Parish Pulse

A Newsletter for Orthodox Parish Leaders

Parish Development Ministry

Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania

Orthodox Church in America

August 2022

Stewardship * Leadership * Communication * Evangelization

Administration * Planning * Ministry

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!

Welcome to Parish Pulse an online newsletter for clergy and lay leaders in the Orthodox Church in America's Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania as well as those from Orthodox parishes throughout North America. We focus on topics of importance in parish life such as stewardship, discipleship, leadership development, ministry, communication, parish vision and outreach.

The Ninth Parish Development Forum was held online on Friday June 17 with over 100 Orthodox Christians participating to learn about increasing their parish capacity for ministry. For the next few months we will review some of the content from the Forum.

Please use the unsubscribe button if you do not wish to receive this publication. Likewise if you've been forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe see the subscribe link at bottom.

In Christ,

Joseph Kormos

Parish Development Ministry Leader, Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania

Quick Links

Quick access to resources available on the Archdiocesan webpage or in a few cases the Midwest Diocese website.

Growth & Vision

1. Toolbox for Vision Casting

2. What kind of parish do we envision?

3. Orthodox parishes and neighborhood identity

4. What priest's want?

 5. Discovering Parish Core values

6. Approaching Change Fr T Soroka (PPT)

7. Change Workshop Kormos -- Small Parish Forum (PPT)


1. Total Stewardship  

2. Good parish Stewardship Practices

3. Intro to Pledging and All member Canvasses

4. Common Stewardship Q&A 

5. How Much Should I Give?

6. Relevant Scriptural verses re: Stewardship


1. Orthodox Evangelization Principles

2. Survey of Orthodox Converts

3. How Visitors Experience Your Parish -Mystery Worshiper Reports

4. Common Q/A: Orthodox Inquirers

5. "Sharing the Hope" Course

6. Which Parish would YOU Choose?

7. Communicating Our Faith Fr Stephen Frase

8. How Visitors Define 'Friendly' 9.Video: Parish Welcoming and Hospitality

Parish Finance Articles

1.Parish Financial Audit Guidelines  

2. Best Practices & Principles for Parish Financial Accountability

 3. Your Parish Budget: What Does It Convey?

 4. Replacement Reserve Accounts

5. Endowment Pros & Cons


1. Ministry of the Parish Council 

2. Empowering Your Parish by Granting Permission

3. Learning to Delegate

4. Eight Good Parish Council Practices

4 Nine PC meeting time savers

5.Better preaching 

Parish Renewal

1. The Orthodox Parish in N. America - Fr. T. Hopko from Orlando AAC

2. Five Qualities of Successful Orthodox Parishes - A. Krindatch study

3. Attitudes that Enable the Church to Grow --Fr John Matusiak

4. Decline in your parish

 5. Diversity among growing parishes

6.Commonality among growing parishes

7. Wake Up a Sleeping Church

8. Revit'liz't'n Thumbnail 1 

9. Revit. Thumbnail #2

10. Triple Digit Anniversaries -- Face Forward

11. Describing Parish membership

12. When Parishes Close Themselves

13. Local Mission Teams

14 Diet & Exercise on our terms

15 Video:J Kormos Talk on Vibrant Parishes for Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

Parish Ministry & Education

1.Reorganizing Parish Ministries

2. The Blank calendar

3.Love Thy Neighbor

Communicating Your Parish

1. Website Webinar slides

2. Taking Parish Photographs

3. Toward Better Parish Websites (I)

4. Better Websites (II)

5. Improving Bulletin Content

6. Improving Bulletin Format 


1. Establishing a Solid Parish Youth Effort

2. Souls in Transition

3. Soccer vs. Church 


1. Parish Revitalization Series #1 Building Urgency and Hope 2013 

2. #2 Characteristics of Vibrant 21st Century Orthodox Parishes. 2013 

3. #3 Driving Life in Your Parish. 2013

4. Profiles in Parish Revitalization (June 2014)

5. Communicating Your Parish - Yellow Pages Is Not Enough

6. Waking Up Your Parish with College Ministry

7. Fostering Generosity & Practical Stewardship

8.Parish Council Practices 

Broken Links? Let us Know.

The following series of articles will also appear in an upcoming issue of The Light of Orthodoxy --the print publication of the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania.

Parishes as Vessels of Ministry

The recently held Parish Development Forum had as its theme “Parishes as Vessels of Ministry: Increasing Our Capacity for Ministry”. In seeking to enliven the theme planners of the event began to define how to help people better understand “ministry”.

While the term seems obvious a number of parish leaders, clergy included, indicated that many parishioners' understanding of ministry was, at best "fuzzy".

What is Ministry?

We asked a number of priests and laity to offer their thoughts on "What is Ministry?" 

Their answers covered a spectrum of views from “teach people to love the church… by teaching them to clean the church” to “connecting to one another and to God” to “making a commitment to learning about the church, serving one another and using all God given resources build up Christ’s church” to “becoming vessels through which the divine meets the human”. Their answers were captured on this four minute video

From these perspectives a working definition of ministry emerged:

“Using your gifts, talents, interests and experience to discern needs and actively share God’s love with others.”

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Misconceptions and Myths of Ministry?

While the above definition is helpful, we soon realized that the "M word" carried misconceptions, myths and baggage. To shine a light on these misconceptions this tongue in cheek four minute video was developed.

A few of the common myths are explored below.

Essential -- Not Optional

In the eyes of too many of us, ministry is a nice extra – a good thing to do – if we have time. In the words of Larry Jenney in a 1989 article on “Ministry is a duty. Not a suggestion or even a recommendation but a commandment - a shared responsibility. We serve Christ by serving others."

