Introduced in 1983, the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival provides Greek Orthodox teenagers the opportunity to write and talk about their faith. Over 200 parishes and 1,000 participants take part in the festival each year. As with any church program, our goal is to increase participation and keep people interested in the event year after year. With that in mind, we wanted to provide you, the chairperson, a few tips from Oratorical Festival chairpeople who have successfully increased participation in their parishes.
Mary Perakis runs the Oratorical Festival at St. George Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts, where 12 teens participate in the program. She feels blessed because when students in her parish participate once, they want to keep doing it. Mary recommends that chairpeople promote the Oratorical Festival during Sunday School as soon as the new topics are released up until the parish’s event. Offering to speak with students about the Oratorical Festival eases any concerns they may have regarding participating. Mary said, “When you show that you are excited about the festival, the teens become interested.”
A lot of the hesitancy on the students’ behalf comes from not knowing how to begin writing their topic, so Mary recommends Sunday School teachers help teens with topic ideas and where to find information. This allows the students to feel empowered and prepared to write their speeches. In order to increase teen involvement, Mary asks that the students who do not want to participate in the Oratorical Festival come and support their classmates.
As for advice for teens speaking in the Oratorical Festival, Mary notes “I would tell them to keep doing it and they will see for themselves how much they will grow each year in their faith while receiving great experience in public speaking.”
We wish you the best of luck this season and thank you for your dedication to the Oratorical Festival!
Stay in touch with the Oratorical Festival by liking our Facebook page and following the oratorical_festival account on Instagram. If you are a previous participant and would like to share your story, or you are a passionate advocate for the program and would like to write a blog with advice for students, parents or chairpersons, please contact Stephanie Orfanakos.