ways to build Christian FELLOWSHIP among Orthodox youth.

By Fr Michael Anderson and David Subu

When we plan youth activities it is easy to spend a lot of time on retreats, Church services, and service projects and forget the need to build relationships with each other. Sometimes we can give the incorrect impression that a Christian can’t have fun. Christian fellowship is a key element to any ministry effort. It is the setting in which we live out our Faith in Christ as we strive to love others even as He loves us. The ideas listed below include pure fellowship events (i.e. going to an amusement park, baseball game, etc.), as well as suggestions for encouraging fellowship in other kinds of activities (retreats, ministering to the elderly, etc.). Remember, regardless of what you are doing as a group, any activity should have a good balance of fellowship, education, worship and service. It’s as simple as starting and ending with prayer and acting as Christians in between.

1. Get together with other Orthodox youth to talk about it! Make sure it is something everyone is comfortable doing.

2. Go to an amusement park, zoo, or museum as a group. Stay together for common meals, group activities, and always use a three-person buddy system.

3. Go camping, backpacking, canoeing, biking, or even spelunking (cave exploring). Two nights in the woods with friends is better than two in front of the TV alone. Be sure to have sufficient adult supervision.

4. Hold an overnight retreat in which teens lead most of the discussions. For examples of youth-led retreats contact the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

5. Hold a lock-in with late-night or all-night activities, especially as an alternative form of a New Year's Eve or Graduation party.

6. Sponsor an athletic activity for the teens such as bowling, basketball, soccer, hockey, or general fitness, or a combination of activities to meet everyone's capabilities and interests.

7. Develop a prayer partner program in which teens learn more about each other's life through praying for each other and sharing experiences through anonymous letters. Post a bulletin board where teens or anyone else in the parish can post prayer requests. Be sure to be discreet about anything that might be sensitive.

8. Form a youth choir which can sing the responses for selected Church services or for a recital. Rehearsals should include sufficient “break time” so that participants can talk with each other. Record the service/performance as a gift for friends, family, and shut-ins. 9 Arrange with local parishes to have a regional formal dinner/dance such as that held successfully by A.R.O.Y. each year.

10. Plan a summer camp reunion/winter retreat if you have a large number of teens in the area involved in a local or regional summer program. The New England Youth Rally, St. Andrew’s Teen Week in upstate NY, and St. Tikhon’s Camp in PA have all developed a tradition of the winter reunion retreat which keeps the summer spirit alive throughout the year. 11 Go to a nearby professional athletic event (hockey, baseball, football, etc.). Very often teams have special programs for youth groups. Remember to use buddy systems and make frequent head counts in large stadium.

12. Work as a group on a service project for the parish or local community. Working side-by-side with people to help others is a very non-intimidating way to get to know people. These experiences also have life-changing effects on how one views his or her Faith and people in need.

13. Sponsor a movie night at the church hall for larger groups or at a parishioner's home for smaller groups. Provide popcorn and beverages.

14. Post a birthday/name’s day bulletin calendar where youth get to find out about and celebrate each other's birthday and name day. 15 Take a road trip to a diocesan or Church-wide event such as an All-American Council, Youth Organization convention, or sports tournament (F.O.C.A. Youth, A.R.O.Y., or A.O.Y.C). Charter a bus or van.

16. Plan a theme party for one of the fast-free Fridays during the Church year. Brainstorm ideas as a group and hold a party for your parish or for the parishes in the area. [Some examples might include a mock prom, a black and white party where everything (clothing, decorations, food, etc.) is black and white, or a medieval night where everyone dresses up and no one uses utensils.]

17. Get involved in community events such as block parties, fairs, and parades. Set up a booth with activities and games for children at local block parties and fairs, or create a parade float which celebrates youth in the Church.

18. Hold a summertime beach party, pool party, barbecue, or bonfire with suitable supervision and activities. If you go to a beach or pool be sure there are lifeguards on duty, or in the case of having it at someone’s home, provide one. 19 Sponsor a "coffee hour" for preteens and teens in a separate space in the parish with food and beverages catering to their tastes.

20. Organize a "Pink Elephant" party in which each person brings a small, wrapped gift that will be randomly given to another person. The item is usually funny and something you are trying to get rid of politely!

21. Sponsor a Youth Ministry Open House in which the teens bring their parents in to meet one another and the local youth ministers. Have the youth give a presentation on their experience of the youth ministry efforts in the parishes.

22. As a group find out about and attend athletic events and cultural performances which teens are having at school. Nothing shows young people you care more than participating in their achievements.

23. Hold a weekly, monthly, or seasonal recreation night with activities such as floor hockey, basketball, “Wacky Olympics,” board game tournaments, etc.. 24 Make this a regular activity each year. One of the key elements to building mature relationships is consistently providing opportunities to gather others. These activities become anchors for youth who do not have many opportunities to be with other Orthodox youth.