I am not necessarily a numbers guy….but I do have an interest in numbers…
40,320 minutes (shout out for this stat goes to our Staff Director, Maria Pentaris).
4 trips to visit an incorrupt saint.
1 clear takeaway: in a world that seems dark on the future of our youth in the church, there is a light clearly shining for four weeks each summer (and twice this coming winter) in Kansasville, Wisconsin. That light is Fanari Summer Camp at the St. Iakovos Retreat Center.
As one with an interest in Youth & Young Adult Ministry, and now in the role of Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries for our Metropolis, many people ask me many questions, but everyone asks me this one question: ‘Father, how do we keep our youth in the church?’
This question comes from a place of love and fear. It implies at least a loose understanding of the fact that 60% of our young people are leaving the church (this is true for all of American Christianity; click here for more info). But the honest answer is that there is no one answer. We don’t have a crystal ball that tells us why, but seeing what happened this summer at Fanari Summer Camp certainly helped provide clarity to this question.
You see, this summer, 652 campers (yes that’s a record for us….I guess I am a numbers guy) came to Fanari Summer Camp. They didn’t come simply because we ‘kept’ them from last year. They didn’t come because we have the most beautiful facilities possible or the absolute greatest programs possible (although both truly are fantastic). They didn’t come because they love mosquito bites. Campers can be themselves at Fanari. Campers build life-long friendships at Fanari. Campers find Christ at Fanari. That’s why they came. And why they continue to come.
As I look back on my first year leading our Fanari Summer Camp Leadership Team, my response to the question ‘Father, how do we keep our youth in the church?’ has changed. The answer: ‘We don’t. Christ does. Thankfully.’
As we get ready to gear up for another Ministry Year, I encourage us all (Youth Workers, grandparents, godparents, parents, volunteers, etc.) to focus less on keeping our kids in the Church and fearing those whom we no longer see. Let’s focus on loving the one in front of us. We have nothing to fear if we truly believe that the Holy Spirit has been illuminating the entire world since Pentecost and will continue to do so. If we bear the light which radiates so brightly at Fanari Camp in this seemingly dark world, that light – the Light of Christ – will illumine all of His children.
Let’s #FightThe60%. #LiveOrthodoxy. #FanariCamp. #BeTheLight. #FearlessMinistry.
Fr. Kosmas Kallis is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago.