By Fr Michael Anderson and Nicholas Finley - Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries

The Day of International   Orthodox Youth on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord into the Temple   (February 2/15) and the ongoing celebration during the entire month of February   was initiated by Syndesmos, the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth to emphasize   and celebrate the ministry that youth have in the Church. Over the years more   and more parishes have made this an annual event to remind both young and old   that youth are not just the future of the Church, but are a real part of its   present life as well.

The following ideas   are offered in addition to the original 20-something Ways to Celebrate International   Orthodox Youth Month to aid parishes in their ongoing celebrations of this important   event in the Orthodox Church worldwide. Some of the ideas listed are something   to do just within youth month; others are ongoing projects.

Remember, the goal   is to make every month Orthodox Youth Month!

Ask the youth!   - Plan a meeting for all youth in the parish and distribute this and other 20-something   lists, which can be found in The Hub CD-Rom or online at,   and brainstorm ideas that sound interesting to the group.
  Reach out   to other youth in need - Contact a social service agency in your area and   find out if there are any children in need who might want to do something fun   with your Church youth group. Take time to organize something fun and interactive,   such as a sporting event, homemade carnival, etc..

Electronic-media   Fast - A challenging way to experience more rest in life might be to design   a specified period of time (example- one week) to have an electronic-media fast.   The agreement would include: no television, no music, no computer games, no   video games, or movies for the time specified. A good time to hold this might   be either during the Great Fast or even a few times throughout the year during   the fasting periods or even outside of the fasting periods. This will emphasize   the need for rest in our daily lives. With extra time encourage group members   to read novels, lives of saints, draw or paint (maybe an icon), or work on some   type of craft or mechanical projects. After the period of the fast is over gather   together to discuss your experiences. You can even ask the priest to serve a   molieben.
  Some questions for discussion might be:
  · What was the hardest thing about your fast?
  · What surprised you the most about this experience?
  · What sorts of things did you do with your extra time?
  · How did you feel about your experience now that it’s over?
  · Would you do something like this again? Why or why not?
  Read aloud Luke 10:38-42.
  · How do we tend to be like Martha in this account?
  (We’re always doing something; we feel the need to keep busy; our schedules   are full.)
  · In what ways was our media fast like Mary in this story? (Mary knew   what was most important to focus on; when we move away from the busyness of   our lives, we can focus on God.)
  · What have you gained from this experience that you’ll probably apply   to your life from now on?

Organize a liturgical   service other than Vespers and Liturgy (e.g. Compline, 1st Hour, 3rd Hour,   6th Hour, 9th Hour, Matins, Typical Psalms, Nocturnes). This service, of course,   if desired, may be in conjunction with Vespers and or Divine Liturgy. Invite   Orthodox youth throughout deanery or local area to attend. Decide on how often   you would like to hold this service, i.e., the same day each month. Also invite   people of your parish and people from area parishes from all jurisdictions.

Bring a friend   to Church - Invite people from the community surrounding the Church and   from your daily life to attend services at your parish. Have a short “orientation”   before the service and then a question and answer period afterwards for new   comers.

Youth are NOT   JUST the Future - In order for people to learn more about the youth in the   parish, create a bulletin board or poster with pictures of the youth of parish   with profiles including their name, birthday/age, patron saint, grade in school,   interests, skills, favorite foods, hobbies, what they hope to be doing in 10   years, etc. Be creative. In addition to helping people in the parish get to   know them, this can reveal “secret talents” (web design, woodworking,   desktop publishing, etc.) that they might be able to use to assist the parish   or those in the parish.

Organize a combined   Orthodox Youth Bible Study/Fellowship night for one night a month with   the parish priest.

Encourage youth to   pursue projects for the St. Peter the Aleut Award. For ideas check out   the 20-something Ways to Involve Youth in Christ-like   Service and the 20-something Ways for Youth to Minister   with the Elderly.

Get in touch with   SYNDESMOS and find out ways you can get involved and/or get connected. One   good way to see is to go to the website at


Have the youth develop   an Adventure of the Month Club. Begin by having each person write a description   of one or two crazy, daring, or fun adventurous things he or she would like   to do sometime but never have. Ask kids to describe adventures that aren’t too   expensive and can be done within a 60-mile radius of your community. Then have   everyone come together each month to participate in a fun adventure chosen by   one of the group members. Use these opportunities for exploring the many fellowship   and just plain fun opportunities life has to offer.

Parish Life Mentors   - Have a meeting with the parish priest, members of the parish council, and   other people who are responsible for various aspects of parish life (maintenance,   cleaning, outreach projects, finances, etc.). Have each person present to the   group what it is they do and why. Each youth is assigned to one of these people   for the month to “shadow” and help them in any way they can. Afterwards,   have a meeting to discuss how youth can make a commitment to assisting the ongoing   life of the parish.

Go “clowning”   in an area hospital. Have kids spend a day getting decked out as clowns   and visiting people in the hospital. Form teams of three or four to spread joy   in various wings of the hospital. You don’t have to put on a red nose to spread   joy. This could include performing skits, playing games, or other creative ideas.  

