ways to CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX YOUTH MONTH
By Fr Michael Anderson and David Subu
For the past number of years, each February the Orthodox Church in America has joined the other Orthodox Churches around the world in celebrating Syndesmos' International Orthodox Youth Month. Since 1993 Syndesmos, as the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, has designated February and the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, in particular, as a time for Orthodox communities around the world to celebrate the significant role youth have in the Church.
The following ideas are presented as just some of the ways parishes have joined in this celebration over the past number of years. Be sure to let us know what you did and send a picture for The Orthodox Church newspaper!
1. Review the "Our Dream for the Church" and "Our Mission in the Church" statements and decide on a way to join the "Mission" and help make the "Dream" come true.
2. Form a "St. Luke Group" to send get-well cards and small gifts to people who are sick and/or in the hospital. You can focus on people from the parish who are ill or adopt a children's ward at the hospital. If possible try to visit them either as whole group or in smaller groups.
3. Sponsor a Youth Sunday. If the youth are not already an ongoing part of the parish's liturgical cycle, find ways to get them involved. Have them manage the candle sales, the offering baskets, and coffee hour. Gather a group of interested young singers and have them sing as a group in the services. Have a young person write and give a sermon with the help of the parish priest. For more particulars, see the "Planning a 'Youth Sunday'" article in the Youth Ministry section of the OCA Resource Handbook.
4. Greet the visitors at Church for a certain number of Sundays in February. Invite the visitors to attend coffee hour after services and sit with them.
5. Plan a retreat/gathering. They are a great opportunity for young people to become more informed and articulate about their faith. They can even have fun doing it! Every retreat needs opportunities for the participants to just "hang" with each other.
6. Start an FOCA Junior, AROY, AOYC chapter. The Youth Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America, American Romanian Orthodox Youth, and Albanian Orthodox Youth Council are nationwide Church affiliated youth organizations. Many parishes are forming new chapters. Becoming a chapter is a great way to meet other Orthodox youth in the area and from throughout the Church. Having been formed as a chapter, you are then connected to hundreds of other youth across North America. It is also a great way to become involved in local and national service projects.
7. Coordinate an Inter-Orthodox youth gathering with youth from nearby Orthodox parishes.
8. Plan a meal [spaghetti dinner etc.] for the parish, or maybe a group in the parish, such as the parish council, the elderly, priest's family, etc.
9. Have a fellowship event. Get everyone together and go skiing, roller skating, or bowling. Take a group to a football game, or other sports event. Remember that you can be a Christian and still have fun. As with everything we do, just begin and end with prayer.
10. Adopt the young adults in the parish who have gone off to college. Make a list of all the young adults who have gone off to school and have the youth send them something in the mail once a month (a name's day card, parish bulletins, some food, a pamphlet on some aspect of the Faith.
11. Youth Auction. Offer services to parish members at a small fee for a Saturday and donate all proceeds to charity (IOCC, Project Mexico, etc.).
12. Plan a visit to a nursing home. Make cards for residents with photographs of the people that made them with a personal note about themselves.
13. Visit the home bound. Bring a meal, and most importantly your love! The time you spend with them will bring them -- and you -- a great deal of joy.
14. Help out at a local soup kitchen once a month. You might also want to explore the possibility of helping at a homeless shelter.
15. Start a tutoring program for local people who can't afford to pay. Use the Church as a meeting place.
16. Start or help out a local food pantry. Look into your area's agencies that deliver meals to homebound individuals, such as Meals on Wheels. Offer your services.
17. Make audio tapes of an Orthodox book for people who have trouble reading. Ask your parish priest for help in making appropriate selections.
18. Make a video or cassette tape of Saturday Vespers and Sunday Liturgy for someone who is homebound or away at college.
19. Ask your priest if a group can bake and bring the Church bread for a Divine Liturgy. Organize a group to do the baking together.
20. Start a Scouting program in your parish. Many parishes, like Saint Seraphim's Cathedral in Dallas, TX, are forming scouting groups. SCOBA's Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting is available to help interested communities with religious award and scholarship programs. They can be reached off the OCA youth page http://www.oca.org/yo .
21. Ask the youth! None of us like things being planned for us. Get everyone together and include them in your planning. Some of the most effective youth ministry efforts occur when youth minister to each other.