The Department of Missions and Evangelism
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
"churches start churches" Bishop Basil
We commonly respond to three types of requests for a mission.
Origination from the people, meaning a group wants to start a mission and be sent a priest.
Origination from the priest, meaning a priest wants to start a mission and peel off a percentage of the congregation to do so.
Origination from an outside body, such as a Protestant congregation wanting to come in together.
We have a particular way in which we respond to and help each type of request. For more information on starting a mission, contact us.
Here are some notes from Fr. James Guirguis on starting a mission. Please keep in mind that these notes are from the perspective of a priest wanting to peel off a percentage of the congregation to start the mission.
1: Have an assistant priest in place for at least one year. This is the best scenario. While not ideal, you can start a mission without hiring an assistant, which is harder. If the people are not comfortable with the assistant priest, they will not leave the comfort of their current church and church family. In addition, if the "mother church" cannot afford an assistant priest, how will they afford a mission?
2. During the tenure of that assistant priest begin to study the demographics and where people live in relation to the current church. In our case, we took a database of all our addresses and put them into a website that plotted everyone's location according to google maps. With this information, we could create a cross over the current church and split the vicinity into 4 quadrants. Then we figure out where the highest concentration of members lived relative to that. We then aimed to find a location to rent in that most heavily populated quadrant. Our goal is to be 20-30 minutes from the current church.
3. You should also know and research growth trends in your area. They will influence where you finally decide to rent or build.
4. Six months before launching the new mission, announce informally that we are thinking about starting a new mission.
6. Ask for the Bishop's blessing for a potential new mission near the other church. Outline the need and the potential benefits.
7. 3 months before launch. Make a firm announcement asking people in the church to pray and consider going to the new mission that will probably be located in the X area. Have a sign-up sheet.
8. Take the names of all those who sign up and have the treasurer/ financial secretary pull out their financial giving for the last year. I am not interested in their individual giving but in the total amount. The number is very important because it tells you whether the "mother church" will be significantly affected financially. It also tells you whether the mission can be self-sufficient from the start or will need some support on a monthly basis from the "mother church."
9. The "mother church" must be fully invested in helping give birth to the mission. While getting ready to launch the mission, the "mother" should support the assistant priest in purchasing necessary items for the start of the new mission. We have to plan for the very first liturgy and make sure that we have the basics to begin. These items can be borrowed or bought.
10. The assistant priest, with the help of the senior priest, will have a small group of 2-4 from within the mission list, who will help as an informal council.
11. Among the first priorities of this council will be the search for a rental property and also beginning a list of potential purchase properties.
12. Have formal meetings with those who have expressed interest in helping the mission. It should be emphasized that starting a mission is time, energy, talent and financially consuming. Everyone should be ready to live the Christian life of sacrifice to see Christ's work expanded and His great commission continued.
13. Set a launch date. If the date is not set in stone, it is easy to continually postpone the "maiden voyage."
14. (Optional) Once we found a site to rent, we had a casual get together to pray, bless the space and have fellowship. We had snacks and refreshments as well as coffee. Never underestimate the power of food!
15. Send out an email asking for recommendations for the name of the new mission. Then create a survey monkey or spreadsheet to vote and figure out the top three choices. Write down the top two choices. The third choice we leave to God.
16. The "mother church" will have a special collection to support the mission. At All Saints, $10,000 was collected to get us started.
17. First Liturgy. It is a huge blessing and an amazing feeling to pray in a new place for the first time.
18. At the first liturgy place the next three names in a small container on the altar table for the whole liturgy. One of these will be drawn at the end of the liturgy and will be sent along with the other two names to the Metropolitan for his approval of a new name.
19. If possible, the mission should have a schedule that is very active, like an already established church. God blesses what we do and if we are a place of prayer there is no doubt that God will bless that.
20. Deliberately and purposefully make sure to have at least one dinner together every week (not counting Sunday coffee hour). When you bring together all of these families, you will find that they were part of different social circles and cliques in the larger mother church. We want them to have fellowship and grow in love for one another. This is part of how we build a community. Never underestimate the power of food!
21. Send a letter to the Metropolitan asking for a blessing for an official name and for the assistant to be transferred officially to become pastor of the mission. This letter should NOT come from the assistant priest but from the senior pastor of the "mother church." All of this assumes that the Bishop was already well-informed of the situation and supportive.
21. There needs to be constant communication between both the pastor of the mission as well as the mother church.
22. When the mission eventually finds land or preferably an existing building/ church to purchase, the "mother church" will do what it can to support the mission with financing assistance. Perhaps offering to put down 10-20% of purchase price to help. While it may seem like a lot, the fact is that the members of the mission also contributed to the "mother church" and her savings. In addition, without a mission, the "mother church" might be forced to spend considerably more to deal with overcrowding/ space issues.
23. Pray and ask the patron saint for their prayers on a daily basis.
24. Have faith in God and open your eyes to see the many miracles happening around you. In everything, give thanks unto the Lord.