ideas to start a YOUTH MINISTRY PROGRAM IN YOUR PARISH
By Fr. Michael Anderson Director, OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries
1 Ask the youth! Young people want their church to be a great place. If asked properly, they are full of ideas.
2 Have a Youth Sunday. If the youth are not already an on going 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 something 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.
3 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.
4 Start an AROY, AOYC, or Junior “O” chapter. The American Romanian Orthodox Youth, Albanian Orthodox Youth Council, and Jr Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America 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 around the country. Once a chapter, you are connected to hundreds of other youth across North America. It is also a great way to become involved in local and national service projects.
5 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. Let them know that you can be a Christian and still have fun. As with everything we do, just begin and end with prayer.
6 Youth Auction. Offer services to parish members at a small fee for a Saturday and donate all proceeds to charity (IOCC, Project Mexico, etc.).
7 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.
8 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.
9 Help out at a local soup kitchen once a month. You might also want to explore the possibility of helping at a homeless shelter.
10 Start a tutoring program for local people who can’t afford to pay. Use the Church as a meeting place.
11 Find out if the church needs anything —an icon, chalice, church school materials, new front door etc. Have a fund raiser, and donate the needed money.
12 Visit some parishioners in the hospital and pray for them. Make and deliver card and gifts.
13 Have a lock-in fast to raise parish awareness about world hunger. End with a short Service of Thanksgiving for all God has given us, and a prayer for the needy.
14 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.
15 Make audio tapes of an Orthodox book for people who have trouble reading. Ask your parish priest for help in making appropriate selections.
16 Make a video or cassette tape of Saturday Vespers and Sunday Liturgy for someone who is homebound or away at college.
17 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.
18 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..
19 Offer to greet the visitors at Church for a certain number of Sundays. Invite the visitors to attend coffee hour after services.
20 Find adults who want to share their faith and lives with young people. Get together with them and examine what Orthodox Youth Ministry is, and get them involved. The OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has an Introduction to Youth Ministry guide that is an excellent resource.
21 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 at 862 Guy Lombardo Avenue, Freeport, NY 11520; 516/ 868-4050,
22 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 occurs when youth minister to each other.