The Parish Stewardship Program – Council of Ministries Part I
Council of Ministries and its Role in Stewardship Development
Fr. Steve Dalber, Saint Nektarios Church, Charlotte, NC
The concept of a “Council of Ministries” is not only a structuring of ministries but also a leadership structure for the entire community. This not something that was invented, but rather something that evolved in our community and is serving us well. It is my hope that this concept might benefit other communities.
Most Orthodox communities in America use a leadership structure which involves the priest and a parish council as leaders of administration and ministry. Some communities use this system effectively, while others find themselves in a seemingly constant struggle. While the priest has the backing of the Archdiocese Regulations and is the spiritual and ministerial leader of the parish; the parish council, never the less, controls the “purse strings.” The debate then becomes: How do we get money, how do we spend it and who makes this determination? The priest’s job is to develop ministries, while the parish council sees the need to pay the bills and there never seems to be enough money to go around. Meanwhile the parish in general doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on while developing an attitude of, “I really don’t care.” In these parishes true stewardship cannot take hold. This creates even greater desperation to raise funds, usually resulting in an ever increasing dependence on festivals and an endless stream of other fundraisers in an effort to keep the parish financially afloat. Survival becomes a priority while ministries take a back seat and the arguing seems endless.
This negative dynamic between money and ministry creates an atmosphere of dysfunction in the community which can become intergenerational creating many factions within a community and often times a revolving door policy for priests.
It is my belief that the dysfunction within which some of our parishes have fallen is not the fault of the priest, the parish or the parish council, but rather the fundamental leadership/ministry structure in our communities. The council of ministries model described below works. I truly believe communities that choose to adopt it can “fix” what’s broken and enhance the effectiveness of what they are already “doing well.”
How It Happened
The community that eventually would become St Nektarios was formed during the summer of 1998 under the leadership of Fr. Nick Triantafillou, who was at that time the dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Charlotte. Fr. Nick divided the small group into taskforces with different assignments designed to help create a community. With the approval of Bishop Alexios the community was chartered in September 1998. The taskforce leaders were then appointed as the first “board of directors.” The taskforce groups became the original ministry groups with their respective leaders as their head. I arrived a month later to find a small, well-organized group. Each “ministry/committee” was headed by a board member. This was for the most part the standard leadership/ministry structure of all Orthodox churches. Within six months this same structure was threatening to destroy our community. A strong division had arisen among the board having to do with the property we had purchased. This division created an atmosphere of distrust. Because of the leadership/ministry structure, these issues were not contained within the boardroom. They overflowed into the ministry committees with board members trying to influence the members of their respective committees to support their point of view. The work of the ministry was disrupted. It became increasingly evident that if we were going to survive as a community something radical had to be done.
Realizing that the ministry groups had become a political platform for those trying to get their own way, the board members had to be separated from them. This was the beginning of the current “Council of Ministries” structure. A flow chart was constructed showing the priest and the board on top, an administrator (office person) between the two, with each ministry headed by a volunteer. This new structure gave ownership to the ministry heads. The priest became a resource and spiritual father to the ministries with the board and administrator providing material support. The ministries began to flourish giving birth to sub-ministries and new ministries.
By decentralizing the authority structure, the artificial restrictions to ministry, growth and development are shattered leaving behind fertile fields for innovation and growth. With each new ministry or sub-ministry, a new leadership position is created. This allows even more people to become intimately involved and feel ownership in the community, which in turn creates an excitement and a desire to truly be a ministry centered church.
The sharing of authority and leadership with so many people and ministries can be a frightening process. After all how do all these leaders stay focused and oriented in the same direction? What keeps them from going astray, wanting to do their own thing? It is critical that a strong, non-negotiable mission statement is in place to which everyone agrees and adheres. In order for the mission to be non-negotiable, it must come from the very authority who established the church and its ministry as reflected in His own worldly ministry; that is to say, Jesus Christ Himself. The mission statement is non-negotiable. The vision statement is how we see ourselves accomplishing the mission statement.
St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church is dedicated to the continuation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s ministry of salvation through the proclamation and teaching of the Gospel; through Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and through loving service to God and to mankind.
The community will provide a loving, caring and welcoming environment where all belong and grow in the faith through worship, service, witness, and fellowship.
Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Stewardship Resources Handbook for 2017; for more information also see Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Stewardship Ministries.
As part of an on-going series on stewardship, OCN is pleased to share excerpts from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Stewardship Resources Handbook for 2017. This series hopes to assist your parish Stewardship team in getting started and planning a full year of Stewardship Ministry. The handbook contains guidelines for preparation of a parish Stewardship Program, updated letters, a sample commitment card and new member card, various campaign formats and ideas for parish stewardship ministry.
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