Nearly forty St. Luke parishioners recently completed a parish
survey as part of OCA's Natural Church Development (NCD) initiative. This is an
essential preparatory step for formulating our next St. Luke Strategic Plan, which is
scheduled for completion mid-2007. Parish Council appreciates your 1st step contribution
in the process. Without the "meat," we could not create a suitable plan - one which
must be tailored to the individual needs of our St. Luke's parish. Surveying the
parish at large enables us to evaluate and to know -- quantitatively and
qualitatively -- where the parish is right now.
Natural Church Development is a way of measuring the health or quality
of our church. By utilizing this carefully prepared questionnaire with all of you, the
survey is the 1st step in determining the health or our church, with a focus on
eight critical areas. These are essentially quality characteristics and universally used
in building healthy churches; namely,
All eight characteristics are vitally important to healthy growing
churches. But since all eight areas can't be worked on with the same amount of energy and
concentration, we must ultimately find those areas which will yield the greatest
long-range return on our personal investments at St. Luke's.
Once we have a pulse on that requisite knowledge base, the 2nd
step will concentrate on where we are going by formulating a "vision," a godly picture of
a desired future. Vision is based on corporate parish values, and a picture of a glorious
future that comes from God and motivates the faithful. The Parish and Pastorate must
work together on this; the priest is the primary vision caster in parish life.
The 3rd step involves a determination of our mission - i.e.
defining our own ministry target group, the needs of that group, and how we are going to
reach them (e.g. strategies, plans, programs, activities). Ultimately, we must connect
and assimilate. Connecting and assimilating existing and new members in the parish can
be delicate work, but requisite for church growth, and involves concentration in a number
of primary areas of church development; specifically, holistic small groups, Orthodox
spirituality, and inspiring worship.
The NCD process assists us in developing relevant goals and a plan to
see the health of our church increase. So the first step -- diagnosing the health of
our church by taking the survey - is now complete. Next, we will receive an in-depth
analysis of the survey, which will conclude by identifying key issues/needs that should
be addressed. Following this, a strategic plan will be developed to address these very
issues. Finally, the strategic plan must be implemented; and that requires staying
focused on carrying out the plan and overcoming obstacles along with way.
A number of other OCA churches across the country have already begun to
utilize the NCD methodology with an effort towards church growth. Since the program,
under the direction of Fr. Jonathan Ivanoff (St. John the Theologian, Shirley, NY), is
relatively new, those who have participated are beginning to share experiences with the
NCD process to find ways in which they can apply this method as effectively as possible
in moving their respective parishes forward. In fact, ongoing cross-parish discussions
have been held to capture a list of common issues and lessons learned, with a view towards
helping parishes discern where they should focus in order to build/increase vibrancy.
St. Luke is, and always has been a vigorous parish. God willing, we
will never digress from our passionate focus on growth, as long as it is God-directed.
Dying churches reek of despair, hopelessness and frustration - depressing places to be in,
let alone minister in. We need to constantly refresh our mindset, with a realization
that God loves us, God cares about us, and God wants our parish to
grow. Facing the future together requires a well thought-out, tailored plan that
we are confident the Lord has in store for St. Luke's.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not
tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord our God is with you wherever you go." --