community has changed since you were assigned to the parish 15 Are you the first founding priest to serve this parish Yes No 16 How long how many years have you served this parish 17 Have there been any significant changes in membership while you have been with this parish either in numbers or in the socio demographic composition of parishioners Please describe or give some examples 18 Have there been any changes in parish governance while you have been with this parish e g system of decision making organization of administration system of financial contribution by parishioners Please describe or give some examples 19 Have there been any significant changes in parish s programs and ministries while you have been with this parish some new ministries developed some old programs activities died out Please describe or give some examples 179
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About how this parish community has changed since you were...
20 Given the fact that Orthodox Christians are a small religious minority in America what are the best ways for our Church to bear witness to our Faith in 21st century America Can you provide some examples of how it is done in your parish 180
  20. Given the fact that Orthodox Christians are a small religious minority in America, what are the best ways for our Ch...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About organization and governance of your parish 21 Besides liturgical services what are three ministries programs activities that are most fundamental and essential for your parish 1 2 3 22 If you were asked to name one particular area of your parish life where your parish can set an example for other Orthodox parishes what would that be Say We pay a lot of attention to and are really good at 23 What are the most remarkable and or distinctive characteristics of governance and decision making in your parish 24 What are the most remarkable and or distinctive characteristics of your parish s religious education programs e g how many people are involved how the process is organized what are the curricula who teaches the classes etc 181
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About organization and governance of your parish  21. Besi...
25 Which model best describes your parish s system of financial contributions by parishioners Membership dues a fixed sum paid annually by a family or an individual to be considered a member Stewardship Pledging members make an annual advance commitment to give a certain amount to the parish Adjustable tithe parishioners donate a certain percentage of their income to the parish Tithe parishioners or most of them donate 10 of their income to the parish Any other model Please describe your parish s model of financial contributions by parishioners 182
  25. Which model best describes your parish s system of financial contributions by parishioners  Membership dues  a fixed...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s outreach 26 Would you say that your parish is well known in the local community and surrounding neighborhood If yes why or for what reason 27 To follow up on the previous question have you made a conscious effort to make your parish better known in the local community No or little effort Some effort Yes considerable effort Any additional comment that you may like to make 28 If you have made a conscious effort to make your parish better known in the local community what were the most important strategies and tools that you employed Please check all that apply Active usage of various social media e g Facebook Twitter Instagram Pintrest etc Frequent appearances in the local news media e g television radio community bulletin boards Parish festivals Sponsorship and participation in local events e g farmer s markets walks for charities etc Providing social services for local community e g soup kitchen homeless shelter offering parish facilities for usage to other groups Engaging in social justice work in the community Any other strategies that are being used to make your parish better known in the local community 183
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s outreach    26. Would you say that you...
29 Would you say that your parish is truly outreach oriented Definitely no Rather no Not sure Rather yes Definitely yes If yes what makes your parish truly outreach oriented Any particular ministries activities ways of doing things Please describe 30 Are your parish s outreach efforts carried out by a designated group of dedicated members or is it rather the way that the entire parish community lives and sees itself 31 In your opinion is it important for an Orthodox parish to work cooperatively and develop relationships with other non Orthodox religious congregations located in the same community Very important Desirable but not important Not sure I would rather stay away from this I would definitely stay away from this Would you like to add any comment 32 If you think that it is important for an Orthodox parish to develop cooperation and fellowship with the non Orthodox congregations give us a few examples of what your parish does together with other Christian churches 184
  29. Would you say that your parish is truly  outreach oriented   Definitely no  Rather no  Not sure  Rather yes  Definit...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s welcome 33 Would you say that your parish can be called a truly loving Christian community If yes why Can you give some examples from the real life 34 Would you say that your parish is a very welcoming place for inquirers about Orthodox Faith and first time visitors Definitely yes Rather yes Not sure Rather no Definitely no Would you like to add any comment 35 If you answered yes to previous question do you have a designated group of people and an established process that assures that inquirers about the Orthodox Faith and first time visitors feel welcomed in your parish Please describe 36 Some people believe that it is important for a parish to actively look for new members while some think that it is sufficient to simply be a welcoming community that accepts and integrates people who somehow found their way to the parish What is your opinion on this question If you believe that it is important to actively search for new members how do you do this in your church 185
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America About your parish s  welcome   33. Would you say that your...