Priest’s Job

As Denise Jillions notes in a 1982 article ‘An Orthodox Vision of Lay Ministry’, "The job of the priest is to lead, to present Christ, to keep reminding his flock of the Christian vision of life and death and to guide them to see Christ working in their daily lives. Just as it is not (only) the priest’s job to visit the sick or shut-ins, most forms of ministry can and should be done by the laity. This is how we live out the liturgy –the work of the people. At our last judgment it just won’t do to tell Christ that we sent the priest to visit Mrs. Jones when she was sick in bed.”

Far Away

Another misconception is that ministry is something that we need to do far away. A foreign land or a rarely visited urban location away from our often safe neighborhoods. While those locations, of course, afford excellent ministry opportunities, there are many more accessible ministry opportunities. Look inside the church to be a ministry of presence to those sick or lonely. One contributor saw ministry as an opportunity to teach others, by your actions, “to love the church.” Think of your workplace as an opportunity to use deeds, hospitality and good cheer to shine forth the light of Christ.

Parish Growth

Often we hear of a parish’s desire to undertake ministry with the motive of attracting new members. A growth program. While growth is often a very real by-product of ministry, we do this, as stated above, not to grow or to make us feel good, but to share God’s love with others.

An Uncomfortable Task

While doing ministry helps to pull us out of our comfort zones – to stretch our lives as Christians, it need not be uncomfortable. Good ministry starts with our own gifts, talents and interests -- the things we like to do and are good at to connect with others. Sharing your faith with others is an important ministry but not all of us are gifted in a way that we can feel comfortable with this. Build toward this but don’t let current limitations stand in the way of finding comfortable outlets for your current skills.

Two-Fold Mission

Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory describes the Mission of the Church as being twofold:

“The first mission of the church is to ascend into the heavenly holy of holies, to worship the Almighty God, and to receive the eternal life and light from him,

And the second mission of the Church is to be sent back into this world as witnesses of the light and the life we have received, and to communicate that to the world. Let us go forth in peace; in the Name of the Lord.

This twofold mission of the church constitutes the rhythm of our whole life in which we go up and in, and then out to bear witness.”

Good Practices for Making Ministry Happen

One area of fruitful 2022 Forum discussion concerned motivating parishioners to actively participate in the ministry work of the parish. One product of the Forum was the identification of good practices to encourage ministry.

  1. Help others to visualize the benefits of ministry with stories and examples.
  2. Find only a small part in a ministry for some people at the beginning.
  3. Include ministry in the parish mission statement.
  4. Everything the church does should be a ministry.
  5. Give people autonomy over a ministry as much as possible. Don't micro-manage. Identify "what" not "how". See "Delegating Better"
  6. Find ministries for people with limited funds or abilities.
  7. Budget for ministry in the church.
  8. Ask people individually. Don’t just always put out a call for ministry to the group.
  9. Involve families in ministry.
  10. Share examples of ministry from the lives of the saints.
  11. Recognize ministry with awards, thanks, gifts. Say thank you often.
  12. Include notes on how to minister in the parish bulletin.
  13. Consider featuring one parish ministry per week during announcements (max 3 min or brief bulletin summary)
  14. Work hard to match ministries with people's gifts and talents.
  15. Try to keep a ministry role from becoming a life-long commitment. Provide exit strategies.
  16. Priests are busy. Consider adding the role of pastoral assistant or ministry coordinator to help make parish ministries more robust.
  17. To create a balanced array of ministries consider which of your ministries are internally or externally focused; local, national and international, are relatively straight forward or more complex or require advanced skills; can be done by 1-2 individuals or require a broader team; involve sending $ vs. contributing time.

Good Questions to Motivate Ministry?

There are many good practices for helping to encourage effective ministry in parishes. Some are listed in the previous article. One of the best is simply asking good questions –from the pulpit, at parish council meetings, at parish 'town hall' meetings, during coffee hour. Here are some good questions:

  • What are the ministries offered by and through our parish? Which are focused internally? Which external? Are we comfortable with that balance?
  • What was the last new ministry – one that involves the active contribution of time and love by parishioners – begun by our parish? When was that?
  •  Can/should we consider new ministries - perhaps replacing activities and efforts that no longer relevant? Or which seem to be self-serving?
  • What factors limit our parish’s capacity for ministry? What holds us back? Is it money and funding? Is it motivation? Is it a lack of creativity? Is it the misconceptions about what “ministry” is or why we do it? An unwillingness to try something new? A general lethargy toward parish life? Skills and talents? A willingness to look the other way when confronted with the needs of others.
  • How many (what portion of parishioners) are truly involved in a ministry of some sort – whether internally focused or external? How can we engage those who may be on the fringes? Might some of them be participating in Christ-centered ministry outside the bounds of the parish?

"Increasing Capacity for Ministry" Webinar Series

While many of you attended this year's Forum others were not available that day. And, since there were three parallel tracks (over 12 hours of content) none of us could participate in all of the Forum live.

For this reason we plan to repeat a select number, probably three or four, of Forum sessions as individual (free!) webinars starting in September. 

Watch this space for the schedule!

Five Hospitality Lessons from a Homecoming

You’ve heard these before, but this article from another newsletter, is a quick read and offers some worthy reminders.

A key point: “When a visitor did come, the church was unprepared; and when there is no expectation for visitors, you seldom get a second chance.”

And, many of the suggestions on this list 50 Ways to Welcome New People are worthy of your perusal.

Thank you for your time.

Let us know your feedback. 513.518.5878

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Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania | Parish Development Ministry

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