Plan Your Youth Program


 

A tool to plan out your Youth Ministry Year

 

by Archpriest Joseph Purpura

 

Living the Orthodox Faith in Christ

 

Living the Orthodox Faith in Christ sets the tone for all youth ministry programs in our Archdiocese. We need to deliberately plan for youth ministry to take place in our parishes. Our goal in youth ministry is to see that our young people grow to love Christ and His Church and to pursue a righteous way of life. Living the Orthodox Faith in Christ is a process that takes place in the context of, Worship, Witness, Service and Fellowship. In the following I will briefly describe what we mean by these terms and how a youth group can utilize these actions to structure their youth group.

 

Worship is defined in the Youth Ministry Platform as:

 

For Orthodox Christians, corporate worship is the sacramental expression of and participation in Holy Tradition, and is the indispensable foundation of youth ministry at all levels. Upon this foundation, we must cultivate a daily personal prayer life and reading of Holy Scripture.

 

We read in the Orthodox Study Bible (p. 810) that worship means, "to bow down.’ In the Christian sense worship is the adoration of God through participation in the services of the Church, the highest act of a Christian (see John:4:19-24)." Further, Liturgy is, "The work or public service of the people of God, which is the worship of the one true God. The Divine Liturgy is the Eucharistic service of the Orthodox Church." Worship stands at the very core of youth ministry; in fact, all ministries begin with prayer and worship.

 

Witness - Christ calls us to be His witness in the world. We must enable our youth to express their faith for themselves and to others in order to be true witnesses to Christ and the Orthodox Faith.

 

The Orthodox Study Bible (p.810) states, "Witness (Gr. Martyria) is one who testifies by word and deed. In the New Testament, the word is also rendered "martyr," a reference to those who give their lives for the gospel of Christ. Also, the Holy Spirit bears witness to the spirits of those who believe in Christ, that they may belong to Him. See Rom. 8:16, Heb. 10:15; 12:1; 1 John 5:6-12; Rev. 11:3-12." We want our young people to live their lives reflecting that they do belong to Christ.

 

Service - Christ came not to be served, but to serve. We need to move our youth to do the same. We honor and glorify God by loving and serving mankind in the name of Jesus Christ, using our God-given gifts and talents.

 

Our Lord sets the tone for service, that we want our young people to emulate,

 

"Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? ‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ "And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:34-40) We want our young people to instinctively reach out to their neighbors, as though they are serving the Lord..

 

Fellowship - The Holy Trinity is the perfect model of fellowship; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share perfect communion and exist in perfect love as a community. By gathering together in fellowship, and by showing love for one another in Christ, we emulate the life of the Holy Trinity in our daily life.

 

The Orthodox Study Bible (p. 798) states, "Fellowship (Gr. Koinonia) Literally, "communion"; the unity of believers through Christ based on the fellowship of the father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians are united into a special fellowship through their love for one another and common union with Christ (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3, 7). We often hear the statement from our young people, "my school friends are my friends while I am in school, but my Church friends are my friends for life." We want to create opportunities for our young people to be in the presence of one another, so as to strengthen their faith and resolve to live their lives as people of God and to enjoy the Fellowship of those people who belong to God.

 

Creating a balanced youth ministry program in the parish. Understanding our mission statement allows us to begin planning our youth ministry year focused on where we want to bring our young people. Teens, youth directors and pastors are encouraged to utilize the youth ministry mission statement above in planning out their year. An effective tool is to create a chart with "Living the Orthodox Faith in Christ" as the title to remind us that this is what we are striving to do and then to create four columns with Worship, Witness, Service and Fellowship at the top of each of these columns. As you plan out your youth ministry year place the activities you are planning into the columns that they appropriately belong. When you are done you should have a fairly balanced looking chart, if not, see where you have to add or replace to accomplish a balanced youth ministry program. The Department of Youth encourages parishes to begin planning and budgeting their youth programs in the early part of the summer. Planning, budgeting, and deliberately acting for youth ministry in the parish will positively affect many teens lives both within and beyond the parish.

 

This is a sample of how you might utilize your planning chart. Your planning chart should begin to look like the one below, though more extensive.

 

Living the Orthodox Faith in Christ

 

Worship

 

Witness

 

Service

 

Fellowship

 

Place your "Worship" events here such as:

 

* Encourage other teens to attend Vespers and Divine Liturgy with you as a group.

 

* Great Friday All Night Vigil

 

* Attending Lenten and Holy Week Services together as a Youth Group and participating by singing, chanting and or reading.

 

 

* Etc.

 

Place your "Witness" events here such as:

 

* Holding a Bible Study for the Parish.

 

* Providing Books on Orthodoxy to the local schools and libraries

 

* Sharing your faith with your friends and inviting them to join your Bible Study or to come to a discussion with your youth group

 

* Etc.

 

 

 

 

Place your "Service" events here such as:

 

* Serving lunch as a group at the local Soup Kitchen

 

* Helping as a group at a local orphanage

 

* Cleaning the Church

 

* Offering Tutoring to younger and peer students from the Church community, as well as those outside the community, as part of your youth groups community service.

 

* Etc.

 

Place your "Fellowship" events here such as:

 

* Playing basketball, Volleyball, or bowling together.

 

* "Hanging out" at the Church Hall together on a specified evening with the Women’s Organization and learning how to cook or make Holy Bread

 

* Visiting another Orthodox Youth Group as a the teen Group of your parish to foster friendships and cooperation with sister parish(es) in the local area.

 

* Etc.