Welcome to Called to Lead: An Orthodox Christian Perspective. Demitri Fardelos and Mary Scott co-host this podcast series with the help and support of their collaborators: His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, and the Strategic Planning Goal Team. This season discusses Orthodox Servant Leadership, diving into topics from understanding Christian Orthodox servant leadership to developing volunteer teams to conflict resolution.
In this episode, Fr. Andrew Karamitos from St. Sophia in Elgin, IL joins Demitri to discuss basic on-boarding and orientation to the parish council and church ministries. Fr. Andrew and Presvytera Georgianne have been serving the parish of St. Sophia for the last 24 years. The parish has recently completed the construction of a new church, classrooms, and administrative wing. Given his recent experiences leading the church through this monumental project, he discusses parishioners’ on-boarding to a parish council or a parish ministry. Today’s program gives an opportunity to better understand the basic orientation to being on a parish council or a ministry.
A shared vision is key to moving any organization forward, including a church. Fr. Andrew explains that the number one aspect of community is working together. It’s important to have everyone working toward a common goal. For that to happen, people need to be actively involved. Parishioners are called to offer their talents and their time to the Church’s ministries and work. Everyone works together in unique roles to ensure that the ultimate mission of the Church is fulfilled. Fr. Andrew emphasizes that serving on the parish council is not a right but a calling, and serving on the Council involves active participation.
Fr. Andrew explains that people are often afraid of getting involved—“I don’t know what I’m doing,” “I’m not the right person,” “I don’t know anybody,” “I’ve never done this before.” Parishioners shouldn’t be afraid of serving on the parish council. The fear aspect should never exist because serving on the parish council is a calling from God.
The clergy is ultimately responsible for leading training and orientation. The most effective process is to engage other current volunteer leaders so that community is built while everyone is learning together. Every soul has the responsibility of making sure that the parish is growing. It is helpful when committees have an abundance of thoughts and minds and talents to help the parish grow abundantly. The vision of the parish council is to make sure that they’re there to support the vision of the priest, so parish council members should not be afraid to speak their minds and bring their input.
Fr. Andrew and Demitri explain what the UPR (Uniform Parish Regulations) is and how it relates to the parish. The UPR is given by the Archdiocese to help guide how the Church functions and to understand the role of the parish council itself. The Metropolis can function because of the UPR to serve as a guide. Beyond the UPR, each individual parish has bylaws, which aid the UPR.
Fr. Andrew then explains his process with those involved in the ministries, such as Sunday school, Bible study, and GOYA. Each ministry has its leader, and all fall under the direction of the parish priest. Fr. Andrew sits down with his leaders once a month to discuss how the ministries can flourish. He emphasizes that it is to get feedback from parish council members. No one is better than the other, and everyone is working for the common good of the Church.
For basic on-boarding and orientation to the parish council and church ministries, collaboration is key—working together in harmony for a strong foundation. (3:48)
It is a blessing to be able to join a parish council or ministry. (5:42)
Those called to this path should not be afraid, but rather, see it as a gift to be able to give of one’s time to the Church. (7:20)
The parish council and church ministries have one shared vision, to support the priest’s vision of the spirituality of the Church. Everyone participates in this vision. (19:45)
“We didn’t put anything above or beneath us. We’re all in the same playing field, and we work together.”
(Fr. Andrew, 3:55)
“When you’re serving on a parish council, it’s not just showing up on a Monday night at 6:30, spending an hour, hour and a half, and going home, and that’s it. You serve the Church and its aspects of committees, ushering, every aspect of it, fundraising.”
(Fr. Andrew, 6:38)
“We’re all on the same level. We’re all here to glorify God, we’re all here to serve God, and we’re all here to make sure that what needs to be done to protect the Church (is done).”
(Fr. Andrew, 8:04)
“I don’t look for a parish council member to be a yes-man or woman. I don’t want someone to say, ‘Yes, Father. Whatever you say, Father. Yes, yes yes.’ No, I expect my parish council members to sit down and have a discussion on things of the parish that they can and are supposed to speak about, to help me.”
(Fr. Andrew, 10:30)
“We follow the vision of the Church, period.”