Our GOYA advisors are Melissa Pardales and Demetra Koukios.
MISSION AND GOAL OF GOYA MINISTRY
The mission and goal of the Greek Orthodox Youth of America (GOYA) ministry is to lead our young people into experiencing the Holy Orthodox Faith. By developing a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and becoming active sacramental members of the living Church, our young people will be equipped with tools necessary to assist them in their journey toward salvation.
WHOM IT SERVES
GOYA is the ministry to teenagers of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Since GOYA is ministry, the orientation and implementation of the program should reflect the Orthodox Christian Faith, Tradition, and Life.
GOYA is ministry to junior high and high school grade Orthodox Christian teenagers. Teenagers should be in seventh through twelfth grades to participate. It is recommended that GOYA ministry be divided into two distinct groups, the junior high GOYA ministry and the high school GOYA ministry.
The teenagers themselves prefer the specific age groupings since they can relate better with others who share the same age and school environment. More importantly, it is more developmentally appropriate for these age groups to be separated. Senior High GOYAns are ready to learn different things than Junior High GOYAns.
This approach is the most effective, however it does demand more of the parish priest, youth director and advisors. In smaller parishes, the number of teenagers is fewer; therefore, making GOYA two distinct groups may not be feasible.
If having two groups is not possible, pay special attention to the developmental needs of the individual young people in the group by making sure activities are appropriate for all of the youth. Occasionally, special activities can be planned for specific grades. For example, an outing to a College Career Night for the high school seniors may be planned.
YOUTH MINISTRY FOUNDATION
The foundation of all youth ministry is the cultivation and education of our young people in order to become viable members of the Body of Christ. GOYA is but one means to this end. GOYA must not stand alone, but be incorporated into the entire sphere of the Church's mission.
The adolescent world is constantly changing – it is virtually impossible to keep up with every new trend and movement of youth culture. Growing up in today’s society is a much more difficult task than it was in previous times. Our young people are being shaped by negative and destructive influences, ones that can and will define who they are and who they will become. For this reason, the positive teachings and traditions of the Orthodox Church must become a living presence in their lives. This makes youth ministry not an option -- but a necessity.
THE FOUR CHARACTERISTICS
The National Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries recommends that GOYA ministry be based on the following four characteristics: Worship (Liturgia), Fellowship (Koinonia), Service (Diakonia), and Witness (Martyria).
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:6-7).
As Orthodox Christians, we believe that God reveals Himself through Holy Tradition (which includes Scripture). Worship is the sacramental expression of these, and is thus a very important element in ministering to our young people. It is important for GOYAn’s to be active sacramental members of the Church.
GOYAn’s can participate in WORSHIP through:
- Private and Corporate Prayer
- Participation in the Divine Services and Sacraments of the Church (not just Sunday, but the entire cycle of worship)
- Prayer services at GOYA gatherings
- Prayer for those who are sick or in need
- Observance of the Church calendar, including the pre-scribed Feasts and Fasts
- Study of religious books and writings
“Behold how good and pleasing it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133).
Fellowship is the way Orthodox Christians integrate their faith with daily life. It is sacred when Orthodox Christians gather together in our Lord’s name. The relationship of the Holy Trinity is the perfect model of Fellowship. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share perfect communion and exist in perfect love. By gathering together in fellowship, and by experiencing this love, we emulate the relationship of the Trinity, and develop our life in Christ.
GOYAn’s can participate in FELLOWSHIP through:
- Camp and retreat programs, church sponsored athletic programs, ethnic dancing, etc.
- Pan-Orthodox seminars under the guidance of the priest
- Film, video and multimedia presentations and subsequent discussions
- Performance of religious productions (plays, musicals, role-playing, etc.)
- Day, overnight or weeklong outings
- Volunteerism at the parish level
- Group discussions on various contemporary issues (books, movies, music)
- Church Attendance
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . .” (Mark 10:45).
Christ came to serve, not to be served. Young people are urged to do the same. Therefore, we can honor and glorify God by loving and serving humanity in His name. Young people should use their God-given charismata (gifts) to serve.
Young people serve God by serving the Church. For Orthodox Christians, service to God and community is the way of life, the way of living one’s faith. As Jesus Christ our Lord said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). For this reason, service is an integral part of the Orthodox Christian’s life.
Often times, we look at our youth and wonder how we can help them. We need to inspire them into a life of service. The question must be asked, “How can our young people use their God-given gifts for service to the needy, service to those less fortunate?” How can they be part of the people who respond to our Lord’s call in Matthew 25:31-46, to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit those in prison. This is the true meaning of service.
GOYAn’s can participate in Service through:
- Local work projects to beautify and maintain the parish
- Outreach to the elderly, the sick, the shut-in’s, etc.
- Support of missions abroad and at home
- Contributing to Archdiocesan, Diocesan, and parish ministries (St. Basil’s Academy, St. Michael’s, Hellenic College/Holy Cross, etc.)
- Volunteerism in a local soup kitchen for the day
- Participating in short-term mission trips
- Allow them to be personally creative and innovative
“For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:15).
