2018: The Place of Gratitude in Youth Ministry
The 17th Annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Workers Conference took place in Atlanta, GA from Thursday, February 1 – Saturday, February 3rd, 2018. Camp and Youth Workers from across North America gathered together for two full days of enriching and uplifting presentations and discussions, as well as opportunities to connect with other Youth Ministry professionals. This year’s theme “The Place of Gratitude in Youth Ministry”, helped our Camp and Youth Workers discover a key element of ministry that often eludes us: the “gratitude of St. Paul”, who while struggling to establish and maintain churches, was in fact thankful for everyone and everything. Come and learn what it means to “abound in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7) in the midst of the beautiful, but often difficult field of Youth Work.
The keynote speaker was Fr. Alexander Gousettis, the Director of the Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. Workshops and Discussion Groups were also offered to help youth workers in the parish, among the clergy, at camps, and across programs relate the theme to the specific field of Youth Ministry in which they are engaged.
The 2018 conference was hosted by the Youth Departments of the American-Carpatho Russian Diocese and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
2017: The Seamless Garment: Towards a Unified Model of Ministry
Fr. Stephen Freeman – Keynote
Fr. Stephen Freeman is an archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America and serves as pastor of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He was educated at Furman University, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and Duke University. He is author of the popular blog, Glory to God for All Things, and of the weekly podcast, Glory to God, on Ancient Faith Radio, as well as the author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. His work has been widely translated and published in Europe and Russia.
Parish vs Camp – Fr. Panagiotis Sotiras
Maintaining the High: What Happens When Camp is Over
Fr. Panagiotis Sotiras has served in various Youth and Young Adult capacities over the years in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco. His experience includes being a Camp Counselor at St. Nicholas Ranch Summer Camp from 2001-2004; Summer Camp Director from 2005-2008; Metropolis of San Francisco Youth and Young Adult Director from 2005-2008; coordinator and discussion leader for youth and young adult ministries at Holy Cross in Belmont from 2008-2012.
Since 2012, Fr. Panagiotis serves at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton, CA. He and his wife Presvytera Angie are blessed with 2 amazing children and one on the way.
outh Ministry vs Adult Ministry – Jacob Saylor
Kids Come Second: Building Parish Ministry by Developing Young Adults
Jacob Saylor is presently the pastoral assistant/youth director at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Just getting started at this most recent assignment, Jacob has worked extensively in field of Orthodox youth and young adult ministry since 2007. An alumni of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School Of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, Jacob received his Masters of Divinity in 2010, and has continued to work on his Masters Of Theology since then. Prior to this, his undergraduate degree was a B.A. (Double-Major) in Philosophy and Religious Studies, earned at the University of South Carolina.
Following his theological studies, Jacob worked as youth director of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco from 2011-2015, during which time he also served- and continues to serve- as program director for the Metropolis of San Francisco Summer Camp. Invested in ministering to as many youth, families, and young adults as possible, Jacob has created, developed, and contributed to numerous programs and curriculums across our Orthodox Church in North America, and has been blessed indeed to be further allowed to lead, organize, and guest lecture at various regional, Metropolis, and national youth, young adult, and youth worker events, retreats, and workshops year round.
Home vs Parish – Elissa Bjeletich
Raising Saints: Finishing the Work of the Parish at Home (and Vice Versa)
Elissa Bjeletich is a wife and mother of five daughters, and works in the Sunday School at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas. She is the co-author of Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home, a practical guide for creating Orthodox rhythms in a modern home, and the author of In God’s Hands: A mother’s journey through her infant’s critical illness, a testimony to Christ’s faithfulness in the midst of trials and uncertainty. Her next book is a series of Meditations for the family’s Nativity Fast. Elissa’s Ancient Faith podcast and blog, Raising Saints: Educating Our Youth in the Orthodox Faith, Both at Home and in the Parish encourages and equips us for the important conversations through which we pass on the faith to our young people.
