We live in a time when people face constant diversions and tremendous social pressures and influences – much of which have never existed before. The dawn of social networking brought with it many wonderful ways to easily connect with family and friends but we’ve bought into the sales pitch that we must constantly share our every movement and thought as well as keep up with everyone else’s news and movements regardless of how inane or inappropriate. We feel we must stay connected or we won’t be popular or loved. Adults have a difficult time with this but for an adolescent it is confusing, complicated and exhausting. We are ever-increasingly distracted, preoccupied and anxious. Is it any wonder that our young people run the risk of becoming disconnected from their family, community, church, and faith?
The teenage years are an exciting time for our children but often they can be quite difficult. Our young people have many forces pulling them in myriad directions. They’re developing physically, mentally, and spiritually. Their lives are busy with school, work, athletics, clubs, music and extra-curricular obligations. They are making decisions about who they are, what they will become, and what they believe. It’s a time for exploration and questions. Their world is constantly changing. Our young people are often 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 Greek Orthodox Youth of America (GOYA) is our ministry to teenagers at St. Paul’s. GOYA is a ministry that reflects the Orthodox Christian faith, tradition, and life. It is a ministry to junior high and high school Orthodox Christian teenagers. Teenagers should be in 7th – 12th grades to participate and most certainly do not have to be of Greek heritage. The mission and goal of St. Paul’s GOYA is to lead our young people into experiencing the Orthodox faith in a real way by helping them develop a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and become active sacramental members of the living Church. We want our youth to be equipped with the tools necessary to assist them in their journey toward salvation.
The basic principles of the GOYA ministry are Worship, Fellowship, Service, and Witness.
Worship: Our youth are encouraged to take an active role in Worship by serving at the Altar as Acolytes and/or Ushers.
Fellowship: Our bi-monthly GOYA meetings focus on Fellowship with one another through many fun activities and outings such as midnight bowling, broomball, horseback riding, beach days, and bon fires. We also participate in area Orthodox Christian Youth activities including bowling contests and volleyball tournaments with other Orthodox youth groups.
Service: Outreach and service to the larger community and in the mission field is an important aspect of the GOYA ministry. Our youth serve the working poor and homeless through Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) as well as helping at Isaiah House, a local Roman Catholic women’s and children’s shelter. Our teens serve missions internationally through occasional day trips to Project Mexico. In addition, our teens hold an annual Hunger Strike to raise funds and awareness about the needs in developing countries like Tanzania, where St. Paul’s is actively engaged in mission work.
Witness: Our hope is to prepare our young people to be good and faithful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through their growth in the Orthodox Christian faith and their own personal spiritual journey their actions, words, and attitudes will be a witness to the world of God’s love for us all. GOYA is a ministry that is fun and exciting. It’s a ministry that will challenge its participants. GOYA is a ministry that will make friends for life and make a difference in the world. Membership is free but the rewards are priceless!