Entries with tag family ministry .

The Incredible Impact of "Be the Bee"

On June 15, we will release the final episode of “Be the Bee.” What began as a risky project in September 2013, an attempt to bring Christ and His Gospel to young people in a clear and exciting way, turned into a much greater success than we could have ever imagined. 

We got our first indication that we were onto something in November of our first year. A sixty-year-old grandmother from Oklahoma sent us our first ever piece of fan mail, a sweet email expressing deep thanks for the series. Over the next few months a flood of comments and messages and emails began pouring in. 

A mother in New York expressed wonder that her eight-year-old daughter would turn on YouTube and attentively watch “Be the Bee” for hours at a time and then confidently talk about what she had learned. A high schooler from Texas thanked “Be the Bee” for offering comfort and inspiration during difficult times at school. A presbytera from Pennsylvania spoke about how she’d show her young children “Be the Bee” on their way to Liturgy every Sunday morning as a way to prepare for an encounter with God.

As our very first piece of fan mail indicated, “Be the Bee” was never just a program for children. A Protestant pastor in Alabama told us that he quoted from an episode during a homily. Several Orthodox clergy wrote to tell us how instrumental “Be the Bee” was in helping them prepare Sunday sermons. A theology professor at a Christian school said he uses episodes of “Be the Bee” to teach his college students about the Holy Trinity

Yet, somehow, none of these messages truly connected with my heart until I experienced this thanks in person. After a BeeTreat in Chicago last February, a man approached me. Though he looked somewhat gruff and strong, he collapsed into tears as he embraced me. He told me about how he stumbled across “Be the Bee” during a difficult time in his life, and was eventually chrismated. His eyes lit up as he confessed that finding the Church was the greatest thing that had ever happened to him.

This man isn’t the only person to somehow come to Christ through the series. From disenchanted young adults who grew up in the Church and had fallen away, to former Protestant pastors who longed for the fullness of the Church, to curious teenagers whose hearts burned with love for Jesus Christ, we’ve received uplifting messages of thanks from more converts than we can count

I share these stories because I’m a young adult who grew up in the Church and have witnessed the overwhelming majority of my friends and peers fall away. Because, from the very beginning, the Church is at her best when we focus on the person of Christ and the presence of His Kingdom. Because it’s incredible that a simple message could have such a profound effect in the lives of so many, by the grace of God alone, and as we come to the end of this particular journey, I am grateful to God that I have been able to be a part of it.

Because God is good, and He is working wonders right before our eyes.

 

Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.

*****

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

______________

Holding Space for Family

It’s 5:30 pm—almost dinner time in the home of the Chronos family. Mrs. Chronos has arrived home from work and frantically begins to pull something together for the evening meal. As she is chopping some onions, her 17-year-old son, Nicholas, breezes past the kitchen.

“Bye, Mom!”
“Wait, where are you going?”
“Soccer! Don’t you remember we have an extra practice tonight because of the championship this weekend?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. See you later. Love you.”

Mrs. Chronos has mixed feelings about Nicholas’ involvement with soccer. She loves the values of recreation, teamwork, and discipline but is less than enthusiastic about how it impacts family time.

A few minutes later, through the front door comes Gracie, age 10, who was just dropped off by a friend’s mother.

“Hi, Sweetie! How was Megan’s?”
“We had fun. Mom, why can’t I have a TV in my room like Megan. It would be great. I wouldn’t have to bug you anymore, and I could just hang out in my room like Megan and I did today.”
“That’s all you did today at Megan’s, watch TV?”
“No, we played video games too.”

Mrs. Chronos groans—this kind of conversation is nothing new.

She then glances at her phone and notices a new text message from her husband.  “Have to stay back at work and will be late. I’ll grab dinner here. So sorry! Love you!” Mrs. Chronos’ heart sinks. Mr. Chronos’ job has been consuming him lately, and she misses his presence. After 25 years of marriage, their relationship is certainly grounded in mutual love, but she can’t remember the last time they enjoyed some time as a couple. Come to think of it, the times that the four members of Chronos family are all together seem to be decreasing.