Head vs Heart – Matushka Jennifer Haddad Mosher
Catechizing Heads and Hearts: Towards a Holistic View of Orthodox Formation
Matushka Jennifer Haddad Mosher began teaching Church School as a college student, “because we need someone.” 20+ years later, she still teaches, now both children and adults, in church school, camp, workshop, retreat, and graduate school settings in diverse jurisdictions, because she loves helping make the Orthodox tradition accessible and religious education experiences more joyful and effective. Additionally, she researches and writes about the development of formal religious education in American Orthodoxy, and the challenges of Orthodox spiritual formation in our modern American context. She has a BA in Church History from Yale University, a MAR in Scripture from Yale Divinity School, and a ThM in Systematic Theology & Ethics from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, where her thesis explored patristic teaching on the nature and significance of Jesus’ childhood. She is currently working on a doctorate in Religion & Education at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, writing her dissertation on the life and work of Sophie Koulomzin. She lives with her husband, Fr. Joshua, and three adolescent sons in Meriden, CT.
Leaders vs Community
United in Diversity: Bringing Together Church and Neighborhood – Father Aris P. Metrakos
Father Aris P. Metrakos has pastored San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church since June 2008. Father Aris has led many youth and adult retreats, summer camps, and mission teams and has authored a variety of curricula, ranging from retreat and camp programs to small group guidebooks and stewardship material. Father’s many administrative responsibilities notwithstanding, evangelism and church growth and renewal are the governing values that shape his ministry.
Success vs Failure – Christian Gonzalez
Finding Success in Failure: Why Ministry is About More than Making “Good Kids”
Christian Gonzalez grew up in Orange County, California. After becoming Orthodox his senior year in high school, Christian attended Wheaton College in Illinois to study English Literature and developed a great love for stories and their power. This has led him to pursue further education in Clinical Psychology. Christian has worked in ministry in various capacities as a camp counselor, Sunday School teacher, Antiochian Southern California Deanery Youth Director, as well as a parish youth pastor. Christian also has experience working clinically as a child and adolescent therapist and is currently in the process of becoming a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in Arizona. Christian graduated from Luther Seminary in 2016 with his second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry. Christian serves the department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries as a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator.
Church vs Society – Emma Solak
Keeping the Faith: Why The World Isn’t That Scary After All
Emma Solak is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring in English Writing and Religious Studies. She is the Chairman of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship Student Leadership Board and served as the Publications Student Leader during the previous academic year. Emma is an active member and former president of the Pitt/CMU chapter of OCF. She also teaches church school at St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, interns for the OCA Youth Social Media department, sings in the Pitt Women’s Chorale Ensemble, and tutors at the Pitt Writing Center. Emma grew up in Stroudsburg, PA, where her mom and dad are the priest and matushka at Holy Trinity (OCA), with her two younger brothers and dog.
Tradition vs Tradition – Grammenos Karanos
Singing Together: Towards Unity in Worship
Grammenos Karanos joined the faculties of Hellenic College Holy Cross in 2007 and is currently Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music. Since 1998 he has served as protopsaltis (chief cantor) of churches in the greater Boston area and is currently protopsaltis of the Holy Cross Chapel and director of the Holy Cross Byzantine Choir “Romanos the Melodist.” He studied Byzantine music under Photios Ketsetzis, Archon Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and received a Certificate of Byzantine Music Studies with highest distinction in 2002. In 2011 he completed his studies under the guidance of world-renowned musicologist Gregorios Stathis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Byzantine Musicology and Psaltic Art at the University of Athens, Greece. In his doctoral dissertation, titled “The Kalophonic Heirmologion,” he examines a previously underinvestigated and misunderstood post-Byzantine para-liturgical genre with a double focus on its historical development and musical structure and content. His primary research interests include the morphology and evolution of Byzantine and post-Byzantine chant, the history and exegesis of neumatic notational systems, the dissemination of the psaltic tradition outside the Greek-speaking world, and the relationship between religious and secular musical traditions in the Balkans. At Hellenic College Holy Cross, Dr. Karanos teaches courses in Byzantine chant (beginner through advanced levels), service rubrics, and history of music.
