“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18)
A personal growth plan necessitates thoughtful introspection and reflection on questions such as, “What is the purpose of life?”, “To whom will I be accountable?”, “What is my destination?”, “How will I get there?”, “What is my responsibility?”, “How will I grow personally?”, “Do I have a plan?”, “Am I working my plan?” The document below entitled “Parish Council Member or Leader Personal Growth Plan” serves to provide modest guidance in thinking through these questions and others.
The Orthodox principle of synergia, according to which each person, together with God, participates in their own salvation is the basis for a personal growth plan. The famous four Cappadochians (including St. Macrina) saw all of human experience and history in the world as the place and the way that God is teaching human beings who He is and how to relate to Him. How are we personally engage in this process? The Church invites us to undertake a form of personal growth planning in every fasting season. The sacrament of confession is also a means or gaining personal awareness and with the help of the priest charting a better path forward with possible goals and objectives.
In the practical life of parish leadership and development, parish council members and other church leaders often fail to develop a personal growth plan that assists them to identify ways in which they can “acquire” the Holy Spirit. Ideally, parish council service is a means of fulfilling one’s Christian vocation, deepening one’s understanding of life in the Church and developing one’s personal relationship with God.
St. John Chrysostom wrote, “Life is a gymnasium, an arena, a place of combat with dark forces; a kiln to make the image of God radiant and clear in our own life. We are like precious stones that require a smelting furnace and pressure to be purified.” He viewed life as a process and a transformation. This means a journey from where we presently find ourselves to where we want to find ourselves. If we have no personal growth plan then we have no idea where we will eventually find ourselves.
The simple personal growth plan below would be suitable as an exercise at a retreat or for that one item on the parish council agenda that relates to spiritual development, strategic intent, fulfillment of Christian vocation, modeling Christian life and servant leadership. Experienced priests will not be surprised to discover that many retreat participants or members of the parish council may never have undertaken such an exercise – never really thought about where they are headed or the choices they are making. They have never really planned how they will fulfill their Christian vocation or how they will develop as an Orthodox Christian leader.