“The most basic task of the Church leader is to discern the spiritual gifts of all those under his authority, and to encourage those gifts to be used to the full for the benefit of all. Only a person who can discern the gifts of others and can humbly rejoice at the flowering of those gifts is fit to lead the Church” (St. John Chrysostom). The Gift of Parish Leadership—and of all aspects of Christian Leadership—should be the ultimate exercise in living a Life in Christ. But we must ask ourselves: do we treat it this way? This week’s Stewardship article will focus on how we exercise Christian Stewardship of our leading our Parish, especially for those called to serve on the Parish Council.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ said, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 26-28). It is good to keep this in focus when we discuss and exercise Parish Leadership. To desire to serve the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a great and wonderful thing. But we must keep in mind what kind of service this is. It is not a position of honor at Church Slavas, or the best seats in the pews at the Divine Liturgy. Rather, it is a service of humility—continuously offering of the self for the sake of the parish. Essentially, the Parish Council Leadership is called to become the servants (or even more correct—the slaves) of the parish.
When one is called into service, by God’s Grace, one is provided with the opportunity to put aside all personal desires and agendas for the sake of promoting the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that a Parish Council Member must regularly participate in this Good News by living a Christ-centered Life. Ideally, this means that the Parish Council Members’ life revolves around the Holy Eucharist—moving from one moment of Communion with God to the next. If our focus is constantly on increasing our Communion with God, how often do you think we will get caught up in the petty squabbles of this world?
A Christ-centered life is also a life of service; and all Parish Council Members are called not to be served, but to serve—just as Christ does. This service should be focused in a life of love. Reaching out in compassion to the Church community, a parish council member is responsible for fulfilling his or her duties to the fullest extent possible. He or she is to be the model Steward—continuously offering of their Time, Talents and Treasures in service of the Gospel of Christ. One has only to take the example of Christ washing the feet of the disciples to see the extent to which this sacrificial service is to go.
And this service can be manifest in a multitude of ways. A Parish Council Member should be the warm and friendly handshake at the entrance to the Sanctuary. A Parish Council Member should be the Kiss of Peace and a loving “Christ is in our midst!” to the new enquirer standing in the back of the Church. A Parish Council Member should be the example of Christian Love both in the Parish, and in the local community. A Parish Council Member should be an encouraging and enabling person, able to cultivate the gifts of those in the Parish to the Glory of God.
Ultimately, this leadership by service finds its greatest fulfillment in enabling the Ministries of the Church to flourish. This means that the Parish Council Member is to work at the direction of the priests, who are the representatives of the Bishops, who are the representatives of Christ Himself, in order to enable the Saving Work of Christ and His Church. A Parish Council Member must remember that the term “Executive Board” exists only as a fulfillment of local statutes; and is a reflection of the corporate model so prevalent in today’s world. But this model limits the effectiveness of all that the Church is capable of—namely, effecting the salvation of the World through Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. As a Church Leader and a Member of the Body of Christ, a Parish Council Member is called to be the arms, legs, hands and feet of Christ.
May Our Lord bless all called to this Leadership of Service with the humility, wisdom and energy necessary to exercise good Christian Stewardship over this wonderful and marvelous Gift!