Jurisdiction vs Jurisdiction – Steven Christoforou
From the Bottom Up: A Grassroots Approach to Orthodox Unity
Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM (the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries) and the Office of Camping Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Originally from Astoria, New York, Steve graduated from Yale University and Fordham University School of Law. He worked as a Corporate Attorney on Wall Street for two years before enrolling at Holy Cross School of Theology, where he received a Masters of Divinity in 2013. He has served as Lay Coordinator for the Harvard and MIT chapters of Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and has extensive parish experience as a former Parish Council member, Sunday School teacher, and youth volunteer. He also has extensive experience in youth and camping ministries, having led retreats around the country as a member of the Hellenic College/Holy Cross Ambassadors Program, and having served at the Direct Archdiocesan District’s Camp Saint Paul, both as a Counselor and Boys Director. Steve previously served as Y2AM’s Youth Protection/Parish Ministries Coordinator, and later as Interim Director, before His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios appointed him Director in May 2015
2016: Feed My Sheep: Crisis, Trauma, and Everyday Life
The 2016 Pan-Orthodox Youth and Camp Workers' Conference was hosted by the Orthodox Church in America at St. Seraphim's Cathedral in Dallas, TX, from January 21-23, 2016. The V. Rev. Steven Voytovich, DMin., Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, was the Keynote Speaker. Workshops included Young Adult Ministry: Foundation of a Healthy Parish led by Jacob Saylor; When Crisis Comes to Camp led by Dr. Jelena Ozegovic; The College Campus, Place of Trauma and Healing led by OCF Manager of Chapter Relations Christina Andresen; Youth Ministry in a Missionary Parish led by Fr. Justin Patterson; and When Young Veterans Come Homeled led by Fr. James Parnell. Below are links to some of the presentation notes:
- Feed My Sheep (pdf via Google Drive)
- Chickering's Seven Vectors of Student Development: Meaning Making and the Collegiate Experience by Fr. Steven Voytovich (pdf)
- When Crisis Comes to Camp, by Jelena Ozegovic, Ph.D (pdf)
- Slaying the Dragon: The Reintegration and Healing Of Soldiers and Veterans in an Orthodox Context by Fr. James Parnell (pdf)
2015: Walking Alongside Our Youth
The 13th Annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Workers Conference was held January 22-24, 2015 at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA. The keynote addresses were offered by Fr. Bogdan Bucur, Professor at Duquesne University, and Dr. Stefanie Yazge, Professor of Theology at St. Vincent College. Other activities included a series of workshops focusing on Youth Ministry as it relates to Youth Workers and Camp Staff and daily services and fellowship so that we might get to know each other better.
2014: “Writing Icons of the Kingdom ”
His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, Ruling Hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the U.S.A was the keynote speaker. His Grace was asked to give 3 Keynote Addresses which would be followed by several Workshops offered concurrently. On Thursday evening, in his first address, Bishop Gregory spoke about the unity required of us in Youth Ministry in order to effectively “write” Icons of the Kingdom. For his second address His Grace stepped aside for a very special presenter. His Grace had invited Very Reverend Protopresbyter Mark Leasure, his priest from St. George Church in Taylor, PA, to bring to the Conference the Myrrh-Streaming Icons of the Mother of God that reside in his parish. This became the highlight of the entire Conference. The presence of these icons really made the Conference not just exceptional, but made it what it was supposed to be, something deeply spiritual not just educational; without words beautifully illustrating the essence of the Conference theme. How could those present not be inspired in Youth Ministry after having seen the Mother of God in this way? She nurtured her Son in every way He needed…what a beautiful model of “Youth Ministry” for us.
The gathered assembly of Youth Workers from across North America were not only blessed to be in the presence of these icons and hear Fr. Mark witness to their “story” and the many miracles attributed to them, but also to be anointed with the Holy Myrrh from the icons and celebrate an Akathist to the Mother of God, the Nurturer of Children. This event followed upon the Friday morning Liturgy and was the concrete experience of the very real unity His Grace spoke about in his first keynote address the evening before.