This scenario plays out daily in homes across the country. When its occurrence is more of an exception than the rule, it’s not too concerning for family life. However when individual schedules fracture family unity with regular frequency, the concern is greater. The ‘busyness’ of life is pulling families further away from one another—further away from this vital connection. In his keynote address at the 2013 Family Ministry Conference, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios stated,

The demands of the modern life weaken the bonds between family members, between parents and children, between siblings, between grandparents and grandchildren… The net result is that family members spend more time with co-workers, with teammates, with paid caregivers, than with each other. The real work of parenting—which is to say, of developing character and life-skills in children—falls to coaches and teachers. The real joys of companionship are found in relationships outside of the home. Family life becomes a perfunctory routine rather than a fellowship of shared purpose.

The Joy of Companionship

God fashioned humanity so that it would exist through relationship.  After creating Adam, He declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). We were made by God to live in communion with one another.

Current studies on neuroscience show that we all need connections to thrive at every age—from cradle to grave. We all need to belong and be a valued member of a social/family structure. When people are significantly disconnected from others, there is a higher occurrence of depression and isolation which can adversely impact all aspects of daily function.

But what does real connection look like? In many ways technology has made us more connected than ever. Today, we have ways to stay connected to people under circumstances that would have been difficult just 10 years ago. We can Skype with grandparents that live far away. We can text a quick message of support to our spouse during a particularly trying day at work. These are particularly helpful ways of using technology to stay connected. However it is important that we avoid swapping connection through technology when face-to-face contact is viable—especially within the household. Deep relationships cannot be sustained through emojis!

Likewise, the internet has given us accessibility to many resources for learning more about the Church. We can listen to podcasts, chanting, and videos about any topic of the spiritual life we like. We can even watch services live as they are broadcast from various Orthodox parishes[1]. But true connection with Christ doesn’t happen online—it happens through encounters of prayer, repentance, and communion—living a life in His Church as a member of His family.

As Christians, our relationship with Christ forms the basis for all of our other relationships. In her book, Persons in Communion, Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald writes,

Human persons are meant to be in communion with other persons. Authentic human life requires relationships with others. A relationship with God cannot be separated from relationships with other persons. As human persons, we share a common origin in God’s creative love and we share a common goal in God’s transfiguring love. We are bound together in God and are by nature social persons. We are not meant to live our lives in isolation from others. Rather, we are meant to be in relationship with others.

God’s Transfiguring Love

God presents us with the perfect image for family in the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. United as one essence with unique individuals existing in perfect love with one another.  But somehow this image of family has been distorted greatly so that instead of abiding in the perfect love of the Trinity, we try to live with the distorted ideals held up by this world. If we allow ourselves to become seduced by the images we regularly see in conventional and social media, we lose perspective of how we are called to be in family. We become consumed with keeping up appearances. This is not God’s purpose for family. It is not the goal of family be perfect as the world would define it, but rather it exists to create communion where people are loved unconditionally and growing in grace for the purpose of their salvation.

Family relationships can be ‘messy’ and challenging—whether they are with our biological or Church family members. As exhausting as it can be, these difficulties need to be acknowledged and, in a sense, embraced as opportunities for spiritual growth. When we read the lives of the saints, we learn that many of them had difficult family lives and sometimes suffered blamelessly at the hands of fellow Church members. It is through these obstacles that they were transformed and—in the process—transformed others by their holy example. When we keep Christ in the front and center of our being, we are better able to see His will in our lives as well as our fellow family members. Mother Gavrilia is quoted in her biography as saying, “God is not interested in where you are or what you do…He is interested only in the quality and quantity of the love you give. Nothing else. Nothing else.”

The Love You Give

We should make time daily to engage one another eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart—monitoring our time in front of screens and carefully discerning the cyber world and its myriad of distorted images. Let’s thank God for whom we have in front of us in the present moment. We might create intentional rules for our families to spend time with one another and, short of unforeseen events, strive to keep that appointed time as sacred. The culture we live in—this is critical to realize—isn’t going to help us with this. We have to set these boundaries for ourselves as well as our families.

We need a revolution in our family life. We need to fire a shot heard round the world calling our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, to come together again and put aside the shackles of screen addictions and activities to make the church in the home. –His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America


[1] These broadcasts are meant to be an aid to those homebound and not as a substitute for physical attendance.

Melissa is the Associate Director of the Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese where she has worked since 2001. Prior to her work at the Archdiocese Melissa worked for 10 years as a development specialist for an Early Intervention Program which worked with families with children from age birth to three who had special needs. She received her BA from Sacramento State University in California in child development with an emphasis in family education and an additional 2 years of studies for a credential in early childhood special education. Melissa and her husband, George, live in Tarpon Springs, Florida with their son, Nomikos. They have one son, Nomikos. Her passion is to teach about spiritual development and how we can live our faith daily in our homes and lives.

