A Church worker recently sent me a fascinating message.
I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
He told me about his experience leading a young adult retreat for the first time since he graduated seminary a few years ago. While he’s done this kind of work before, something about the experience was different.
Something in the Church is changing.
“It's hard to articulate,” he wrote. “But they talk about faith like they've grappled with it before. They talk about God like they know Him.”
He contrasted it with the atmosphere he’s seen in many parishes across the Church and with the environment he remembers from the last time he led such a retreat.
“I started noticing this stuff in my work at the parish, but something really clicked in my head during the retreat: I realized that I pretty much never hear shallow, abstract catch-phrases anymore. There’s depth here. Depth like I haven’t seen before.”
He closed with a word of encouragement:
“You need to know that what Y2AM is doing is working.”
Glory to God.
Glory to God because all of this is God’s work.
Glory to God that the seeds we’ve been planting over the past five years have begun to bear fruit.
And, glory to God because we’re not the only ones working in His vineyard. We haven’t been the only ones planting seeds.
That’s why I want to take a moment to identify four organizations that are changing the face of ministry through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel.
These organizations are helping the Church refocus on Christ and His Kingdom, cultivating deep, authentic faith in countless people around the world.
I first discovered AFR around the time I enrolled at seminary. Though I grew up in the Church, I spent many years disconnected from it. And, even as I reconnected, it still took some time to really let an Orthodox ethos sink into my heart.
The words of towering figures like Fr. Tom Hopko and Kevin Allen were instrumental in this process. In Fr. Hopko, I heard compelling and dynamic explanations of the Gospel that resonated deeply in my heart. In Mr. Allen, I saw the model of a principled and Christ-centered engagement with the wider world.
This work, and all the work on AFR, is a testament to the leadership of AFR’s remarkable co-founders, John and Tonya Maddex. The Maddex family are friends of mine, and I have incredible respect for them and their irreplaceable contribution to the Church.
With John and Tonya at the helm, AFR has developed a team of faithful and innovative people that are committed to preaching the Good News with sober joy. They’re providing the Church with a remarkable platform for a host of incredible people, who are all tirelessly preaching God’s Word, people like
In particular, AFR has featured the work of a host of incredible people, all tirelessly preaching God's Word: people like Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, Nicole Roccas, Fr. Barnabas Powell, Fr. Stephen Freeman, Dn. Michael Hyatt, etc.
(There are far too many wonderful contributors to list them all.)
As a seminarian, AFR inspired me to share the Gospel in a way that was clear, compelling, and faithful. And when I started working for the Church, AFR offered unwavering support of the videos and podcast series we produced.
I’ll be blunt: I’m not sure there would be a Y2AM without AFR.
Ancient Faith Radio has helped untold thousands of people, both cradle and convert, know Jesus Christ in the Orthodox Church. And I’m grateful to them for their work.
I first heard about the OVM when I arrived at seminary. They’re responsible for the flagship CrossRoad Institute, a summer program that has been helping high school juniors and seniors discern God’s call for almost two decades.
I’ve been blessed to know dozens of CrossRoad alumni, all of whom credit the program as having unlocked an experience of the Church and changed their lives in the light of Christ. Their joy and love of the Lord continues to inspire me.
And the OVM is doing even more for young adults with The Telos Project, a five-year exploration of how Orthodox Christians in their twenties engage in the Church. While others are repeating old clichés or perpetuating outdated (and often unhelpful) models of ministry, the OVM is approaching young adults with genuine curiosity.
This work is a testament to the leadership of Ann Bezzerides, who has built a team of thoughtful and committed people that are approaching the deep questions of ministry with faith and hope. Ann is a friend and mentor, someone I really look up to, and I’ve learned so much from her over the years.
The OVM has equipped hundreds of young adults with the tools they need to be faithful Orthodox Christians in a complex and changing world. And I’m grateful to them for their work.
I first heard about YES a few years ago through Christian Gonzalez, who has led YES Trips in years past. We were developing the service component of our monthly BeeTreats, and Christian suggested we reach out to YES.
YES is a ministry of FOCUS North America, an incredible organization that is stepping up to the call of the Gospel by providing action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across the United States.
While YES leads a variety of programs and events, perhaps nothing they do is as impactful as their YES Trips, which guide young people in a weekend of exposure to and engagement with the poverty in their own city. These experiences prepare and empower youth to live as servant-leaders in all aspects of their lives.
This work is a testament to the leadership of Katrina Bitar, who has built a team of passionate and selfless young adults that generously give of themselves and help others do the same. Katrina is a friend with a good heart and powerful vision of philanthropy, something we tried to capture in the episode of Be the Bee we made together together.
I first heard about OCF when I was in college. At the time, my relationship with the Church was pretty weak, so I didn’t spend any time with my college chapter. It was only later, when I was in seminary, that I began to really appreciate everything OCF was doing for young adults.
I’ve been blessed to participate in a Real Break trip and speak at College Conference multiple times. I’ve spoken at the Summer Leadership Institute and gotten to know several of the outstanding leaders that make up the Student Leadership Board. Every time I see OCF in action is a blessing; College Conference in particular has been a highlight of my year every time I’ve attended.
Over the years, thousands of college students have had their faith in Christ nourished and deepened by the Kingdom-oriented vision of OCF.
And this work is a testament to Donna Levas and Christina Andresen, the talented and dedicated staff of OCF. In the past few years they’ve expanded programs like Real Break, refined SLI into a world class leadership training experience, and helped prepare so many young adults to be Christ-centered leaders in both the Church and their chosen fields. Donna and Christina are my friends, and their tireless service to the students in their care is a daily inspiration for me.
These are just four of the incredible organizations that are changing the face of ministry for the better. I hope you’ll pray for them and their staff as they continue pointing people to Christ and giving them the tools to live intentionally as faithful Orthodox Christians.
And I hope you’ll support their work however you can.
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 supporter. Your contribution can help us continue the work we’re doing.
BONUS: Y2AM is working on a brand new ministry training course, which will be available soon. In the meantime, subscribe to our newsletter to hear the latest about the course. And check out a keynote address Steve recently delivered for more of Y2AM's vision for ministry.