Following each keynote address, the Conference participants were offered a choice of 3 to 4 workshops which covered a variety of topics related to Youth/Camping Ministry as the work of helping to write Icons of the Kingdom. These workshops included both the theological principles of Youth/Camping Ministry as well as the practical day-to-day techniques of accomplishing the work God puts in front of us in this part of His Vineyard. These Workshops included themes such as “Insights of the Holy Fathers for Guiding Children and Youth Along the Path to Salvation”, “Parents: The Daily Iconographer – Working with Parents in Your Parish”, and “Bridging the Gap between Camp and Parish Life”. The Workshop speakers were a diverse group which included Jurisdictional Youth Directors, Priests, Iconographers, men, women, Camp Directors and Diocesan Youth Directors. Seven different Orthodox jurisdictions from across North America were represented among the Workshop Speakers. This diversity was a great way to again concretely represent the unity required of us in order to effectively minister to our youth.
Each day’s schedule was full, but included the free-time necessary to deepen and foster the friendships that help us in our collective ministry. Each evening included a themed gathering to encourage these connections through fellowship. One evening included a “Night in Hawaii” theme while the other evening included a “cozy fireside chat” theme. The “Night in Hawaii” required your favorite Hawaiian Shirt, while the “Fireside Chat” required your favorite ugly sweater. ( Please remember that this was a gathering of Camp and Youth Workers!)
Overall, the Conference was a tremendous opportunity to deepen faith, learn, and be inspired. Each year these conferences help foster a more unified ministry and outreach to the Youth entrusted to us by God. Each year we learn better how to help “write” the icons of the Kingdom who are our children. The next Conference, to be held in January 2015, will be no exception. Look for information about it this coming Fall on the Orthodox Christian Camps Association website (orthodoxcamps.org) as well as on all jurisdictional websites. Remember that all Orthodox youth workers including clergy, parish youth workers, diocesan youth workers, camp directors and staff, and OCF Chaplains are invited and encouraged to attend.
2014 Photo Gallery
2014 Conference Theme and Workshops
Theme: As Youth Workers we are “writing” icons of the Kingdom – these icons are our children – every relationship, every program, every activity is a “stroke of the brush”. What do you want your icon to look like? What kind of ‘icons’ are we helping God to reveal to the world?
The Keynote speaker will give 3 addresses that will bring us together to start off and/or tie together what we will be learning in each Workshop Session. After each keynote the Conference participants will be able to attend one of several workshops offered. The workshops are organized in three “tracks”: 1. Youth Worker Track, 2. Camp Track and 3. Pastoral Track. While participants may attend any workshop the Pastoral Track will be available only to our priests.
The three Keynote Addresses and the subsequent Workshops will focus on the following 3 areas:
- Theology of Creating the Icon – Setting the foundation from which all participants can build regardless of what part of youth ministry in which they are engaged.
- Training the Iconographer – This section covers what we as Youth Workers are meant to be like, how we are writing ourselves as icons. Coming to the Youth Ministry “table” with something, i.e. with a solid spiritual formation, with a solid grasp of Scripture, etc, but maybe most importantly with a heart that cares for and is ready to receive what God is giving to us in our children. How we as Youth Workers must be prepared before we begin in Youth Ministry or before we start any program, event, activity, etc.
- Tools and Techniques for Writing and Revealing the Icon – This section will have very practical models and examples of the different segments of our Youth Work that can be applied in our ministries.
Workshop Session 1 – Theology of Creating the Icon
□ “Until Christ be Formed in You…”: Insights of the Holy Fathers for Guiding Children and Youth Along the Path to Salvation – Looking at the words of the Holy Fathers on raising and teaching children and how this applies to youth work – Fr. Philip Tolbert
□ Liturgy and Worship: The Basis for Youth Work – Making it Real in the Lives of Our Youth – Fr. Anthony Yazge
□ “Let the Children Come to Me…”: Biblical Passages and Stories to Help Your Youth Ministry –Fr. Stephen Loposky
□ Living Icons – What does that mean and how do we imbue that in our youth? – Cheryl Pituch
Workshop Session 2 – Training the Iconographer
□ Youth Worker Track -- The Daily Iconographer – Parents: The Daily Iconographer -- techniques for working with parents in creating a solid, unified approach to youth work in your parish – Dn. Paul Zaharas
□ Youth Worker/Camp Tracks -- Writing your own Icon while Striving to Write Others – How to maintain your spiritual balance and growth while working in ministry -- Fr. Joseph Purpura - Presentation - Presentation Handouts
□ Youth Worker/Camp Tracks -- Designing Your Icon: How to Create your Goals and Program for the Type of Icon you Hope to Create – Natalie Kapeluck Nixon
□ Pastoral Track – The Parish Priest: What is Your Contribution to the Icon? How do you interact with your parish children – where, when, how much, etc. What is your prerogative? Role of the priest in the life of the child? If the iconographer is the Youth Worker and the child is the icon, what does the priest do? – Fr. Stevan Rocknage
Workshop Session 3 – Tools and Techniques for Writing the Icon
□ Youth Worker/Camp Tracks -- "Saints as Icons of Christian Life”: Presenting the Lives of the Saints through Drama in Youth Ministry -- Popadia Junia Tolbert.