Man is both a spiritual and physical being. The spiritual reality is not always expressed in the material world. In order to be true to oneself and to the Orthodox Christian Faith, young people should strive to exemplify faith. They must be a witness to their faith, offering a convincing word and verbal expression of this faith, to those they come in contact with.
GOYAn’s can participate in WITNESS through:
- Attending spiritual classes and reading about the faith
- Sharing the faith with one another and with others outside the group
- Becoming ambassadors of Christ to people we come in contact with
- Inviting a non-Orthodox friend to a Church service or GOYA event
- Sponsor a booth at a local Church Festival or community event to share the Orthodox Faith
- Start a book of the month club with your Orthodox friends and invite non-Orthodox friends as well
It has often been assumed that a desire to work with young people is all that is needed to be a successful youth worker. Although a desire is crucial, knowledge of theology, youth culture, and adolescent development is paramount. Below are some things to keep in mind when working with GOYAns.
It is highly recommended that youth workers read more about adolescent development to prepare for ministry. As youth workers, it is important that we remain aware of the physical and emotional changes which occur in adolescence. We must become students of theology and students of Youth Culture.
Adolescence is an exciting but often difficult time for young people. They have many forces pulling them in different directions. They are developing physically, mentally and spiritually. They are making decisions about who they are, what they believe and who they will become. Adolescence is a time of exploration after which young people emerge with a commitment to certain values, goals, behaviors, and beliefs.
As youth workers, it is important to keep in mind that the single greatest influence on how young people develop a sense of self is their parents. It is therefore crucial that as we minister to the young people, we also minister to their parents. We should consider our ministry a supplement to the vital “home ministry”.
THE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL TEENAGER
Not quite a teenager but definitely not a child, junior high school teenagers, struggle with where they belong. They still fit into their elementary school shoes in many ways, but desperately want to grow into their high school shoes. This conflict along with the physical changes can make junior high school a difficult two to three years. Physically, their bodies are changing, but not necessarily all at once. Their arms and legs tend to have a growth spurt before the rest of their body, making them look awkward and feel clumsy. Puberty hits creating hormonal issues that can leave a young teenager feel as if they will never have control of their body again.
Even late bloomers are not spared from the difficulties of the junior high years. They often anguish over their lack of physical development. They wonder what is wrong with them and feel trapped in a child’s body. As adults, we know that this phase passes. However, to a young person, it does not feel this way. As youth workers, we must be sensitive of these changes and validate their feelings about themselves.
In addition to physical changes, junior high teenagers are beginning to move into what Piaget (developmental psychologist) calls the “formal operations period”. Young people in this stage are able to think more abstractly. They can consider a hypothetical situation and evaluate several courses of action for it. They no longer need concrete examples to develop a concept. As they are just entering this period of abstract thought development, some will not be as advanced with abstract thinking. So, when planning, it is always good to use both concrete and abstract examples.
THE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL TEENAGER
Senior High School teenagers are being pulled in different directions too, but this is controlled mostly by social and cognitive development, rather than physical changes. They are bombarded with activities. Work, school, sports, clubs, and church are all pulling at them. There is an overwhelming feeling that these activities are needed and without them their future choices (college, career, marriage, etc.) will be limited. They are keenly aware of their approaching adulthood and think often about what the future will hold for them.
With a greater developed ability to think abstractly, they are being challenged by teacher, peer, and parent to figure out where they stand on issues. Concepts of justice, equality, power and control fascinate them along with controversial topics that can be examined through these lenses. They want answers and good ones. “Because the Bible says” is not good enough. They want to know where the answers are, why they are, and what that means to them. If we as youth workers along with parents are not directing them to find these answers in the church, they will find these answers elsewhere.
Things to Consider
When planning for all GOYA activities consider . . .
- Will this interest them?
- Will it help them build on their concept of who they are as an Orthodox Christian individual?
- Will it relate to their lives?
- Will the activity be understood by both concrete and abstract thinkers?
- Will it be sensitive to individual young people in the group?
- Will everyone feel included?
- What problems might occur with the activity?
- What questions might arise and how will we answer them?
- How will this activity fit into the busy schedules of the teenagers?
- How can we share information with the parents?
Above all youth workers should . . .
- Be honest! If you can’t answer their question, tell them you’ll get back to them – teenagers can tell when you are not being honest.
- Be an icon! Your actions speak louder than your words so make sure they are good ones. Someone once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words”.
- Love them! “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
- Be there and accept them for who they are — not what you want them to be. They are children of God and are created in His image.
- Become a student of modern culture — see their movies, listen to their music, read their magazines. Learn their culture without becoming part of it.
- Help them find the answers they are looking for. It is alright for them to question – when the find the answers, it can make them stronger in their faith.
- Listen more than you talk! Sometimes all they need is an ear.
- Know when they need more help than you can give. Unless you are a licensed counselor you cannot help young people with serious issues. For their sake refer out (see Legal Issue-Disclosure)
- Pray for them daily. Ask them to pray for you too. Never underestimate the power of prayer!