“And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” (Habakkuk 2:2)
Disclaimer: A community, parish or organization Advisory Board serves a vital but honorary role as an additional source of expertise, experience and wisdom to both the priest and the parish council. They are not vested with any legislative, governing, managerial or executive authority. Any and all suggestions or recommendations emanating from an Advisory Board must pass through the proper leadership channels of the parish.
The Biblical Basis of the Advisory Board – “The Elders”
The Judeo-Christian antecedent of the Advisory Board is the council of elders in the Old Testament. What were the characteristics of those honored members of the community who comprised the council of elders?
Elders are teachable and adhere to the words of the Lord. “So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him.” (Exodus 19:7)
Elders hold the history of the community in trust. “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7)
Elders are grouped with other important community figures: “the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the seer and the elder” (Isaiah 3:2)
Yet the council of elders, as all human institutions of this world, is deeply in need of redemption. We read in the 27th Chapter of St. Matthew that in Jesus’ time, the elders conspired against Jesus.
“When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.” (Matthew 27:1)
“Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20)
Because Jesus redeems all people and all things, the council of elders also is redeemed.
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (I Timothy 5:17)
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed.“ (I Peter 5:1)
Finally, the ultimate purpose and destiny of elders is revealed in the Book of Revelations.
“And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God” (Revelations 11:16)
The Purpose of a Parish Advisory Board
In the contemporary setting of parish life, how does the council of elders manifest itself? Most obviously, this is seen in the Parish Council, which, together with the priest, serves as the governing body of the parish. However, from time to time, highly specialized Advisory Boards may be formed to help steer the parish through challenging times or challenging projects, such as capital campaign, strategic planning processes, or simply as an adjunct source of expertise, experience and wisdom.
The Benefit of a Parish Advisory Board
Global or macro forces such as instantaneous communications, the dramatic increase in secularization of our culture, erosion of ethnic and cultural identity and or challenging economic times cause rapid change and deep concern among the Orthodox faithful. Thus, an Advisory Board’s depth of experience provides a stabilizing influence in the sometimes highly fluid social setting of a parish.
The Composition of a Parish Advisory Board
The Advisory Board is lead by a chair. He or she ensures that the Advisory Board is performing at optimum levels of effectiveness.
Advisory Board members are carefully selected and recruited as people who bring unique knowledge, experience, skills, business acumen, professional training and deep awareness of the community that complements the knowledge and skills of the priest and parish council.
The points of contact between the Advisory Board and the Parish Council are the chairs of the respective bodies and the priest.
Qualifications of Parish Advisory Board Members
Feel a genuine interest and concern for the well being of the parish
Attend periodic Advisory Board meetings
Keep up to date on the life, activities and changes in the parish
Embrace the teachings and the life of the Holy Orthodox Church
The Functions and Activities of the Parish Advisory Board
Serve as advocates for the mission of the parish
Assist in maintaining key relationships with people who have the means or the influence to positively contribute to the life of the parish
Function as a think tank and sounding board for ideas
Participate in parish intelligence gathering through careful listening
Lend professional expertise and honest advice
Pray for continued good estate of the parish
Exemplify good stewardship through proportionate giving of time, talent and treasure