□ Youth Worker/Camp Tracks – Iconography: How to Present Icons and Iconography to the Youth of Today -- Michael Kapeluck
□ Youth Worker/Camp Tracks - Bridging the Gap between Camp and Parish Life – How to Keep the Ball Rolling. – Fr. Jason Roll
Camp Track - Finding Christ in a difficult Camper: Techniques for Handling Challenging Camper Behavior – Marek Simon
Shine Forth: A Summary of the 2013 Orthodox Christian Camp & Youth Worker Conference
2012 Conference Recap
The 10th annual Orthodox Christian Camp, Youth Worker, and OCF Chaplain Conference was held January 25-28, 2012 in Ligonier, PA, at the Antiochian Village, hosted by the Antiochian Village. This year's theme was "Presenting the Message of the Gospel to Today's Youth." This conference has had a long history in several different forms. The purpose as it exists today is to bring all Orthodox Christians doing youth ministry at any level and in any form together for several days to further our education, foster brotherhood and provide fellowship. There were several keynote addresses from Fr Bogdan Bucur, Assistant Professor at Duquesne University, a series of workshops that are carved into three tracks (Youth Workers, Camp Staff & OCF Chaplains), daily services and fellowship.
Resources from the 2012 Conference:
- Icebreakers led by Marek Simon (pdf)
- Administrative Resources: Exploring Training, Registration and other Resources led by Natalie Kapeluck Nixon
- Bullying: Love thy neighbor as thyself led by Janet A. Shadid, MSW/LSW
- Accomodating Youth: How can we best serve the ever increasing and various special needs of our campers? led by Doria Saros
2011 Conference Recap
The 9th annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Worker Conference was held January 27-29, 2011 in Dallas, TX, hosted by the Orthodox Church in America at St. Seraphim Cathedral. The keynote speaker was Fr. Meletios Weber of St. John Monastery (Manton, CA), and the theme was "Equipping the Saints."
2010 Conference Recap
The 8th annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Worker Conference was held January 28-30, 2010 in Silver Springs, MD, and hosted by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. The theme was "Communicating the Gospel in the 21st Century." The conference was graciously hosted by St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral at 15001 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Springs, MD 20905.
2009 Conference Recap
The 7th annual Orthodox Christian Camp & Youth Worker Conference was hosted by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and was held at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (home of OCN - Orthodox Christian Network) from January 22-24, 2009. The theme was "Protecting our Youth" led by our keynote speaker, Dr. Jane Hickerson, Vice-President of Training and Development for Praesidium Inc., a risk management agency that specializes in sexual misconduct policies for churches. Conference participants were introduced to the latest policies and procedures in safeguarding our youth. Over 85 participants from camps and churches all over the United States and Canada were in attendance.
Pictures from the 2009 Conference at the Orthodox Christian Network - Follow the link and then click on "Pan-Orthodox Youth Retreat"
Conference Summary by Lis Lourie
2008 Conference Recap
The 6th annual Orthodox Christian Camp Conference was a great success. It was held January 24-26, 2008 in Houston, TX! Over 30 participants from the United States and Canada representing the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, the Armenian Church of America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA were present for a weekend of learning and fun. We were blessed to have as our keynote speaker Fr. James Coles of St. Ignatius Mission in Mesa, AZ who spoke on the topic "Forming Disciples of Christ." We are very greatful to Fr. John Salem and the faithful of St. George Church in Houston, TX for being such gracious hosts to us!