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"Putting God First" Is First Among St. Luke Parishioners
By Ken Stevens

As the initial phase of developing the our bi-annual Strategic Plan, St. Luke parishioners were asked to complete a St. Luke parish core values survey. Core values essentially relate to the fundamental guiding principals that represent the deepest convictions or beliefs of our parish. This is a requisite exercise. A clearly defined set of core values is the first step in the future planning and vitality of our parish. Our unique core values are the foundation of the updated St. Luke Strategic Plan (to be presented in January 2003). They will align our mission and vision statements, as well as strategies and programs in the most focused and integrated way possible.

The chart below summarizes the results of the survey (33 parishioners responded).

St. Luke Orthodox Church
Core Values Survey Results
(7-1-02)

Ranking Core Value Average Relative Importance(10 = extremely important)
1 Putting God at the center of all we do 9.61
2 Loving and encouraging one another 9.29
3 Expressing genuine, heartfelt worship to God 9.23
4 Gaining direction and power thru Holy Spirit 8.84
5 Living by the authority of the Scriptures 8.55
6 Helping people grow spiritually 8.42
7 Strengthening and ministering to families 8.39
8 Influencing our community through outreach 7.87
9 Reaching lost people for Jesus Christ 7.71
10 Depending on constant prayer 7.71
11 Seeking fellowship; sharing of life & faith 7.37
12 Committing ourselves to spiritual warfare 7.29
13 Involving every person in a ministry 5.65

Additional Core Values from Respondents:-Adherence to Orthodox Church teachings-Charity through listening, food, shelter, etc.-Treating others as God wants us to.-Committing to being caretakers of our earth-Aiding and assisting those in need (charity)-Creating a spiritual environment to encourage salvation (Each item mentioned once).

The top five core values clearly indicate that St. Luke parishioners truly cherish both love of God and love of fellow man (the two greatest commandments-Matt. 22:36-40).

Without question, "Putting God at the center of all we do" ranked first, with a relative importance rating of 9.61 (scale of 1-10). Sixteen respondents (nearly half) ranked it as their "#1 core value." It is vital, indeed basic human nature, that we become one with God. That intimacy is our greatest need. He is the only God, deserving our submission of will and the desire to glorify Him in our lives. Life is not complete without a personal and living relationship with Him. We come to fully understand this through the Church, the vehicle of God's love and care.

"Loving and encouraging one another" was second, with a 9.29 ranking. This core value is a call to "togetherness." Every person needs to love and to be loved, so we need other people in our lives. Personal wholeness is nurtured in the context of interrelationships: forgiving other people as Christ has forgiven us, serving one another, worshiping together, and trying to build healthy friendships, marriages, and families. St. Luke parish is more than just a collection of individuals; it is truly a family. Over the years, this has personally touched me. As we interact we must always strive to break down barriers between one another in order to foster a deeper sharing of life and faith. This will lead us to understand, identify with, and love one another.

"Expressing genuine, heartfelt worship to God" was third, with a 9.23 ranking. Worship is a vital response to belief in God, an attitude of the heart that can be expressed in different ways while always honoring Him. Worship of God is the foundation of who we are and everything we do as a church. It is, moreover, about cultivating an on-going deep and intimate relationship with God through Christ. It must be pursued zealously, but in reverence with humility and joyfulness. Ultimately true worship results in a commitment to serve the Lord in all aspects of our lives.

"Gaining direction and power through the Holy Spirit" was fourth, with an 8.84 ranking. The Orthodox Church depends on the Holy Sprit for its direction and power. We must continually evaluate our ministry planning and goal setting under the Holy Spirit's guidance and routinely update our Strategic Plan. Thus, St. Luke's ministry is flexible, future-oriented, and responsive to changing needs and the voice of the Holy Spirit.

"Living by the authority of the Scriptures" was fifth, with an 8.55 relative ranking. We live in days of uncertainty, but our lives can be based on the certainties of the Bible-the Word-where God reveals Himself to us. The Bible is the complete authority of God's inspired Word and can transform our lives. The teachings of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit guide the life, faith, and practice of the individual believer and the church collectively. The Scripture, where we come to know Jesus Christ, is the basis for living an Orthodox Christian life.

Interestingly, the other core values listed in the survey extend from these top five. When we put God first in all we do (CV 1), we also commit ourselves to spiritual warfare (CV 12). Difficult times and temptations will occur to challenge us, so we must be vigilant. Yet complete trust in God will see us through those challenges.

Loving and encouraging one another (CV 2) involves seeking fellowship, sharing our life and faith (CV 11); treating others as God wants us to (CV add-on); strengthening/ ministering to families (CV 7); helping people grow spiritually (CV 6); and charity, listening to other people and assisting those in need of food, shelter, etc. (CV add-ons).

Core Value 3 is related to CV 1, while CV 4 relates to Core Values 6, 10, and the add-on: creating a spiritual environment to encourage salvation. Core Value 5 leads us to CVs 7, 8, 9, 13, and the rest of the add-ons.

Now that the Core Values Survey is complete, it is time to move forward in the strategic planning process. Key next steps will include a parish-wide church evaluation survey (September), an all-parishioner planning meeting (October), followed by presentation of the complete formal plan at the annual parish meeting in January 2003. As always, we appreciate your avid participation in the planning process.

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