"Be the Bee" Retreats on Track to Surpass 1,000 Participants in 2015-16

"Be the Bee" retreats ("BeeTreats") are on track to surpass over 1,000 total participants for the 2015-16 season.  Though we only started the program two years ago, BeeTreats have already grown to an astounding level of popularity.  Over 800 people in total have attended the first six BeeTreats of the year, and we're not done yet.  

BeeTreats currently offer sessions for youth (6th-12th grades), parents, youth workers, and young adults.  The two final BeeTreats of the season, hosted in Brooklyn and Baltimore, are each expected to draw at least 100 people each.  Our most well-attended BeeTreat of the season was in Chicago in February, and drew 300 people.  Cleveland and San Francisco also saw huge crowds of over 200 people.  People often drive (and sometimes even fly) from hours away to join us.  

What makes this astounding is not simply the numbers: it's the underlying reason people are flocking to these BeeTreats.

We don't simply offer youth participants games or activities.  Instead, the BeeTreat begins with Matins and then transitions to four intense, heartfelt, soul-searching sessions before concluding with Vespers.  The first session is a prayer workshop where participants simply sit in silence, wrestling with their minds and hearts,doing the difficult work of opening themselves to God.  The last session is a service project designed to challenge participants to begin living the lessons they've learned, to allow their relationship with Christ to begin shaping every interaction with every person they encounter.  

Adult participants are similarly pushed rather than simply entertained.  After celebrating Matins together with the youth, four sessions challenge participants to rethink the motivations behind ministry, and to work through the ways Christ can be made manifest in our homes and parishes.  And of course, the day ends as it begins: in prayer, with the celebration of Vespers.  

Every BeeTreat also offers an Orthodoxy on Tap for young adults, a chance to come together and wrestle with difficult questions of vocation, exploring how one lives into the likeness of Christ not simply by being (or being married to) an ordained minister, but as a full-time minister to and for the world.  A short introductory talk paves the way for lively discussion of the way participants understand themselves and their place in the Church.  It's a way to see that, no matter who we are or what role we're called to play, our story as the Church is centered on nothing less than the person of Jesus Christ.  It's a way to reaffirm that our lives are meant to reveal the love of God to all we encounter and to bring the light of Christ into even the darkest corners of the world.  

 

As a Church, we often appear afraid of ministry.  We worry that young people need pastimes and activities, that we need to make sure that youth groups aren't "too religious.”  We worry that adults need to be affirmed rather than challenged, that the rigorous demands of the Gospel will push people away rather inspire them. 

But such ministry is not the ministry of Jesus Christ.

We profess a love of the Church yet also communicate a deep discomfort with it, an unease that is only resolved when God is carefully limited to Sunday mornings and, at best, a few prayers and remarks during Church programs.  

Yet our experience with BeeTreats has shown us how thirsty people are for the Gospel, how hungry they are to taste of the Kingdom and experience, not mere words and programs, but God Himself.  They've shown that the athletic and cultural programs that we pawn off as “ministry” have left our people malnourished, desperately seeking Christ, yet unsure of where to find Him.

So we will continue to minister in a way that defies the conventional wisdom.  We will continue to put our trust, not in programs or a cynical bait-and-switch, but in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

And, if we don't see you in our remaining BeeTreats of the season, we hope to see you next year.

 

 

______________

Steve is the Director of Y2AM.  Perhaps best known as the host of "Be the Bee," he's a graduate of Yale University, Fordham University School of Law, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.  You can follow him on Twitter here.  

______________

 

How to Make Outreach Part of Your Family's Lenten Journey

A major challenge for Orthodox Christians today is to leverage the strengths of technology while understanding that our faith places a high value on external and personal relationships.  Fulfilling Christ’s commandments to love God completely and to love and serve our neighbors typically takes personal interaction.  It would be hard to worship properly online (even though streaming the Liturgy is a sometimes useful innovation) and participating in any sacrament through an app will never be an option.  Similarly, it can be difficult to build rich and meaningful online experiences that serve those in need -- the hungry, the naked, the stranger, the sick and imprisoned.  At some point, if we are going to live up to Christ’s commandments and stand on His right side at Judgment, we must put the tech down, go out and meet people where they are. 