Design a day of   silence. This challenging activity may be done in one of two ways. One way   is to set aside a day when group members can free up their schedules for an   entire twelve hour period. On this day gather together for the planned events   of the day. Examples might be, go for a hike, go to the mall together, go out   to eat, participate in a scavenger hunt, or play games together. The big catch   is that there is no speaking at all for the entire time. All communication must   be nonverbal or written. In addition, kids are not allowed to explain to any   “outside” the people why they aren’t talking.
  The other way is to provide a sheet for kids to sign up for silent days they   choose on their own. Kids may join in pairs or threesomes to share their silent   days together, or they may spend the time alone. On their assigned days, kids   may do anything they wish, but they may not speak to anyone for any reason all   day long.
  At the end of the event, gather together to discuss the experience. Some questions   for discussion might be?
  · How did not speaking affect the people around you?
  · How did it affect you?
  · What unexpected good things came out of your experience?
  · What was the hardest thing about your day of silence?
  Read aloud Psalm 46:10-11. Then ask:
  · Did being silent increase your sense of peace overall? Why or why not?
  · How does “resting our mouths” increase our awareness of God   in the world?
  · What has this experience taught you about rest?

Organize a “Pure-fun   Triathlon”. Instead of competitive events such as running, biking,   or swimming, choose “pure-fun” challenges such as volleyball, Frisbee   golf, or horseshoes, or whatever sounds like fun. Have parish and community   members form teams to join in the fun.

Plan a “low-key   getaway” that’s designed to be restful. For example, arrange to rent   a time-share condo in the mountains or on a lake near your community for one   weekend. Stock up on provisions and supplies as you would for any other extended   trip with kids. But plan nothing except a worship time and Bible study each   day. Leave participants schedules totally free to do as much or as little as   they wish. Set no schedule for waking or sleeping; instead, limit your schedule   requirements to meal times and a Bible study times each day. Before the even   be sure participants understand the nature of the retreat and the fact that,   although they’ll be free to do what they wish, they’ll be secluded away from   any major concentrations of people or businesses. Encourage kids to bring things   with them they’d like to work on, such as books or craft projects. During the   retreat take kids through a biblical study of rest. Use passages such as Hebrews   4, Mark 6, Isaiah 58, and Exodus 20 as a basis for talking about what biblical   rest is and why it is such a vital aspect of the Christian life. Challenge kids   to make “entering God’s rest” a personal goal for their lives.

Hold a Hunger   Banquet - Invite parishioners and members of the community to a meal at   the Church where everyone receives a day’s ration of food of people in famine   areas.

Make a movie.   Have group members design a remake of their favorite film or create a new plot   altogether. Allow kids to cast themselves as characters. Then rent a camcorder   for a day and shoot the movie. Watch it that night together. Don’t forget the   popcorn.

Gifts of the Heart   - the Orthodox Church in America Office of Humanitarian Aid continually   invites parishes and groups to participate in an outreach program, called “Gift   of the Heart” Kits. The program involves the assembling of specific kits —health kits, school kits, and layettes—that are sent to victims of disasters   in the US and all over the world. An ongoing program, the kits can be assembled   at any time during the year. The completed kits are sent to a warehouse in New   Windsor, MD where they are stored until a need is identified, and then distributed.   For more information check out the Resource Handbook Article   “Providing Disaster Relief with Gift of Heart Kits.”

Take group members   on a day of sightseeing in your area. Ever wonder what other people come   to see when they visit your community? Why not find out? Plan a full day of   events. Begin with a small prayer. Visit a local county, state, or national   park, then move on to museums, zoos, or any well-known industries that offer   tours for visitors. Conclude day with a trip to a local theme park, sporting   event, or popular restaurant. Be sure to end with a small prayer too. For added   fun bring the cameras along and document your trip. Save the photographs in   a photo gallery or album. Be sure to contact us and even send the pictures along.   Share the fun on the OCA youth and young adult website (

Community Youth   Choir - Get together with other youth who are interested in singing and   form a choir that sings some of the Church’s more complex liturgical music.   Open membership up to the local community to get more involvement and to show   others the incredible musical tradition of the Orthodox Church. The choir can   perform throughout the year for parish shut-ins and/or nursing home patients   and many choirs such as these are asked to sing at public events in the community.

Audio Books   - To promote literacy and learning you can form teams to either read aloud to   a person who is visually impaired or even into a tape recorder to make a book   on tape. Some ideas for books to read might be chapters from “The Way of   the Pilgrim” or lives of the saints. They can find a lot of material on   the Orthodox Church in America’s website   in the Orthodox Christianity section.

And You Visited   Me…. - Make a commitment to begin a visitation program to shut-ins,   the ill, the elderly, etc. Commit to a specific schedule (once per month, once   per season, etc.) Visitations can include making and giving gifts/crafts with   snap shots of the pictures for the people to keep. For information on programs   such as this check out the article Resource Handbook article “How   to Visit a Nursing Home.”

More 20-somethings   - Over the years the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has generated   several “20-something” lists   such as 20-somethings ways to build Christian Fellowship Among Orthodox Youth.   20-something ways to involve you in Christ-like service, 20-something Ideas   for Youth to Minister with the Elderly, etc. For the complete list go to the   OCA’s Hub for Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

Ask the Youth!   - Nothing can kill initiative and commitment faster than doing things for and   on behalf of the youth. Youth have something to say. Be sure that all the youth   in the parish have an opportunity to express what that is.