Young Life does a few things very well, but after all of the spiritual and emotional "highs" that the kids I was working with felt, they were still left with such a void—a huge question about where God was when they weren't happy, amped up, and "feeling Him." That entertainment does get you to feel something, it's true, but are they your every day feelings? Most likely not. So the kids that I worked with were often left unable to "feel God" in the every day of their lives. I had already become Orthodox when these conversations were beginning with them, as they had graduated from High School and found their ways into difficult relationships or witnessed suffering or experienced certain struggles: "The God I have gotten to know isn't here with me now" was what was repeated over and over as we got deeper and deeper into conversations.
I had stepped outside of that world that I had once been so immersed in.
I came to St. Spyridon's after a year working with adolescents serving jail time, and had absolutely no idea how to do Orthodox Youth Ministry. Youth Ministry was what I had been doing for ten years, and it suddenly didn't make any sense in light of my meager understanding of the Church and new experience of God. Thus, the search for the thing.
I am sorry for flailing about so often, and I hope you and your children will accept my apologies. Every year it has felt like "this must be the thing!" and then we try it, and for some reason or another it just doesn't work. I think, hope, and pray that I have finally figured out why.
We don't want a Youth Group and we don't need a Youth Group. Our kids in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's needed a youth group, and that's why they were started. What we need, so so desperately, are relationships. A relationship not on a phone, not through the internet, texting, Facebook, or e-mail, but with a Person—capital P and persons lowercase p.
So this may not be the "thing," or it may not at least be the final, perfect "thing,” but our new plan for the Youth Ministry at St. Spyridon's is all about relationships. Forming relationships, in person, with persons, peer to peer, whenever possible. Relationships require two things:
First, space, both physical and emotional
Second, presence, both physical and emotional
SO COME HERE! We have a space for your kids, physical. If you are willing to lend a smidgen of your time, there will be plenty of people who are present, physically and emotionally. We have people who are present, physically and emotionally. Just show up, bring your children to church, bring them to Fellowship Hour, bring them to the services during Lent, hang out with them and us. Look for the signs, the tables, the pews, that are set aside for your kids, toddler through 12th grade. Bring them so that they may grow in relationship with one another and ultimately with the foremost relational Person, the one true "thing" that matters.
Fellowship (Sundays and Wednesday evenings):
Tables in rear of Fellowship Hall marked for Toddlers, Pre-K, and 1st grades, and 2nd-5th grades respectively, bordered by parents’ tables. Please sit near, and keep a close eye on your children, even if you are not helping that day, and continue to encourage them to clean up after themselves.
Upper Conference Room set aside for Middle and High School kids. They can grab food and meet up there for games, special food occasionally, and time with friends. Our Youth Leaders and Workers will be occasionally hanging out in this area, but your children will be sent back to you if they have finished. Again, please keep track of them as much as possible.
Just look for the pews marked with certain ages, mostly for Lenten services if your kids want to sit with others. If there is misbehavior they will obviously be sent back to you.