But who has the time to go out and help others?  Life is busy – plain and simple.  I’m the first to admit that my wife and I struggle to keep a balance among Church, work, school, Greek school, baseball, Greek dance, modern dance, Girl Scouts, family vacations, gymnastics, swim team, soccer, house chores, and homework.  With all of these activities, it’s fair to say that there is no balance in life.  Many of us suffer from the fleeting desire to give our children every material opportunity to prosper in life while we fail to give them the peace, calmness of home and dedicated time that is necessary to grow together as a family and to work together, family-as-church, towards our salvation.  

Keeping Christ and His Church at the center of our families’ Lenten journey starts with parents leading by example -- allowing our children to see us actively praying, fasting, attending church regularly and participating in acts of service to others.  As faithful parents a we must root our Faith deep into our homes and then take that faith back out into the world, building it into the routines and habits of our children through actions, not words. 

A key component of Lent that can often be overlooked is acts of mercy and outreach to those in need.  Whether it’s sponsoring a parish food or clothing drive, visiting the elderly or shut-ins, helping a neighbor take care of their home or working with homeless families and children we should all seek opportunities to engage in outreach activities and make service to others part of our weekly routine.

Working together as a family on outreach projects is not only a wonderful way to instill the teachings of Christ into our children, but it strengthens family togetherness, helps children learn, and empowers them to understand that they can help others.  Serving others benefits a child's psychological, social and intellectual development. It increases self-esteem, responsibility and helps children develop new social skills. The time that you spend together as a family helping others will be rewarding and more memorable than almost any other family activity this year. 

This Lent, make outreach a habit.  It will take time for your children to be comfortable at a nursing home or serving meals at a soup kitchen.  Don’t expect them to feel comfortable on their first volunteer experience.  But know that with each time they volunteer, they are building an inner strength that will help them throughout their lives and on your family’s journey to salvation. 

What can your family do to serve others?

  • Start at home: Read the daily readings, watch Be the Bee, and have a conversation with your kids about the topic covered. Teaching your children to focus on others and be aware of people’s needs is an important step in raising compassionate children. 
  • Sponsor a food drive at your parish or youth group and let your children be involved.  Let your younger children color a poster or flyer advertising the drive.  Bring your older children to the food bank or shelter when you drop off the collected items.   Local food banks are incredibly strained this year and there is always a need for non-perishable grocery items
  • Make greeting cards for children who are hospitalized with chronic illnesses
  • Visit the elderly and shut-ins, visit parishioners in their assisted living.  Bring them a small gift – a flower, plant, small icon, greeting card.
  • Invite FOCUS to your parish or youth group for a “family day” of service.  FOCUS will lead a day-long outreach into your community to help people in need while helping you learn and experience the root causes of poverty and understanding what you can do to help. email: info@focusna.org 
  • Listen to your kids – ask them for ideas of how you can help someone in need. 
  • Shovel the driveway or rake leaves for an elderly neighbor.  Lead by example.  It won’t do to tell your kids, “go rake Mrs. Pappas’ leaves!”  But if you get a few rakes, put them in the hands of your kids and lead them over to her house, you will find that it is wonderful to work together. 
  • Help FOCUS cook and serve meals to hungry children when they don’t have access to free/reduced meals at school.  Contact FOCUS for info on how your parish can help. www.focusnorthamerica.org or info@focusna.org 

 

 

 

 

— 5 Items per Page
Showing 4 results.
Nicholas Anton
Posts: 4
Stars: 0
Date: 7/25/17
Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
Posts: 24
Stars: 10
Date: 7/24/17
Sam Williams
Posts: 61
Stars: 0
Date: 7/19/17
Anthony Constantine Balouris
Posts: 9
Stars: 0
Date: 6/28/17
Steven Christoforou
Posts: 23
Stars: 0
Date: 6/3/17
Maria Pappas
Posts: 25
Stars: 0
Date: 5/12/17
Andrew Romanov
Posts: 8
Stars: 0
Date: 4/27/17
Rev. Dr. Tony Vrame
Posts: 21
Stars: 1
Date: 2/23/17
Christian Gonzalez
Posts: 73
Stars: 8
Date: 2/7/17
Andrew Calivas
Posts: 2
Stars: 0
Date: 2/1/17