The "Parable of the Talents" Mission Project

By Christopher A. Holwey

One of the most familiar parables given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ is that of the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30). It deals with the good use and management of the talents given to us as a preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. It has also been interpreted and used in terms of monetary significance, for one talent is more than fifteen years' wages of a laborer -- quite a large sum of money.

Looking at the parable itself, we see that before a certain man goes on a journey, he calls his servants to entrust to them his property one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

When the master returned to settle accounts with them, the first two were praised for doubling their talents: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master." The third servant, however, was chastised for burying his talent, and even what he had was taken away and he was cast into the outer darkness. What is important for us to realize here is the fact that the first two servants were faithful to what was given to them by their master. They used their talents constructively and brought about an increase in talents, which were then offered back to the master for him to use as he saw fit.

A Practical Application of the Parable

It is this idea that was transformed into a Missions Project within the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. In 1979, the Midwest Region Society of Orthodox Youth Organization (SOYO) established the "Parable of the Talents" Missions Fund. The purpose was to assist the existing six missions in the Region with financial support and to encourage the establishment of other potential missions in the Midwest Region. (The Western, Southwest, and Can/Am Regions were also involved with this project.)

The Region authorized $5,000.00 to be used as seed money, which was then distributed to each of the parishes in amounts of $100.00, $200.00, or $500.00. Each parish was responsible for distributing this money to its parishioners in whatever quantity was necessary ($10, $20, and $50 was suggested). Each person had six weeks to "invest" the money in whatever capacity he or she saw fit. Along with the money, the parish received a packet containing a manual of guidelines for the project, a copy of the "Parable of the Talents," suggested projects for "Reaping of the Talents," and newspaper articles on other successful "Talents" projects. The person in charge on the parish level was asked to go over all the guidelines with those involved in the project.

Some of the ideas used for the “Reaping of the Talents” were:

  1. Buying arts and crafts materials to make some interesting items, and selling or auctioning them off for a profit. Making sweaters and other forms of clothing could also be done.
  2. Having a bake sale with all homemade foods; or an outdoor cookout along with the selling of other items, flea market style.
  3. Buying various appliances, jewelry, pictures, and other small items and raffling them off at a parish dinner.
  4. Buying some paint, window-cleaner, soap or gas, and offering to paint a room, wash windows, have a car wash, or cut the grass for someone, depending on personal desires.
  5. Planting a garden and selling what grows after church on Sunday.
  6. Children can help out by having Kool-Aid or ice cream sales for others in the neighborhood.

How It Worked

I'm sure we all get the idea that it takes a little creative thinking on a personal level to come up with ideas that will sell. Nevertheless, I wish to stress the fact that although the purpose of the project is to make money for the missions in the Region (or for the parish itself if it is done on the local level), we must realize HOW this money is being made. It is being acquired through our own personal talents! Each of us has a specific talent, ability, or skill for one thing or another. These talents are given to us by God, Our Master, and He expects us to use them properly for the glory of His Name (the return of the talents'.). To those who have more "ability" (v. 15), He gives more talents, and expects more out of them. To those who have less ability, He gives fewer talents, but still expects them to be faithful with what they have. Otherwise, even what they have will be taken away, and instead of entering into the joy of the Kingdom, they will be cast into the outer darkness and lose all hope for eternal life.

Aside from the fact that it took a longer while than anticipated to get the actual money to each of the mission parishes, and for each parish to initiate their own plan of action (which resulted in an extension of the six weeks), the whole Project was still a great success. The original seed money was almost doubled; parishioners got the opportunity to work together as a "family" on the local level; and each parish that participated felt as though it was part of the regional "family" working together for the support of their younger brothers and sisters in Christ. In all, it was a very constructive project, and well worth the effort. Apart from the financial assistance rendered to the mission parishes in our area, each person who participated received an invaluable and memorable lesson in the meaning of Christian Stewardship.

Christopher A. Holwey is a graduate of St. Vladimir's Seminary and is presently serving as a Lay Worker at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Wichita, Kansas.

Taken from the OCA Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries