In 2018, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, inspired by the vision of His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael, developed a strategic plan to make our parishes stronger and more uniform in their practices. One of those strategic goals is to enhance our parishes’ Welcome Ministries. A team of volunteers came together and formed the Welcome Ministries goal team (the “Welcome Team”), tasked with researching welcoming best practices and developing an action plan to strengthen our parishes’ welcoming practices. After 22 months of work, this plan is now complete and ready to be implemented by all of our parishes.
The welcoming goal aligns and supports the other goals of the Metropolis’ Strategic Plans, including enhanced stewardship, outreach, evangelism and worship engagement. The Welcome Team’s objectives are to increase church attendance, attract new members to the faith and encourage more generous giving of time, talent and treasure. Welcoming new people to the Orthodox faith, welcoming back those who have left the church or those who are seeking a new Orthodox home are but a few ways of making our church dynamic.
The Welcome Team members were gathered from all parts of the Metropolis to put together this action plan. The team members visited over 20 Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches within the Metropolis over a number of months prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic restrictions. We met regularly to analyze and develop a plan that can be shared with all 58 of the parishes in the Metropolis.
The overarching goal is to encourage the culture of parishes to adopt a more welcoming culture. We were tasked with developing a program to welcome people into (or back to) the church. Our research revealed that our parishes may have become complacent in a mistaken belief that our “regular” parishioners were acting in a welcoming fashion. In fact, true welcoming requires a greater and more sophisticated level of planning, effort and diligence. To be successful at welcoming people, we must realize that it is not a choice but an obligation to welcome people to our churches; it is a necessity for Orthodoxy to grow. Our plan, if followed, will transform the parishes in our Metropolis to more welcoming communities.
“As we enter the sacred space of our parish churches, the angels rejoice, the saints greet us, and our Lord Jesus Christ embraces us as His children. In this way, when others—both parishioners and seekers—join us, let us welcome them not merely as our guests but as our beloved sisters and brothers.”
His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago