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Think back to those impressionable years in your early twenties. Hopefully you can recall with gratitude at least one or two "mentors" who made a significant impact in your life like a professor, favorite aunt, retreat speaker, church elder, or first manager. What was it about these people that rendered them so meaningful in our youth?
Youth groups matter. Studies show that teens who are active in their church are less likely to be sexually active, or engage in other risky behaviors including alcohol and drug use. Kids involved with positive "religious" peer groups have higher self esteem, and have lower incidences of shoplifting.
It's amazing to see what a difference it makes to give kids a sense of belonging and unity, as well as teach them about their faith at the same time. What are you waiting for?
Here are seven more ways to get your church's youth group off and running:
As of this posting, my post from one week ago: The First Step in Evangelizing Orthodoxy - Stronger More Vibrant youth Groups has been shared 473 times. There were also two online discussions that were sparked on Orthodox sites as a result of this article. Wow. It’s exciting to me to see this kind of response. People should be stirred up about this. Our youth need us to pay attention.
Teen pregnancy, pornography, moral decay, broken families, sexual abuse, drug addiction, eating disorders…these are just some of the crises facing our youth today. How is your church responding? Or, are they looking the other way?
We may have the one, true faith, but we are losing our youth. I don’t know about you, but most of the peers I grew up with in church don’t attend anymore. They’re either all churched out, or they’re attending a Protestant church where they feel their kids will grow up to have a more real understanding of God.
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to.
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you,
And wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.
~“My Wish,” by Rascall Flatts
I just finished another three-week (of the four sessions this year) stint directing the St. Stephen’s Summer Camp for the Metropolis of Atlanta. All told, I’ve now had the privilege of directing this camp for 24 weeks spanning 11 summers. Every year, I come back from camp spiritually renewed, re-energized and recommitted to my ministry as an Orthodox priest. I also come back scratching my head, over the kinds of issues being faced by today’s Orthodox teenager, and what kind of response our church is making (or not making) to the realities faced by our teens.
[Editor's note: Pascha and Bright Week are behind us, but the joyous message of Pascha still fills our hearts and even our services and hymns. Here's a sermon from Fr. Stavros that, though it was given weeks ago, has a spiritual context which is everthere for many of us. We here at The Sounding dedicate this post to those of us with dimmed lamps: May we find the healing and life which we so eagerly seek. Christ is Risen! —Jonathan]
Most of us are familiar with the Tradition of the Vigil Light that burns on the altar at all times. It is called “To Akimiton Fos,” the Light that never sleeps. About a year ago, sometime in Lent 2010, I entered the altar one morning, and found, to my dismay, that the light had gone out.
What is the Orthodox response to the death of Osama Bin Laden? As Christians, how are we supposed to react to an event like this? Is it wrong to be happy and cheer about the news of his death? He did such despicable acts and was responsible for so many innocent deaths. Does God condone the action of us killing bad people?
[Note: My apologies for being a few days late in posting this. Great Lent is a busy time for all of us. As The Fast continues, I will do my best to post and keep up with comments as often as time and other commitments allow, but ask your forgiveness in advance for any extended gaps in contact. +FS]
Holy Week is a Spiritual Feast for the entire human being—the heart, the mind, the spirit and all the senses are involved. Our sense of touch is engaged as we are anointed with holy oil for the healing of soul and body. Our lips touch the Holy Icons, the feet of the Lord on the Cross, and the burial shroud as we solemnly venerate them. Our knees will touch the ground as we kneel before the Holy Cross of Christ.
What separates Orthodoxy from most other churches is that not only are its Traditions rooted in scripture, but that they are practiced the same way the world over.
“Where is this stuff in scripture?”
“Where does the Bible say that we should conduct our services in the manner that we do them?”
“I’m looking for a church where everything that is being done is taken right from the Bible.”
Lots of people outside of the Orthodox world look at our church and make comments similar to these.