Our Youth Need You
By Fr. Michael Anderson
“What do our youth need?” It’s a question we hear everywhere. Over the past number of years literally hundreds of books, magazines, and tv talk shows have discussed the needs of young people, who are taking more drugs, becoming sexually active at increasingly younger ages, and developing into the largest segment of society to be medicated for chronic depression. Our entire society is looking for the “cure” to what we feel is disease that brings more and more of our youth into violent and life-threatening situations. Parents, clergy, and other concerned adults all across our Church here in North America and throughout the world are searching for an answer. So what is the answer? Social youth agencies are spending literally millions of dollars creating programs and activities to “keep the kids busy and off the streets.” These programs very often lack any attention to the real spiritual needs our youth have. Many churches are launching huge programs and running activity after activity so that they can “sanctify young people’s free time.” Even we as a Church sometimes get caught up in all of this, looking to have activity after activity so that we can say we have a well developed “youth program.” Sometimes the adults involved with these programs never even sit down to talk with the kids they are there to minister to. The fact is our youth don’t need a “program.”
The answer is much simpler, but requires a much more serious approach. What do our youth need? They need adults who are living their Orthodox Faith and who want to share it with them. They need to establish reliable relationships with people who, not only talk about their faith, but try to live their life by it. It is true that activities are an important part of our youth ministry efforts, but they should only exist to build up relationships with Christ, His Church, their peers, and adults who are committed to living their Orthodox faith. This requires adults who share a common vision and desire to do this. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did not come to create programs, but restore that correct relationship between God and man, and among humankind.
This past year, our Holy Synod of Bishops decreed that our Church, its dioceses, deaneries, and parishes focus on the theme of God’s vocation for each of our lives. Communities held adult bible studies and discussions, youth retreats, and camping programs where the faithful, both young and old, could spend a little time thinking about God’s purpose for their life. Many of us, though we might not realize it, are being called by God to minister with our youth.
As this new year begins and we prepare to celebrate International Orthodox Youth Month, we need to take some time to reflect on how we could share our life and faith with our young people. There are many people in your area already doing it! Contact the local people involved in youth ministry. Help out at a retreat, a service trip, or a camp. Become involved in your parish’s church school, youth group, or youth organization. Make a point of simply sitting and talking with some kids at coffee hour, or playing catch with them outside. There are a thousand ways to become involved in the lives of youth.
Remember, the first person most teens will go to when they have a problem, or want to discuss a real issue in their life is another teen, a friend. These friends are searching themselves for answers. Why do they go to them? It’s because they know and trust them. Our youth need to have trusting relationships with faithful adults to whom they can turn. They need you!Taken from the OCA Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries