Entries with tag young adult ministry .

What Domino's Pizza Taught Me About Church Leadership

A few years ago, the CEO of Domino's did something incredible: he admitted that their pizza was awful.

Let's back up a bit. The mission of Domino's is simple: to provide people with pizza. The problem was that no one wanted to eat it.

Over time, their pizza developed the reputation of being bland, unappetizing, even disgusting: because that's exactly what it was. Domino's one job was to make good pizza, and they were failing at that miserably.

When new CEO Patrick Doyle took office in 2010, he had a choice. He could decide to sidestep the problem with spin: maybe Domino's needed a new advertising campaign, to spend more dollars on media, to invest in a new website, or to come up with some new gimmicky sales strategy to cover up the terrible pizza. 

But he didn't. 

Instead, he admitted there was a problem. And he took steps to solve it.

Doyle did something remarkably brave and bold. He was at center of a daring advertising campaign which admitted that Domino's pizza, their flagship product, was a disaster

Doyle and his team didn't hide from an unpleasant reality. They met it head on.

This was no mere publicity stunt. And this was not a simple rebranding or repackaging of a failed product. Domino's admitted their failure, not because it would draw attention and new sales, but because they heard people’s complaints.

And they believed they were capable of more. Doyle and his team believed that they could offer a tasty pizza that people actually enjoyed. 

This was, in a sense, an act of repentance. They accepted the criticism, acknowledged the disaster, and unveiled a new recipe.

This courageous move paid off. Domino's new pizza was, in fact, much better than their old recipe. Sales immediately skyrocketed, and Doyle was named the CNBC Street Signs "CEO of the Year" in 2011

When Doyle took over as CEO in 2010, Domino's stock was trading at about $9 per share. Today, it's pushing $200.

Pizza is a particularly interesting image for us in the Church because it uses food to illustrate ministry. As Jesus said in John 21:17, "Feed my sheep."

And, just as Domino's was struggling to reach their customers, the numbers suggest that the Church has been struggling to feed the flock.

As the Barna group recently explained in You Lost Me, 60% of young Christians disengage from the church as they transition from youth to young adulthood.

The Orthodox Church is not immune. Though data specific to the Church is lacking, the following figures are provocative. 

In 2010, a study commissioned by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops found that there were 799,400 Orthodox Christians in the United States. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Christian Herald newspaper used to commission similar studies. Their last such census, in 1947, found that there were 702,273 Orthodox Christians in the United States.

That translates to 14% growth over 63 years.

That might seem respectable until you remember that waves of immigrants from traditionally Orthodox countries entered the US during those six decades. And that a majority of Orthodox Christians now mary non-Orthodox, potentially growing the Church with every marriage. Yet even despite all that, our growth measured only 14% over 63 years.

Over the same period, the population of the United States more than doubled.

This indicates, at least for the Orthodox Church, that our ministry problem may run a lot deeper than the contemporary rise of the "nones." We may be looking at a sustained track record of missteps that stretches back multiple decades and multiple generations.

When Father Jason Roll (Director of what was then called the Youth Department of the Archdiocese) brought me on to join the team four years ago, we had a choice to make. We could look back at some of the old resources and initiatives of the past and try to rebrand them. We could devise new strategies to double down on what the Church had, for decades, been using to feed young Orthodox Christians.

But, under his brave and visionary leadership, we didn't. We decided that we needed to be honest. We decided that we needed to admit the mistakes of the past.

And, putting our trust in Christ, we were motivated by the confidence that we could do better.

So we rechristened the Youth Department as Y2AM, with a new ministry vision grounded in Christ and oriented towards His Kingdom. And we began this new adventure with a new project: a risky and untested video series known as Be the Bee.

As one fourth grader described in a letter, an episode of Be the Bee “made me reach my goal and made me achieve to pray every night because of you. So every night when I pray, I also pray for you because you taught me to pray.”

As a high school student recently wrote, “Your ministry has led my girlfriend and me to convert to the Eastern Orthodox Faith!” 

As another high schooler wrote, our YouTube channel “was probably the biggest thing that got me to go from being an atheist to an Orthodox Christian inquirer.”

As a young adult who is reengaging with the Church shared, “My wife converted to the Orthodox Church and your words and lessons have helped our journey to Christ.” 

As a mother recently explained to us, she sends our videos to her two children before dinner, “and discussing them at dinner has added so much to our family dinner conversations. My husband and I have learned right alongside them, what a blessing!”

Throwing out a recipe, especially after decades of use, can be a very scary thing. But, as Doyle would suggest, "playing it safe is the riskiest course of all."

So we all have to ask ourselves: are we going to stick with the terrible pizza we know, or offer the amazing pizza we know we’re capable of making? 

 

Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.

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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.

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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.

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So You Say You Want a Miracle

During Holy Week, I gathered with friends at their apartment, and we got to discussing miracles.

 

We talked seeing saints, myrrh-streaming icons, and the like. We’ve all heard marvelous and amazing miracle stories from people in every walk of life: friends, campers, family members, and priests. It was amazing to be able to share those stories with these girls who I knew understood why these experiences are transformative.

 

When I hear about people who have experienced miracles, who have heard the voice of Christ, or who have seen Him or His saints, I can’t help but think, “I want that.” I want an experience that shows me that without a doubt that Christ is real, that He is with me, and that I am in communion with Him. I want a story to tell anyone who doubts. Especially myself, when I doubt.

 

In other words, a super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever.

 

Now, I realize that this is not how life works. You don’t ask for a miracle and get one.

 

You live your faith, and you attempt to be as Christ-like as you can be. You attend church services, you go to confession, you receive communion. And perhaps most importantly: you open your heart.

 

I’ve noticed that my heart has often been closed to the presence of Christ. Like, I’m just not thinking that in any moment, Christ is there. I don’t think about Him constantly when I’m walking to the train or when I’m at work or even when I’m in church. I don’t always thank Him when things go well (though I do usually pray to Him when things don’t go my way…).

 

But when my heart is open, I can see His presence in my life. A friend isn’t just a friend, a good day isn’t just a good day, a tear isn’t just a tear; they are all experiences of Christ. They provide us with moments to be thankful and know that God is with us.

 

Now, I’ve experienced transformative things in the church. I’ve seen the miraculous icons that drip myrrh. I’ve heard stories that can only be explained through faith.

 

None of these experiences are necessarily the personal, perfect miracle story that I want. They let me know that Christ is real but they don’t provide me with a super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever.

 

But, I have to accept that my “super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever” is not going to happen on my timing. It may have already happened, and I didn’t realize it.

 

Christ has done things for me and me only; the little miracles in life that I overlook. The “everyday” miracles, like waking up in the morning, like an answered prayer, like amazing timing, like a plane landing after crazy turbulence, or like meeting people who inspire you to be a better person and make you want to be closer to Christ because they are so close to Christ that they exude Him.

 

These are the experiences that should make you want to open your heart to Christ, to grow closer to Him. “Little miracles” are the ones that help you keep your heart open to Christ’s presence when you are sure that you can’t go on.

 

So, if I never get my super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever, I will continue to subsist on the little miracles, and know that they are enough.

 

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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.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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The Beauty of Taking the Blame

One of my favorite home videos is of my little sister, Alexa, when she was about three years old. She is standing in front of a white wall with a red marker masterpiece on it that she has obviously drawn herself. From behind the camera, my mom is asking her who is responsible.

 

Well, my sister has every answer in the book, starting with the usuals: mom and dad, followed by yiayia and pappou. Then come the out-of-left-field answers: our great-aunt, our cousin’s wife, and even our other little sister (who was a newborn at the time).

 

It has to be one of my favorite home videos of all time. It’s so comical.

 

You know what’s not as comical? When you’re 23 and you find yourself doing the same thing.

 

For example, this week I’ve just been in a horrible mood, and I’ve found so many people to blame.

 

A friend.

 

A family member.

 

A co-worker.

 

A guy at the gym.

 

Someone I passed in the street.

 

(Seriously, these are all people that I’ve blamed).

 

It gets just as ridiculous as Alexa blaming her artwork on a newborn child.

 

It’s all too easy to fall into a pattern where I blame everyone else for the way that I am feeling, for my actions, and for my behaviors.

 

What I often forget when I find myself in a place like this is that, no matter the situation, I am in charge. And if I’m going to take charge of my reactions, then I have to live with the blame also.

 

Of course, there are circumstances around us that are beyond our control, but what is within our control is how we respond to them. So sometimes when something that someone says bothers me, I have to be aware that what they are saying is bothering me because of something inside me. What makes me react negatively is not exactly what has happened, but things that have happened to me that make me upset.

 

So, no, I wasn’t actually mad at any of these people. No one did anything specifically to hurt me or to anger me, but because of the mood that I was in, everything bothered me. As much as I’d like to place the blame on anyone else, I know that the blame is my own.

 

Where does this leave me? Well, it leaves me more dependent on Christ for one. Dependent on the fact that He will take care of me and lead me out of the depths of whatever sadness I find myself in. Dependent on the fact that He is constantly at work in my life, working on making me a more well-rounded person, someone who is more like Him.

 

I mean, the video would have been much less funny had my sister taken credit for her artwork. But at the expense of humor, taking the blame is something that we all need to work on.

 

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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.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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The Things That I Don't Know

In my undergraduate classes, it was so rare to hear an “I don’t know” from a professor. These brilliant men and women, who had devoting themselves studying, researching, and writing in their fields for years, could seemingly grapple with any question thrown at them. When people know that much, it almost becomes a game to try and stump them.

 

Well, we find ourselves in Great Lent, and I am admitting defeat. I am stumped by Orthodoxy. There is so much that I simply don’t know.

 

It’s hard to admit this because I want to know everything. Yet the more I pray, the more I read books and articles and listen to podcasts about Orthodoxy, and the more church services that I attend during Lent, I am still not prepared to answer questions definitively, to say that I know, well, anything. On the contrary, these experiences have me thinking: wow, I’m confused; I don’t know much at all.

 

These past few weeks, I’ve been admitting to not knowing so often. In fact, I’ve made it a point to live in the “I don’t know.” To lean into, to become acquainted with, and even to embrace the things that I don’t know.

 

Because in life, there’s a lot that I don’t know, and there’s a lot that I will never know (it’s a little scary, but a lot of truth lies in that statement).

 

I’ll never know why certain friendships have faded, why certain relationships haven’t worked out, or

why bad things happen to good people. I’ll never know why there is sickness and suffering in this world of unfathomable amounts.

 

So...where’s the solace in all of this?

 

Well, it lies in what I know.

 

As a wise priest once told me at summer camp, when you read the Bible, you should focus on what you know. So I’ve been trying really hard to do this in all aspects of my life: to focus on what I’ve already known, and to learn what I can from everything I read, listen to, and every person I talk to.

 

Unlike most professors, I’m quite happy to admit that I don’t know. The process of coming to understanding that there is a lot which I don’t know about my faith is what has led me to want to learn all that I can.

 

What I do know is so important: that Christ died for me and that He loves me. That I have put my faith and trust in Him.

 

And that’s spectacular enough to get me through all of the things that I don’t know.

 

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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.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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