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.