Leadership 100 provided a grant of $133,200 to The Orthodox Software Initiative, a Subcommittee of the National Finance Committee of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America that was created in response to a call from parishes, to develop a parish and ministry management three-tier system with more consistent and accurate reporting, financial tracking and reporting, tri-directional communication, and other key objectives. Repeated throughout the country, it became immediately apparent to the team how great a need exists for a unified, consistent approach to parish management. Because parishes are spending a significant amount of time administering the parish, they are not able to spend as much time growing the ministries within their parishes. Thus, parishes that desire to grow need the ability to track information about activities within the parish. Further, such an implementation would enable cross parish support, and reduce onboarding issues for priests new to a parish. This solution would also be the first and only Orthodox solution available.
Based on feedback received to date, parishes perceive and have acknowledged tangible benefits that will help them grow, and have sought such a solution for a significant time period.
This ministry has the opportunity to significantly impact the way the Greek Orthodox Church in America operates. At the parish level, it strives to meet the needs of parishes in ministering to their people. Fundamentally, it will provide much more than a communication tool, a way to manage churches, ministries, and sacramental lives. It eases the burden on the priest and his team.
The programs provide specific tools such as memorial support, voting eligibility, stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, sacramental information, and visitation support, enabling a comprehensive view of every parishioner, and gives the clergy a clear set of details with which they can individually shepherd their flocks. Each parish must maintain a set of financials and support their operations. The financial component clearly supports this from a not for profit perspective with the National Chart of Accounts for standardization and reporting. The plan is to ultimately develop and include the Allocation forms, so that the burden of producing this information each year is reduced. There are also plans to answer fundamental questions such as how many Greek Orthodox people are within the United States, and other essential information.
A national team of volunteers was established with expertise in project management, communications, systems analysis, technology, finance, and clergy which established a set of criteria that would form the basis of the three tier system. The first, parish based, is intended to offer a unified, cohesive approach to parish management. Two modules are currently offered, with a third module to be offered in the near term. This level encompasses all aspects of parish life including communication, financial accounting, recording and reporting, stewardship time, talent, and treasure, managing parish data, ministries, sacramental data, directories, and standardizing reporting at Parish, Metropolis and Archdiocese levels, as well as an executive dashboard. It also includes the development of a standardized Chart of Accounts, and is intended to ensure consolidated data common across all Parishes for Metropolis and Archdiocese reporting, ease of use, and other tangible benefits.
The second tier, the Metropolis level, is for the purpose of managing a Metropolis, and gathering Metropolis data. This includes and is not limited to clergy, registry, sacrament, Archon and other groups, and financial data, and additional components, also to ultimately include the creation and management of Sacramental forms. Clergy data, including tenure and benefits, are specific to this level. Thirdly, the Archdiocesan level will cohesively join the components of the Metropolises, Parishes, and our ministries, enabling three way communication and information flow. Each level will also support and enhance consistent financial reporting.
The Initiative continues the rollout of the Church Office and Ledger modules, and continues training throughout the country, supporting the implementation of additional modules which are helpful to parishes as yet not part of the Archdiocesan offering. These modules support parishes, and provide greater insight into their utilization. Participants in the Initiative are actively participating in Clergy Laity Assemblies, the latest being the Assembly for the Metropolis of Chicago, providing workshops, and supporting the applications.
Throughout the Initiative’s progress, the opportunity to help develop and standardize parish operations has been noted. The Initiative aids in the development and understanding of stewardship, outreach, ministries, and other key components of parish life. It is developing the Orthodox user manual and has updated its website page to better support parishes.