Living Out Our Faith Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America Suggestions and insights for others 37 In a nutshell tell us what is most special about your parish that would distinguish it from the other parishes in your diocese or jurisdiction 38 Based on your experience of building parish community could you give any advice to other parishes in your jurisdiction as to what they should pay more attention to If you think that many parishes tend to make the same mistakes over and again what are those mistakes 39 Different people clergy and laity alike have different understandings of what evangelization means Can you offer your definition of what good evangelization means Perhaps you can even provide some examples from the life of your parish 40 In your opinion how could the bishops better help to support and encourage evangelization work in their parishes Thank you Please click on the Done button and your completed survey will be submitted 186
Living Out Our Faith  Orthodox Churches in 21st Century America Suggestions and insights for others    37. In a nutshell, ...
Appendix 4 Selected Quotes from the Clergy Participating in the Study that Can be Helpful for Other Parishes The following pages contain a collection of quotes from our respondents the clergy serving in US Orthodox parishes that were involved in the study Some of these quotes were used already in various chapters of this study report while some appear first time in this report We offer this collection with very simple goal in mind these quotes can be interesting informative useful and inspirational for the clergy and lay leaders in many other American parishes In order to easy navigate between various subjects the quotes are divided in ten broad categories About parish ministries programs and activities beyond worship services About parish finances and giving to the church About worship services and sacramental life About building loving local Christian community and relations within the parish About question of ethnic identity and culture About various ways and specific examples that can improve outreach and mission work in US Orthodox churches About how the bishops can help the parishes in evangelization and outreach About how US Orthodox parishes can witness Orthodoxy in the 21st century America About religious education and faith formation Other advices to the parishes and comments on commonly made mistakes About parish ministries programs and activities beyond worship services We make a conscious effort to empower and involve our lay leaders to take ownership of their own ministries This means actually having a real ministry team of several members of the parish as opposed to a ministry of one person We hold them accountable for having a mission statement for their ministry a stated vision and annual goals that our Parish Council liaison supports them in fulfilling We make sure that every ministry has a ministry binder that serves as a manual for continuity and smooth succession when the time comes We help each ministry to create and manage their own budget and to effectively communicate their budget needs to our Parish Council Treasurer so that the Parish s Operating Budget is a true reflection of the needs of each ministry We try to train our leaders on how to lead and how in turn train a successor so 187
Appendix  4   Selected  Quotes  from  the  Clergy  Participating  in  the  Study  that  Can  be  Helpful   for  Other  Par...
we do not encourage burnout or parochial insecurity We try to help our members to identify their unique gifts and talents and to encourage them to use them in ministry to the glory of God We always focus on at least one project per month That is something is always occurring We never stand still I subscribe to the biological belief that things are either progressing or regressing In biology there is no such thing as stability This is Leadership 101 If anyone is seeking stability they likely have no idea what they are doing to an organization This attitude affects everyone Keep moving and talk about the movement We make use of the existing professional talent within the community i e legal advisors medical professionals counseling teaching etc This involves having a good understanding of who is who in your congregation As part of membership and stewardship in the parish every adult is expected to participate in some additional service group or ministry of the Church The idea is to identify invite and draw new participants into the service groups and ministries The parish is structured in an array of 8 Service Groups which are tasked with the oversight of the particular areas of parish life with specific ongoing ministries under each 1 Liturgy servers readers chanters prosphora bakers etc 2 Charitable Works prison ministry immigrant ministry right to life Community Care intercession etc 3 Hospitality events 4 Outreach Evangelization Greeters 5 Religious Formation Church School Adult ed Catechumenate 6 Buildings and Grounds 7 Library Bookstore 8 Parish Administration Board Web committee These groups are encouraged to meet monthly and carry out tasks including planning budgeting and calendar as necessary Each person should be able to find something that they are interested in and good at This parish structure keeps key church ministries in the forefront of what we re supposed to be about About parish finances and giving to the church The manner in which we handle finances has changed We used to have one person to handle all financial transactions We now employ a system of segmentation whereby multiple people are involved in handling the church finances but in a very limited role Those who count money do only that Those who record donations and make deposits do only that He She who pays the bills and provides a monthly balance sheet does only that 188
we   do   not   encourage   burnout   or   parochial   insecurity.   We   try   to   help   our   members   to   identify ...
