WHAT IS A CHURCH MINISTRY?
by Father Michael Lewis
Prior to any discussion that elaborates upon "A Model for Church 'Ministry Programs', it would make sense to first understand - what is the definition of a Church Ministry-Program? As they are being used in the following articles, the words "Church Ministry Program", or simply Church Ministry", refer to any person, persons, program or organization of the Church, who or which, alone and together, labors in love to accomplish the work of God's Holy Church here on earth.
Concrete example of the various Church Ministry Programs that now exist here and at any church may be as follows: the Priesthood, Parish Council, Choir/Cantors, Church School, H.O.P.E, JR. G.O.Y.A., SR. G.O.Y.A. Y.A.L. Boy and Girl Scouts, Acolytes, Philoptochos, Stewardship, Adult Catechism - ALL of which Saint Peter calls "the royal priesthood." Each of these persons, programs, and organizations fulfills a unique ministry within the Church. It is very important to realize that these Church Ministry Programs are made up of people - "the people of God" -- who are actively functioning as "the royal priesthood" by virtue of their dynamic participation in the Church Ministry or Ministries of their choice. These persons try to cultivate their awareness of which they are called to be as Orthodox Christians. These persons have also made the commitment to utilize their God-given talents, whatever unique talents they may be,: in order to serve Christ and His Holy Church through energetic participation in a Church Ministry. These persons minister to the people of God and are ministered to by the people of God. In short, these persons are trying to actively be, and to more fully become "the people of God". In the words of Saint Peter:
"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people; that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him Who called you out of darkness into His Marvelous Light. Once you were no people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).
"The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober in your prayers. Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service (ministry, in Greek diakonia), as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belongs glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (I Peter 4:7-11).
Model for Church Ministry Programs
A realistic Church Ministry should be a balanced program that offers and encourages spiritual growth, moral guidance, witness, service activity, and social gathering. It should be a dynamic program in which the members both minister and are ministered to...in Christ!
In distinct parish situations, a specific Church Ministry will take on its own unique character, depending on the nature and the preference of those involved. However, its focus should always be at the core of those areas that constitute the Christian life, namely: worship (liturgia), witness (martyria), service (diakonia), and fellowship (koinonia) What follows is a definition and a model for a balanced Church Ministry Program, whose foundation is securely anchored upon this core for Christian living.
Suggestions for Your Personal Program
This list is certainly not exhaustive. Feel free to add to it and to please be creative.
(Liturgia) includes anything having to do with worship, knowing God better, and salvation - communion with God.
- Participate in corporate prayer and the Mysteries (Sacraments), such as the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion, as often as possible. This includes the weekday services, feast day and vespers, since you are striving to live an Orthodox Christian life, and not to simply be a once-a-week Christian.
- Find a Father Confessor (either your parish priest or another Orthodox priest) with whom you can intimately discuss personal and spiritual problems and questions. He will be your priest for the Sacrament of Repentance/ Confession, having the training and the grace of God to guide your spiritual life of reconciliation and union with God.
- Learn the Church calendar and the cycle of spiritual life and prepare properly for Feast Days and Sacramental participation.
- Fast according to the Church calendar in order to develop spiritual depth and strength.
- Develop a private prayer life that is both meaningful and helpful to you and those for whom you pray.
- Give alms, with prayer and thanksgiving.
- Read the Holy Bible.
- Read about your Orthodox Christian faith.
- Seek to experience God through others who are seeking God, through Orthodox discussion groups and religious retreats.
(Source: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America)
Please note: Father Michael writes extensively on the topic, "What Is a Church Ministry?" However, I will continue another time with the rest of it. If you read the above article carefully, you will learn much of what it means, to have a Church Ministry program/s in the local parish.
I believe that we, as an Orthodox Christian parish, are finally in the right direction. With your cooperation, your prayers, your love, your patience, we can improve the entire environment within our Saint Andrew's parish. Our church is comprised of many gifted men, women, and children. There is a lot of talent among our people. By the grace of God and the holy intercessions of Saint Andrew we can be a very dynamic community, spiritually, materially, socially, and culturally, but we must always remain focused and committed to the task.
May the Almighty God bless you and illuminate both your mind and heart.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God