All successful endeavors, military, economic, social, religious or political had strategic planning and visionary leaders behind them. A successful individual will devise his or her career path. What is planning? Let’s review couple of definitions. Planning is: a scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective . In the business world planning is: Basic management function involving formulation of one or more detailed plans to achieve optimum balance of needs or demands with the available resources. The planning process (1) identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, (2) formulates strategies to achieve them, (3) arranges or creates the means required, and (4) implements, directs, and monitors all steps in their proper sequence . In other words planning is inevitable for mission advancement. Jesus Christ reminds us of skillful use of our God given talents or resources to build up His Kingdom (Matt: 25: 14-28).
When India got independence and a Republic, the visionary prime minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru launched five year plans for India’s growth. He must have learned it from Joseph Stalin. India’s status movement from a third world country to a G-20 country can be attributed to the strategic planning, long vision and goal directed movement and adherence to the planning commission recommendation by the successive administrations. The USSR became the first one to launch a spacecraft (Sputnik) to explore the outer space due to their planning. President Kennedy had a vision and plan to send people to the moon and bring them back safely before the decade of 1960’s. It was accomplished. American vision, ambition, risk taking mentality and planned activity made America the primary space exploration agency after several trials, failures and success. All accomplishments require careful planning, goal setting, systematic follow-up and continuous monitoring. Setting a long term goal within an achievable time using/finding resources is a team work and a step by step process.
Five Year Plans
Most developing economies, USSR, China, and India followed five year plans. Each five year plan focused on certain areas of growth. India’s first plan focused on the improvement of basic living conditions of her people. They set priorities for agricultural, and community development along with energy, education, irrigation, transportation and so on. After the early initiatives, the 12th plan focuses on attracting more foreign investments to equip India to compete in global market -current priority. For a nation, national security, economic prosperity, political stability and internal peace are some of the mile markers of progress/growth.
The South West America Needs to Set Priorities Now
Even though, our church set its foot in the American soil in the sixties and started to grow in the seventies and eighties we haven’t passed our exploratory and establishment stages yet. South West American diocese is a new administrative entity in a different socio-cultural milieu. Indian Orthodox church set priorities after the establishment of the Catholicate in 1912. It was an emancipation proclamation and commitment to self reliance. The South West America diocese, in that respect is a self-reliant administrative entity which needs to set its administrative and mission priorities on solid theological and historical foundation.
Let us think about the diocesan priorities from a ministerial point of view.
Before we go there, we need to define what Christian ministry is. Defining ministry and discussion thereof itself is a topic of discussion. So let me explain what ministry is not. Christian ministry is not limited to Sunday worship services, observance of holy days, feast celebrations, enthronements , and other prescribed sacramental duties. Church ministry is a comprehensive service extended to the “total” needs of the “whole person”. Taking into consideration the milieu of ministry, our church should focus on the spiritual, psychological, social, economic and familial needs of the suffering humanity and the diocese should focus on the immigrant community and without forgetting the needy in our community of origin. We must design a “total ministry” that will include the “whole person and whole family”. It is a challenging task in an age of specializations, self-seeking leadership, corrupted business world and politically motivated human services. But, we have to rise above the ordinary.
The Starting Point
Today the diocese has a place to call our diocesan center to plan our diocese specific activities. We need a strategic plan for the diocese. What is a strategic plan? A Strategic plan is a “disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization (or other entity) is, what it does and why it does it” As the initial members of this diocese, it is our vision, dreams and hopes that shape the future of this diocese. Another definition for strategic plan is: “Strategic planning is a systematic process an organization agrees on and builds commitment among key stake holders to priorities that are essential to its mission and are responsive to the environment. Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources”. According to this definition our diocesan metropolitan and all parish clergy and laity are all stake holders in the running of the diocese. It is the team that makes our goal achievable and moving. We have to make commitment to move toward achieving our goal without sacrificing our mission objectives. Our mission objectives must be higher than our individual comfort and individual schemes. Our Lord sacrificed his comfort to achieve His mission- victory over death. He gave us a mission, a calling, to deny our comforts and take up the challenge of making disciples of the whole world, through evangelization in action.
There is a farmland out there
The Farm land of the South West diocese is far and wide with unlimited opportunities. We need action. According to one report, “every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. They are leaving as hurting and wounded victims—of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect! From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent)” . Our church created another diocese in North America to prevent such sheep loss and systemic impasse. Today we need to make plans to seize the opportunity. Fifty years from now the demographic composition of the South West diocese and NE diocese should be much different; it shall be an ethnic salad.