We present giving as a spiritual discipline We ask people to give as much as they can joyfully and seek to increase their giving by growing spiritually We don t view charitable giving in terms of a pledge but rather a principle The vast majority of our stewards make an ongoing commitment to the Church that is not based on calendar year weekly or monthly giving We utilize a formal mentoring program Quill that has done wonders We don t talk about financial stewardship in Church but rather provide opportunities to individuals to support other philanthropies of the Parish Metropolis Archdiocese OCMC IOCC Project Mexico Oftentimes those who lead parishes are afraid to invest in Kingdom work helping those in need supporting charities etc due to fear of the parish not meeting its financial obligations This mindset does not encourage greater stewardship inhibits evangelism and in the end is more costly in financial ways as well as other ways When trying to increase financial resources in support of the parish goals we ask first for advice not money We have run this parish successfully through free will giving since its inception No pledges dues or tithes Our parishioners give to the best of their ability No minimums or dues Pledging was tried for years and had a low rate of return Monthly we publish a bottom line summary in the bulletin and the priest draws attention if deficits start to appear Any parish that is depending on its festival to pay its bills and not the stewardship of its people is placing its future in the hands of the non Orthodox About worship services and sacramental life In our parish Divine Liturgy is served by the WHOLE Parish participating ALL Children take active part in the service by holding candles during the Gospel Reading and singing the prayer of Our Father in Ukrainian singing hymns before Holy Communion by themselves I don t believe I can tell other parishes what to do But every parish must pray admit to being counter cultural teach of God s mercy and encourage the Holy Mystery of Repentance if the parishioner participation is not vibrant in this sacrament something is wrong 189
    We   present  giving  as  a  spiritual   discipline.   We   ask  people  to  give  as  much  as  they  can   joyfully ...
It is IMPORTANT to state that our liturgical services include a full panoply of akathists molebens and weekday liturgies Additionally the priest is available Monday Friday from 4 6 P M for confessions and or to meet and talk with parishioners on any topic This helps to increase the pastoral nature of the community strengthening bonds and creating trust The Holy Mystery of Repentance hours seven days per week including Saturday before Vespers and Sunday before Divine Liturgy reveals a strong bond between the parishioners and God In our Prayer Group we pray for over 1500 reposed and living twice per month as a group About building loving local Christian community and relations within the parish I would say that we are perceived as a loving parish both by members and by those who have come to know us 1 Women in our parish regularly prepare and deliver meals to new mothers and their families to those who are recovering from long term illness etc 2 People take time to visit those whom we haven t seen for a time letting them know that they are missed and we care for them 3 I have on occasion made visits to people who are not Orthodox but who have been mentioned to me as someone in need 4 We established a St Nicholas Fund a few years ago It is rather like a discretionary fund from which we provide money to those who have needs that aren t easily met Along with my discretionary fund we use this reserve to help people with everything from paying bills to buying medicine Priest and parishes are afraid to lose people who might be causing problems but who might give a lot of money Don t give in to threats If you don t do what I say or want I ll leave Let them go They need to leave in order to make room for more spiritually healthy people The Church and mission and evangelization is about the Truth not about numbers Speak the Truth Teach the Truth preach the Truth Don t worry about numbers One plants another waters it is God that gives the growth Make your parish feel like family with the priest as the father Open your arms to the faithful Love them for who they are not what you want them to be Be present throughout the week in the office priests need to be present Stewardship must be emphasized and pushed Many faithful need to be help accountable in a loving way Mail and email reminders are important People want to give to a winning team make sure your parish is a winning team Pay more attention to ALL the faithful not just those who give Make everyone feel special 190
    It   is   IMPORTANT   to   state   that   our   liturgical   services   include   a   full   panoply   of   akathists,...
Pray hard and play hard Do things to help build community like get together for meals have a talent show VBS youth camps celebrations throughout the year etc this has to be coupled with a full liturgical life as well In regard to mistakes if people are not excited about The Faith and growing in it then why do we expect anyone to be interested in exploring it Also I have seen parishes that have factions that exist within it These factions lead wars with each other and everyone else My advice is do not have groups with presidents or formal leaders This keeps little churches and power structures from existing within the parish itself Instead have volunteers but not recognized officers One of the mistakes we have made unfortunately we did not have other choice was that we focused too much on the stone church rather than on our faithful inner church The more we do charity and hospitality to others as well as those within the community the more love in a parish is present God is present He will lead and purify us if we let Him Each parish has a distinctive charism and it is for the pastor and his flock to discover that and foster it as the Spirit leads We have multiple core groups Thus we have prayer group men s group women s group home schooling group festival group educational group choir reading writer s guild and Sunday school teachers In order to maximize parishioner participation and leadership we do the following 1 When a parishioner opines Father you know we ought to have a group that does ___________ My response usually is You know I believe that is a wonderful idea Why don t you provide me with a proposal I will review it and you can lead it In this way the priest is knowledgeable of what the parishioners may want to do the people are empowered and the priest is always a de facto member of every organization 2 All proposals must be reviewed by the priest and he the priest must author a charter establishing lanes in the road for the new organization The organizational membership agenda meeting times etc must be approved by the priest The priest ought to attend as many meetings as possible as the spiritual advisor The priest may not be able to attend every session but each meeting must produce a documented outcome 3 If any group s activities go beyond the charter the priest must be willing to step in and refocus the entity 191
    Pray  hard  and  play  hard.  Do  things  to  help  build  community  like  get  together  for  meals,  have  a   tale...
4 Praise and recognition must be acknowledged as commensurate with the group activities 5 In our parish there are no ethnic or cultural groups permitted that would exclude anyone No flag exists above a church About question of ethnic identity and culture Add Christian to your church name i e not just Orthodox Church Delete ethnic designation It is a hurdle But do not loose the lineage of authenticity The deep questions of identity language and culture must be addressed These issues can be solved if people are respected and honored if we see ethnicity and culture as something to be shared but never lorded over others About various ways and specific examples that can improve outreach and mission work in US Orthodox churches Set aside line item funds real money to do mission work A bishop needs to show up frequently for mission work to advance better We need far more parishes even where there may be existing parishes even if they are small if they are willing to seek the Lord s leading and their distinctive charism Four ideas 1 Teach mission development in the seminary and send students to missions in the summer 2 Send priests where there is no parish or a clearly identified need and say do it 3 Support overseas missionaries who bring something very special to the conversation 4 Dedicate a real line item in the diocesan budget and fund it And then figure out what God would do with it We connect with non Orthodox people over their interest in meditation and centering prayer by way of our weekly Jesus prayer group where we gather to learn about and practice the Jesus prayer together I lead the parish in Columbus OH and the chapel at Ohio University in Athens OH Campus ministry has proven to be one of the more effective ways of reaching people who are not yet in the Church I serve as the OCF chaplain for Ohio State Ohio University and Denison University University environments are oftentimes much more open to dialog and discussion regarding matters of Faith Also the ability to engage those in need of the community and the 192
4. Praise  and  recognition  must  be  acknowledged  as  commensurate  with  the  group  activities.     5. In  our  paris...
organizations that serve those in need also provides a positive witness in addition to caring for the poor hungry etc We have tried to do everything with tastefulness and decorum Too many parishes are dirty dated and give of the general appearance of being poor and ill designed Even in our old cinder block building people have often cried upon entering the church for the first time because of its simple and elegant beauty We have worked very hard to make our temple our music and our services be an icon of the Kingdom of God in all the fine details without however becoming stiff or inflexible We have a goal of tithing ten percent of our budget to the poor We have prison Ministry to State Pen Accredited class time at State College on Orthodox Christianity 350 word Newspaper articles published regularly for free Public Inquirer classes in new cities where there are NO Orthodox Christians seminar format We also offer guided Wine Tasting at church Social Hall About Agia Sophia coffee house and bookstore in Colorado Springs CO For years the vision of Ss Constantine and Helen parish was to more fully develop an Orthodox Christian witness and presence in Colorado Springs Colorado Springs is known for its high percentage of various ministries and Protestant churches yet for all of Christendom present in town many of us at Ss Constantine and Helen were painfully acquainted with friends co workers and neighbors who were all but post churched in their Protestant experience Our acquaintances had not given up faith in God but nonetheless had grown cynical disillusioned even despondent when it came to church many members of Ss Constantine and Helen having been there prior to discovering Orthodoxy What could we do to enable persons to discover and come to trust the riches depths and fullness of the Orthodox Church life We desired Orthodox Christianity to be available to the person on the street We envisioned a warm inviting comfortable non threatening yet definitively Orthodox space We wanted people to spend time therein reading conversing discovering and perusing the books Months were spent finding the perfect location remodeling the interior ordering books and equipment hiring qualified staff By the grace of God Agia Sophia opened its doors in May of 06 The vast majority of books that sell are those of or about Orthodox Christianity We anxiously await the intrinsic reward of seeing Agia Sophia bear fruit as a means of introducing people to the Orthodox Church in the meantime we 193
organizations  that  serve  those  in  need  also  provides  a  positive  witness  in  addition  to  caring  for   the  po...
