By OCA Department of Youth Young Adult, and Campus Ministry

As part of your parish’s celebration of International Orthodox Youth Month, take some time to honor the youth of your community and their ministry in the Church. The following types of celebration leave a lasting impression with youth that they are valued within the Church and are a wonderful way to remind everyone in the parish of what it means to grow in Christ and belong to His Holy Church.

  1. Youth Survival Kit - Prepare and distribute a “Youth Survival Kit” to each of the youth in your parish. The “Kit” can include little items that represent different things. Be sure to include in the “Kit” a sheet with a title such as “When in doubt or when problems arise, reach for your survival kit” and that explains all the items. Such lists leave lasting impressions and become treasured belongings. The list below contains ideas of things to include. Most items can be found at a local party store or craft store.
    a) Mustard Seed - Have faith of a mustard seed and you can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20)
    b) Feather - Remember the God of all creation loves you. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt 6:26-26)
    c) Small Cutout-Felt Heart – “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4)
    d) A Loose String - “Keep the commandments, and bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck.” (Prov. 6:20-21)
    e) Key Chain - Connect yourself to the Church.
    f) Small Box of Raisins - Don’t wither on the vine; seek your spiritual food from God through frequent communion.
    g) Small Artificial Flower - Blossom where you are planted.
    h) Rock – “Seek God in times of trouble, He is your rock of refuge, and a strong fortress.“ (Psalm 71:3)
    i) Craft Jewel – “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10-11)
    j) Chocolate Coin - Focus on the things of faith, because “where your treasure is, there also is your heart.” Store up your treasures in Heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21)
    k) Wheat – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-26)
    l) Hershey’s Kiss - Mend your ways, agree with one another, live in peace, and greet one another with a holy kiss. (2 Cor. 13:11 – 12)
    m) Ruler – Measure by God’s standards, not by the world’s standards.
    n) Rubber Band - Be flexible. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
    o) Toy Compass – When you feel lost, remember that “the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)
  2. Candle decorated with a ribbon that says "Let Your Light So Shine.” Present each youth with a candle at the end of Divine Liturgy. Most party stores can print simple text on ribbons. The candle can be put in their prayer corner to be lit during the year. Ask the priest to give a short talk about the important ministry youth have in the Church.
  3. Candle Cutout Display – Make candle cut outs and have put them in a place where people can take one and record instances when they see a youth “shine.” Put them on the wall in a designated spot in the parish’s fellowship area. Include the heading “Our Youth Shines.”
  4. Get To Know Our Shining Youth - Take photos of each youth and place the photos on a decorated page that contains biographical information about him/her. Ex. Favorite sport, music, interests, favorite family activities, college aspirations, etc. Place these photos on a bulletin board or on the walls of the social hall.
  5. Secret Pals - Have the adults in the parish draw a name of one youth and let that be their secret pal for the month. Each Sunday have the adult put a letter or small token in a "mailbox" to be delivered after Liturgy. At the end of the month, the “pals” are then revealed.
  6. Youth of the Church - Cut out a very large outline of a church that has windows that you fold back. Inside the window have photos of the youths. Add their names and title it something like “Youth, not just our future but the present” and “let your light so shine.” Put it up on a bulletin board for the month.
  7. Fellowship Event – Plan a fellowship event for an evening around a theme such as: beach/Hawaiian, Disney, the 1950s, western hoe-down, etc.
  8. Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social – Have an old fashioned ice cream social in honor of the youth.
  9. Youth Banquet - Hold a special dinner to honor the youth on Saturday evening after vespers/vigil. Decorate with the theme “Let Your Light So Shine” using candles, lights, etc.
  10. “Un-slumber Party” - Let the younger children have an "un-slumber" party with popcorn, movies and pajamas. Give "flashlights" as gifts and let them play games with them. Be creative!!!
  11. "Know Your Youth” Crossword Puzzle – Distribute a puzzle to the parish with clues about youths in the parish (see #4 for ideas - hobbies, church involvement, etc.). The first person to complete the puzzle correctly wins a scented or church candle with a card saying, "Let Your Light so Shine." Create/distribute a different puzzle each week for a different age group or church school class.
  12. Glow-in-the-dark bracelet/necklace – Give each youth a bracelet/necklace and include a card that says "Let Your Light so Shine."
  13. How does your light shine in the Church? - Designate a few tables for the teens to decorate with items that represent what they would like the parish to know about themselves. For example it could have clues representing how their light shines in school and in church life such as awards received or services performed in the church and/or community.
  14. Slideshow -- Compile a slideshow highlighting moments from youth activities in which youth are participating in worship, service, education, and fellowship. Show it during coffee hour with a short presentation about the World Day of Orthodox Youth and International Orthodox Youth Month.
  15. Forget Me Not – Distribute “Forget Me Not” flower seeds in a packet with the text of Prov 3:1 (“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments”) included.
  16. Caring Can - This is an ongoing project for an entire month. Label a can “Caring Can.” Each week youth leaders write down a reason why they care about a youth and place it in the caring can (making sure that something is written about each youth eventually.) Keep the can in the church school/youth room and add to it every week.
  17. Youth Puzzle - Take photos of the youths and glue each photo to a puzzle piece; any left over pieces may contain group/event pictures. The middle pieces contain the heading “Piece by Piece the Youth Work Together for the Glory of God.” (Craft stores carry blank puzzles).
  18. Special Breakfast - Provide youths with a special place, then serve a special breakfast or set aside items from coffee hour. Decorate the tables with special place mats, balloons, and/or treat bags. Each Sunday announce their names in church and/or honor a different grade or group of youth. The placemats can be decorated with the logo or graphics from the poster “Let your light so Shine” available online at [url=][/url].
  19. Talk Show – Invite the whole parish and have youth sit on a “panel” to discuss their experience as an Orthodox Christian teenager.
  20. Let Each Family Shine - Have one evening during the month where family traditions are shared between the generations. Have youth present their family’s traditions. Family members can join in for demonstrations (knitting, crocheting, sausage making, peroghi pinching, nut roll rolling, instrument playing, card playing, etc.)
  21. Other “20-Somethings” – Explore other ideas compiled by the Church’s Youth Department. They are online in The Hub ([url=][/url]). Click on Activities and then 20-Somethings.