SERVANT MODEL MINISTRY
Let me suggest a five year plan of action for the diocese for your consideration as we all meet for our diocesan assembly. Diocesan assemblies should serve as platforms to share opinions, suggestions or concerns and plan for effective pastoral ministry. Field experiences of clergy are great planning tools for pastoral ministry in a changing environment. Ministry must meet human needs. Authoritarian/hierarchically descending pastoral ministry shall give way to servant model ministry “For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).
Once Jesus completed the recruitment and commissioning of his disciples He said, “No longer I call you servants, ——-, Instead I call you friends” (Jn. 15:15). Let us think outside the box and plan the future of our diocese(s).
A Road Map for Future
Unification of liturgical texts and worship manuals.
a)Appoint liturgical committee with assigned task. (Last diocesan council recommended)
b) Print out the coordinated books, and distribute to parishes. This shall be the only version of worship book available in the diocese.
By January 2012
Time to Strat/Complete
2. Complete and clear the Diocesan incorporation and parish incorporation concerns.
Funding: Diocese and parishes
a) Appoint/elect an incorporation review committee and finalize the incorporations in alliance with Church constitution and contextual setting. By May 2011
b) Clearly define the relationship (duties, rights and responsibilities) between the diocese incorporated and parish incorporated.
c) Financial contributions from each parish shall be determined and a means of collection shall be put in place.
By Assembly 2012
3. Make transition plans and build opportunity for younger generation.
a) Assign and rotate paid internship programs for seminarians and deacons. (Immediate )
b) Appoint newly ordained priests as assistant vicar in larger parishes or with senior clergy. (Immediate )
c) Set moratorium for R-1 visa priest until need arise. (Immediate )
d) Stop church splits by responding to parish/priest concerns immediately. (Immediate )
Funding: diocese and parishes ( Immediate )
SECURITY AND WELFARE
4. Establish comprehensive clergy welfare System- service requirement, employment and retirement benefits.
a) Implement the recommendation of pay commission report or create one.
b) Implement Centralized salary system with parity.
c) Implement clergy transfer system in the diocese.
d) Establish mandatory clergy continuing education hours for clergy to hold responsible position in the diocese.
e) Encourage and recognize clergy accomplishments outside the ministry also.
Diocese And parishes
Effective January 2012
5. Establish two regional centers: Eastern and Western to minister to the regional needs.
a) Elect regional center committees (2011)
b) Allocate funding from the diocesan budget. (2011)
c) Purchase or lease camping or retreat facility in both regions (Any parish with large piece of property can lease it to the Regional centers).(2015)
6. Comprehensive Mission/ministry expansion program.
a) Start initial mission training service at one of the existing sites (Detroit) (Summer 2011)
b) Offer pre theology or theological training at our facility in cooperation with the NE diocese.( 2012)
c) Form a theological training committee (joint with the NE diocese/”An alliance for progress”) (2011)
d) Seek opportunity or possibility of making our facility a satellite Orthodox theological seminary of Kottayam.(2012)
e) Set out out-reach mission not only charity projects but also evangelization activities to attract locals to the church.(2011 )
7. Establish an outreach ministry/charitable program.
a) Elect a mission or charity program committee (of Five) for the diocese to administer all charity projects for the diocese (Summer 2011)
b) Initiate charity projects within the diocese along with crossing the boarders. (2011-2015)
c) Identify and support a project in India by the diocesan mission committee. It shall be an ongoing program closely working with another diocese. (2011?)
(“An alliance for progress” or A rehabilitation project for the Endosulfan victims in Kasargod and awareness building mission against endosulfan may be a good one to begin with)
8. Initiate Retirement Communities in different regions of the diocese as the first generation is reaching retirement and seeking safe place to live.
a) Appoint a need assessment commission and get the report (MAY 2011-)
b) Initiate establishments in different regions. (2012-2015)
9. Comprehensive Diocesan Center.
Appoint/elect a diocesan center committee to develop a comprehensive plan.(2015)
FROM AN ETHNIC CHURCH TO A GLOBAL CHURCH
10. Make our worship and activities appealing to the locals.
Youth activities, information seminars, and other relevant multi-media use.
I hope and pray that a visionary step forward would make our diocese a very dynamic church. To paraphrase Eisenhower with help of “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”-old and young we will see security, liberty, prosperity and peace in our new diocese.