Rectors Annual Report January 2008
By Father Andrew Harrison
Other Activities - Member of Lemont Clergy Association, Civil Air Patrol Chaplain, Lemont Police Chaplain. Gave the invocation at the Middle Eastern War Memorial, attended St. Vladimir’s Summer Institute, participated in a 4 day seminar on evangelism, was Delegate to the National Council of Churches, I chanted a psalm in an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service and had services at the Lemont senior care facility and a monthly ministry to the mentally challenged at the Garden Center, PADS organization meeting and a 24 day OCMC mission in Romania.
We are still in the process of developing a strategic plan which will cover the next 10 years. Ken Steven has reported on the progress in his annual report. The plan will be completed in 2008. We did get results from the questionnaire which was completed last year by 35 members. The questionnaire was created by Natural Church Development (NCD) which assists churches to become healthy both as a cure and as a preventative. I had proposed that we look into this program and use it in the development of our new strategic plan. The Parish Council had mixed opinions about the program and wanted recommendations as to its effectiveness. Since the Diocese of the Midwest has established a parish health administrator to assist in strategic planning at no cost other than transportation it was decided this program would be more cost effective. The Parish health Administrator (Joe Korma) made an initial visit in November. Several other visits are planned for 2008. In the mean time until we have a working strategic plan I decided to utilize the results of the last year’s questioner as the basis of my report. In the NCD program there are eight quality characteristics of healthy churches. After the questioner is completed the program recommends that a congregation work on the weak characteristics while maintaining the strong.
In this report I will cover the three lowest quality characteristics.
Loving Relationship – We scored the lowest in this quality characteristic but still well above the average. The average is 35% we scored 44% What is measured: To what extent are the relationships of the members of this church characterized by a high degree of love and affection?
I believe we scored low in this characteristic because we are a commuter parish and our members have little or no relationship outside of Sunday worship. We need to address this problem in 2008. The 40 + members who are now working together in the PADS program will help but they still do not al work at the same time. We need to reactivate the Restaurant Rovers ministry and encourage participation. Home Bible study is a ministry which I have been encouraging for years. We had the Purpose Driven Life classes meeting in the Steven’s home but had more people from other churches attending.
The Movie Club, which meets on Sunday is also a ministry which needs to be supported. Families who live in a geographical area should informally meet together for fellowship. This could be set up by having someone in each locality facilitate monthly or quarterly fellowship get togethers. Our Community Team should meet and plan ways to develop loving relationships.
NCD research shows that growing churches possess, on the average, a measurably higher "love quotient" than stagnant or declining ones. Genuine, practical love has a magnetic power far more effective than evangelistic programs that depend mostly on verbal communication.
Passionate Spirituality – We scored second lowest in this quality relationship at 47% with an average of 35%. What is measured: To what extent is the spiritual life of our members characterized by prayer, enthusiasm, and boldness?
We are still above the average so we do have prayer, enthusiasm and boldness but just not enough. Mary Kincaid has been inviting our membership to participate in our prayer ministry. She gives out each week a prayer list to be taken home for personal prayer. On Saturday at the end of Vespers the ministry members pray together for those in need. The numbers of those praying at home and the abysmal support Mary receives on Saturday must be addressed. The prayer ministry could meet together once a week or month for a joint prayer service. We are a Sunday parish. The attendance on feast day services has always been poor. We get a spike for pre-sanctified liturgies during lent, Holy Week and Christmas but the rest of the year we hardly have enough attending to have a service. Maybe boldness should be reflected by efforts of family members to follow the fast, pray at home with the family and encourage attendance on the feast days. Parish wide participation in the School of the Seventy may be a way to light the fire of enthusiasm. I certainly would be open to any suggestions.
The NCD research indicated clearly that church development is dependent neither on spiritual persuasions (such as charismatic or noncharismatic) nor on specific spiritual practices (such as liturgical prayers or spiritual warfare, etc.). The point separating growing and non-growing churches is a different one: "Are the Christians in this church on fire? Do they live committed lives and practice their faith with joy and enthusiasm?
Holistic Small Groups – This score was 53% with a 35% average. This was a surprise we scored as high as we did since we had only 3 small groups meeting last year: Bible Study, Movie Club and Purpose Driven Life. All three of these small groups had poor attendance. The Purpose Driven Life group as stated above had more attending from other parishes. Other parishes see the value but our own membership either are not interested or could not find the time. Better participation in these groups would increase this quality characteristic. We have four ministry teams, a choir, a liturgical team, a parish council and others. Each one of these small groups could meet for Bible study, planning, fellowship, or just mutual sharing.
The NCD research documented that multiplication of small groups is a universal church growth principle. It also showed that for these groups to have a positive effect on both quality and numerical growth within a church they must be holistic–they must go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying it to daily life. In these groups people can safely share personal life concerns and learn to serve others, both inside and outside the group, with their spiritual gifts.
The other five quality characteristics were: Empowering Leadership, 65%, Gift-Based Ministry 61%, Effective Structures 60%, Inspiring Worship Service 59%, Need-Oriented Evangelism 56% This is out of a possible score of 70%.
Our membership continues to grow. Last year I reported to the diocese 103 adults and 46 Children. This year we had six families transfer to other parishes. We were able to make up for the transfers and still show a ten percent growth. The numbers I reported were 112 adults and 57 children. Most Sundays our parish is full during the Divine Liturgy. Our church school classrooms are also filling. This is a sign of a healthy parish. In order for St. Luke to stay healthy we need a strategic plan for the future. We can consider doubling the use of our present facilities by having two Sunday liturgies, starting a new parish south of Interstate 80 and looking into the feasibility of building a larger church on our present location.
Attached to this report is a list of six questions addressed to the Orthodox Church by Post Modern Adults. These questions were presented at the Evangelism conference I attended with four or our members in September. How we answer them will be directly impact our parish health and our growth.