humbly accept the fact that it is for us to obediently sow the seeds and for God to bring the harvest Our parish s Society of St Catherine cares for the ill those mothers with young children and the Sunday meals after liturgy We feed approximately 100 adults and youth every Sunday Shoes for school is an active ministry of our parish It raises funds to purchase new shoes for poor school children About how the bishops can help the parishes in evangelization and outreach They have to resist narrow Orthodox fundamentalism and allow Orthodoxy to naturally and slowly take on an American flavor Orthodoxy cannot just be about preserving things It is much more alive than this We once said to one hierarch If Orthodoxy is the mother church then we should start acting like it and reach out as a mother would to her lost children to help the sincere and true Christians come home Regular annual at least visitation to the parishes and missions no matter how small On those visits to have supper with the catechumens and inquirers To encourage and be aware of strategic lists of cities where new Orthodox Communities should be established and be active in promoting this work By writing and speaking about Evangelization all the time Primarily our bishops need to encourage our missions and parishes of various jurisdictions to work together If we are not united then we are divided and can only bring a hypocritical message to those we are trying to evangelize How can we proclaim the Gospel of Christ when the local Greeks Russians and Arabs cannot stand each other or do nothing together This does not reflect Christ s love in any form or fashion Last thought on this if there is only one Orthodox parish in a town of 200 000 to 800 000 people instead of saying this is our territory say I pray our bishops encourage other canonical Orthodox jurisdictions to join them in their local vineyard for the fields are white for harvest Although I understand the desire for great national offices I would suggest that parishes will grow through a greater commitment by our bishops to fund local ministries Hierarchs could also remain open to sharing in the work of a local parish beyond simply celebrating feast days and services what a witness this would be to parishioners and non parishioners alike The bishops could 1 Develop and offer resources that could be utilized by clergy in local missionary efforts Every parish will have a different approach to evangelization and a lot of it 194
humbly   accept   the   fact   that   it   is   for   us   to   obediently   sow   the   seeds,   and   for   God   to   b...
will depend on their core leaders where they are in their relationship with Christ where the community is located and so forth With such diversity there can be no official checklist for evangelization Communities that wish to evangelize need some pool of resources that they can delve into as they start reaching out or opening up 2 Encourage or mandate Adult Education Educating parents pays dividends with the children Our deanery education meetings focus primarily on youth education How are our church schools and folklore groups What are the numbers How many teachers What curriculums do they use And so on Our children however will learn far more at home from their parents than they will in a church school lesson Do they know the Old Testament Maybe something from church school Do they pray before meals cross themselves and make faith a part of their everyday living Their parents will be most impactful there That education is a vital part of mission work as that interior growth happens in the parish evangelization will naturally happen or be easily encouraged by a leader 3 Clergy Education As a young priest I was thrust into a parish with little preparation for the realities of parish life apart from my seminary formation Paperwork was a mystery language was a struggle new names and new faces were a constant part of my early priesthood while I struggled to grow comfortable with serving The priesthood can be an isolating vocation and unless a priest is self motivated it is easy to focus so much on the community that one forgets to grow closer to Christ himself After seminary there is a great need for priests to continue their education to reflect on their pastoral growth evaluate their God given skill set and continue to grow into their responsibility Clergy need to learn from other priests whose skills are different from their own who can teach them how to teach adults or organize a church school they need to evaluate their preaching habits and evolve in that craft they need to learn about mission and what works for parish growth and revitalization No person can do all these things perfectly but all priests can grow in all these areas Bishops can 1 Have diocesan grants available for training and resources Diocese of the Midwest does this 2 Provide more diocesan workshops and training for parish councils who oversee the budgets and should be supporting the vision of the priest 3 Don t just verbally support campus ministry and other endeavors but actually support it with funding for priests to serve as campus ministers and in other para Church capacities that place clergy and lay leaders in the position to encounter people outside of their parish community Priests sometimes turn down 195
will   depend   on   their   core   leaders,   where   they   are   in   their   relationship   with   Christ,   where   t...
