We’re talking about leadership

The Eli’s Road post has perhaps given some the impression that this blog exists to call out clergy malfeasance. It’s not. The goal is to talk about the leadership issues we’re facing as Orthodox Christians in North America. This is also not just about the hierarchs, councillors, and administrators leading from “on high.” It’s about what goes on at the parish level, too. Every parish has leaders. What challenges are they facing, and how can they lead more effectively?

Off the top of my head, some of the topics I plan to take up include (in no particular order):

  1. Goal-setting
  2. Financial leadership (budgeting, obligations, stewardship)
  3. Developing a sense of evangelism among both clergy and lay leaders
  4. Priorities (evangelism, programs, church building, missions, etc.)
  5. Antagonism and lay abuse of clergy
  6. Clergy compensation and its effect on leadership

(Having said that, it would seem that a leadership issue we should all be able to agree upon, is that clergy who are unfaithful or who are guilty of sexual abuse should be removed as clergy, rather than left in a position of leadership.)

I’ll ask you, the readers of this forum, a simple question: What topics would YOU like to see discussed and reflected on here? Use the comment section or the contact form .

Reminder: Please use real names (including last names) in the comment section. This is a leadership forum, so we can stand in the light. If you want to share something privately, use the contact form.

7 comments on this post.
  1. Mark C. Phinney:

    BACKGROUND: In my 25-years of adult participation in church life, I have been a member of of 3 parishes and have served on parish councils for 15 of those years. One parish was under the Moscow Patriarchate. The other two parishes were in the OCA: one in the Diocese of the West; the other in the Diocese of Washington, DC.

    TOPICS: At the parish level, the 3 most important leadership topics that need to be addressed are:

    1. personal spiritual formation/development;

    2. setting priorities that correctly reflect the faith we profess; and

    3. setting and following financial priorities and procedures that correctly reflect topics no. 1 and no. 2 above.

    It seems to me that topic no. 1 is the most important and, by far, the most difficult. Appropriate ways to deal with topics 2 and 3 naturally flow from progress with topic no. 1.

    ABUSE OF CLERGY AND CLERGY COMPENSATION: Thankfully, neither proposed topic has been a problem in any of the parishes where I was or am a member. God has blessed each parish with pastors for whom the laity has great respect and affection. In two of the parishes, the parish was financially able to provide enough compensation to allow the priest to serve the parish in a full-time capacity; in the third, the priest worked a full-time secular job and directed that the money that would have gone to his stipend instead go towards the building program. In my present parish, the long-standing financial guidelines provide for a minimum annual cost of living increase based on the annual Civil Service cost of living increase for the region; however, at a number of annual parish meetings, the parish has increased the amount of the proposed cost of living increase.

    POSTSCRIPT: I like the image you’ve added to this post. Is it detail from a wood-block print of Christ washing His disciples feet?

  2. Fr Basil Biberdorf:

    (I’ll save any of my own thoughts on these topics for more development later.)

    As for the image, it’s a woodcut from Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), a friend of Martin Luther. It depicts John 13:14-17, Christ washing the feet of the disciples. You can see the whole thing at Wikipedia.

  3. David B Wooten:

    I would like to discuss how parishes can take the initiative with regard to approaching not only people who have some exposure to some form of Christianity, but also those who are completely without any context for personal faith. Evangelism of the unchurched, in other words, through things like prison ministries, soup kitchens, hospital or elderly visitation teams, habitat for humanity partnerships, etc. How does an individual parish, practically speaking, lay the groundwork for something like this? What are the skills and personality traits that the pastor will need within himself from the very beginning that will facilitate the laity’s taking ownership of these ministries, and, through them, their Faith?

    Aside from this, I agree with everything Mark has said above.

  4. Mark C. Phinney:


    My experience says that one of the most important traits that the clergy must have to effectively undertake evangelistic efforts is trust in the laity involved in such efforts. While the pastor is ultimately responsible for what happens in the parish, the scope and variety of efforts the faithful are called by the Gospel to undertake requires the delegation of the bulk of those efforts to the laity. The trust necessary for the clergy to comfortably delegate the evangelistic efforts to the laity comes primarily through the confidence in the individual members of the laity acquired through personal relationships. Some members of the clergy have personalities with inately high levels of trust in others, that experience has not yet broken down; other members of the clergy have to consciously work at developing the interpersonal skills required to build the relationships that lead to the necessary trust; and others fall somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum.

    Another important personality trait that the clergy require in large measure is courage. I believe that this trait can be acquired and augmented. For some, a great deal of courage is required to create and build the relationships with the laity that produce the trust that allows for that necessary delegation. Courage is also needed to undertake the efforts within the parish that may be needed to educate the laity on their duties and responsibilities, commanded by that the Gospel,as part of the faithful.

  5. skarface:

    Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn’t express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach

  6. Ariel Marullo:

    Hi – I would like to say thank you for an interesting site about a subject I have had an interest in for a while now. I have been looking in and reading the posts avidly so just wanted to express my thanks for providing me with some very good reading material. I look forward to more, and taking a more proactive part in the discussions here, whilst picking up some knowledge too!!

  7. sykotik:

    How you find ideas for articles, I am always lack of new ideas for articles. Some tips would be great