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Wonders of the Small Church

The small church has incredible importance and value, although it may not carry the pomp of churches in Europe and elsewhere. I have one particular small church in mind: ours.

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Very Reverend Jonathan Ivanoff led a Parish Growth Ministry Seminar at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church on Saturday, April 20, 2013, attended by 27 participants from parishes throughout Connecticut. Fr Ivanoff has long been considered a leader in the field of church growth ministry, and his three presentations served to enlighten and uplift. Pastor at Saint John the Theologian Orthodox Church, Long Island, NY, for the past two decades, Fr Jonathan is the Director of Orthodox Natural Church Development. Since 1998, Fr Jonathan has worked with more than 80 parishes in the field of Parish Growth Development.

The three main areas Fr Jonathan’s presentation included:

  • Understanding the Challenges Facing Christianity and Orthodoxy in the 21st century.
    • A survey of the North American spiritual landscape over the past 100 years.
  • Demythologizing Church Growth: Six Common Myths About Church Growth and How to Overcome Them.
    • Examining and scripturally refuting misconceptions regarding evangelization and church growth.
  • Parish Revitalization & Natural Church Development: The Cycles of Parish Life and Parish Growth.
    • What causes a church to cycle in terms of growth? Why some ideas work, why others do not.
    • Eight quality characteristics of a healthy church and how they affect natural, God-blessed growth.

Fr Jonathan emphasized that God will send new parishioners by our Lord, only when those communities are adequately prepared to receive new members. Citing many statistics and using graphs, Fr Jonathan pointed out that when parishes enter a downward cycle it normally takes a minimum of seven years to fully reverse that cycle. The descent into the downward cycle can often continue for a period of time, even after the parish has committed to reversing that trend. On the other hand, an upward cycle can often last as long as 25 years before leveling off. Fr Jonathan also encouraged pastors and church community leaders to continually identify the changing needs of the cities and towns their parishes are located.  

“I am so happy that I participated in today's workshop! I wasn't at all sure what to expect, and was so glad to listen to Father Jonathan’s engaging presentation,” Holy Trinity parishioner Daria Biancardi said.  “The words I would use to describe today are ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘inspiring’”.  

Following registration, a Molieben (Prayer of Thanksgiving) was held. In between presentations, seminar participants prayed the Sixth Hour (12:00p), which was then followed by a Lenten Luncheon coordinated by Reader Steven Bradford and assisted by Holy Trinity parishioners. The seminar concluded with Great Vespers.

The seminar was underwritten by faithful Holy Trinity Orthodox Church parishioner, Mrs Evelyn Reynolds, 93.   

We are also grateful for the support and presence of so many from Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Church, Meriden, CT.

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