opportunities to serve an OCF 4 Increase opportunities for laypersons men and women to be trained as catechists and lay ministers chaplains Bishops can encourage evangelization work but not at the expense of other parishes Too often missions or outreaches are planted within the sphere of another church causing problems Support the work of smaller parishes who could use the resources and guidance while directing the outreach of larger parishes to areas with no Orthodox presence About how US Orthodox parishes can witness Orthodoxy in the 21st century America Here are a few ideas 1 Encouraging parishioners to live their faith through actions not only lips 2 Doing fundraisers for people in local community and helping out our own 2 years ago our parish allocated 15 of its annual income for care giving purposes of those who are locally in need 3 Having some of the services outside the Church Vespers with blessing of the animals Memorial Service for 9 11 in front of the church 4 Inviting local community to join for social gatherings We opened our doors for local cub scout Pack to have their meetings and fundraisers for free 4 Serving food every first Monday of the month at local homeless shelter 5 Collecting children cloth and hygiene items for homeless 6 Collecting food from Thanksgiving for veteran families In simple words serving God His people and serving the community we are in 1 Welcome and love everyone who comes into the church When I converted to Orthodoxy I experienced the exact opposite since I was not Greek Today I still have families who come to our parish at the suggestion of other ethnic churches because I am willing to catechize anyone This is a sad reflection on Orthodoxy 2 Have a strong welcoming committee for all entering the church Those working on welcome committee make it a point to introduce all visitors to the priest or member of the advisory council 3 Be willing to bless all attendees 4 Afford all attendees especially newcomers the means of contacting either the priest and or parish administrator 5 Be willing to work 7 days per week 6 Be willing to explain the need for Repentance lovingly Our rate of those practicing the Mystery of Holy Repentance has increased yearly It is not unusual to hear 20 25 confessions in a week 7 Have a vibrant Sunday School program Demand teacher preparation participation and discipline of students 8 Get out of the office Paperwork is not pastoral work 9 Maintain email text or phone conversation with everyone Know when you last saw or spoke to someone 10 Go out of your way to pray for non 196
opportunities  to  serve  an  OCF.  4.  Increase  opportunities  for  laypersons   men  and  women   to  be   trained  as ...
Orthodox members of parishioner families Do it and let them know you ve done it 11 Do not email parishioners only on Saturdays or Sundays Reach out during the week in mass emails on subjects of Orthodoxy relevant to their lives Sometimes this results in education and other times it affords parishioners to hit reply and simply tell you what has been occurring in their life 12 Know every child s name 13 Keep moving don t let one person or group of people dominate all of your time every Sunday Every once in a while go into the kid s playroom and play with them 14 Never ask a child to be quiet during the liturgy or homily Be willing to go out and pick up the child and comfort them Be willing to walk around and stand close to a parishioner who is talking 15 Willingly engage the parishioners during a homily not often but every once in a while Isn t that right Tom Engage the one who is listening never the one who is not listening Doing this places everyone on their toes Be lovingly dynamic 16 Always be willing to say This is what the bishop wants of us and we re going to do it 17 I know some priests do not look at who donates what That is personal preference I do look and assess who donates what It is how I learn who has lost their job And it gives me an opening to ask if all is well In this regard stewardship is not only to the church but from the church to the parishioner Stewardship works both ways First and foremost be Orthodox That of itself is attractive as it brings Christ into a world that is falling apart around us If one looks at the major Protestant churches they are imploding theologically and being influenced morally by the culture People are looking for the Church Therefore we have to hold to the Tradition that we have inherited and not compromise our faith the Faith in any form or fashion While many people want change more want stability Second it is important for our people to invite others family and friends to services The laity are the ones that are among the people outside of the Church all week When they come across someone who has a need or is hurting it is important that they connect these people to Christ via the Church Third it is extremely important that visitors feel are welcomed when they enter an Orthodox Church We assign parishioners greeters to watch for visitors and to stand with them during the service Normally if someone visits a church and they are not greeted by others they will not return I visited numerous Orthodox parishes before I became a priest and many of them did not care if I was there or out unfortunately Fourth a priest has to be accessible Return calls emails texts etc in a timely manner and meet with people whether it be late early etc When 197
Orthodox  members  of  parishioner  families.  Do  it  and  let  them  know  you  ve  done   it.  11.  Do  not   email  pa...
parishioners are not there text them During the week pray for them and let them know via email or text Fifth I wear my cassock all the time This alone has lead to two families converting to Orthodoxy One of my now parishioners before he was Orthodox called me and said I was thinking about who is religious that I can talk to and I thought about you in the black dress with a cross Also get out the church and be in the community Lastly use FB and other social media outlets to communicate the message of the Church and not as a means of debate or theological banter About religious education and faith formation We have Total Parish Education approach this means providing opportunities in educating the parish on the Orthodox Faith through every activity and event The whole entire parish is involved in religious education because we feel that each person should be a life long learner Our parents and grandparents are integral in educating the youth We have 15 people involved in Sunday School We have five youth groups with 2 leaders per group We have a weekly adult Sunday School that has around 60 participants This runs concurrent with our youth Sunday School We have two weekly Bible Studies We have a monthly Senior gathering that includes a lecture and discussion and a luncheon We have an annual Inquirers Series that runs 13 weeks and is team taught by six different teachers 2 priests 1 deacon and 3 lay teachers we offer 4 serious retreats per year including one for men one for women one parish wide and one marriage retreat We also have monthly men s breakfasts and lectures discussion as well as one woman s monthly presentation discussion with the priest Every couple of years we offer an in depth series on parenting because we have on staff a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has lots of contacts and colleagues who can give helpful lectures and answer questions Every service is an opportunity for a homily and before each Parish Council and Philoptochos meeting the priest offers a reflection We have a strong adult education program for parishioners and inquirers Please note not all is taught by the priest This is important I strongly encourage subject matter specialists by challenging the parishioners to teach 198
parishioners  are  not  there  text  them.  During  the  week  pray  for  them  and  let  them  know  via  email   or   te...
We emphasize religious education in all aspects of parish life and use every opportunity to increase the spiritual development and formation of every parishioner We also focus first on the adult religious education By equipping our parents and educating them to be the 24 hour 7 day a week catechists evangelists and youth leaders of their own children Our expectation is that our children will convert to the Orthodox Faith and make it their own before they leave their homes and go out on their own to college or young adulthood About faith formation St James House is a ministry of Saint John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River Alaska It provides a one year residential program where young single people live in an extended family setting and become better prepared to live in the world as faithful Orthodox Christian men and women This is accomplished primarily through evening studies household work projects and participation in the liturgical and community life of St John Cathedral as well as their daily interaction with one another The household itself is run by a resident family whose goal is to mentor the program s participants in facing everyday challenges responsibly and with faith in God The pastor and clergy of St John Orthodox Cathedral also oversee the program by providing instruction and spiritual direction Faith Tree is a ministry of St Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Van Nuys California a parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America Its purpose is to provide educational programs from a Traditional Orthodox Christian context in the language of our day and to equip families in North America to live what they believe We use Cooperative Catechism our instructors and students are from all Orthodox parishes in the area We have begun a Bible study in a city which is an hour from the parish in order to meet the need of those parishioners Other advices to the parishes and comments on commonly made mistakes Be more intentional in explaining Orthodox theology and traditions in a less esoteric manner Advices a Try to be international That is living the faith by loving and thinking of others of the neighbor first b Budget for and encourage your pastor s to receive ongoing Professional Development c Have a line item in the budget for support of charities outside of the parish community d Instill the notion that every member of the parish should participate in at least one 199
    We   emphasize   religious   education   in   all   aspects   of   parish   life   and   use   every   opportunity   t...
ministry of the parish e OCFs OCMC support local charities etc are important and worthy of local parish support An additional benefit of participating in these ministries is that it draws attention away from those in the parish and places it on those outside of the parish I think this is important in order for the parish to be a healthy Christian community Children We encourage families with young kids to sit up front during Liturgy so kids can see what s going on We encourage boys to be altar boys and can have as many as 20 altar boys each Liturgy The little kids come and hold the hand of the priest during the Prayer behind the Amvon We have two distinct Sunday Schools each Sunday The main one after the English Liturgy has approximately 110 English speaking kids and a second Sunday school was added a few years ago for our bilingual immigrant kids and approximately 20 attend that session The current system of Leadership through parish service groups all parishioners are assigned to one of groups and ministries evolved over the past 10 years 200
ministry  of  the  parish   e   OCFs,  OCMC  support,  local  charities,  etc.  are  important  and  worthy  of   local   ...