I am a millennial. I’m sure you’ve seen the news articles about everything we have ruined like Applebees, hotels, fabric softener and the American Dream. Believe me, these stats can be subjective and suspect, but an appropriate question for today: are we destroying the Church, too?
I’ve heard at least three priests say 70 percent of millennials will leave the Church, so I’ll start with that. What are our churches doing about that?
Millennials as a generation are now between 20 and 40 years old, so they’re mostly out of college and out of reach of Orthodox Christian Fellowship, the campus ministry. At my home parish in Atlanta, Ga., I’m proud of the work we’ve done to support this young adult age group. We hold monthly get-togethers called Orthodoxy on Tap, where we gather at a local bar for a meal and a casual discussion on Orthodox topics. It’s a great opportunity to bring in some of the 70 percent. With our clergy’s guidance, I think we’re doing pretty good. We have a millennial priest, chanter and acolyte coordinator, in addition to millennial Sunday school teachers and strategic planning committee members.
But, one of the things I’m most proud of is Connect Orthodoxy Young Adult Conference. Over two years ago, my Orthodox peers got together and organized this incredible Pan-Orthodox initiative here in Atlanta for young adults. Connect really is a fitting name for this event, which brings Orthodox Christians together across jurisdictions in fellowship.
As the inaugural conference approached, I (like the rest of the planning committee) was concerned. Would registration spots fill up? Was the 30 percent not attending church interested to learn more about our ancient faith? We were anxious – was the conference going to appeal to others? Would it be engaging and valuable? The committee has seen its fair share of setbacks. The lingering question in our minds was would there be enough help, money and desire to continue?
Prayers were definitely answered. The conference sold out with attendees from across the U.S. and Canada, with resoundingly positive post event feedback.
Somehow along the way, God worked wonders. Shortly after the 2017 conference, the planning committee got together for dinner and enjoyed a “Best Friends Forever” cookie cake. In our reflections, we discovered that at the toughest points during the planning process, sometimes all that was left was the verbal encouragement of those in the committee and support from parish families. The experience of planning the conference was transformative, and still is. We’ve built new friendships and developed a closeness to the faith in ways many of us didn’t expect. Our time and talents are being used in a unique opportunity to serve our peers.
Attend this year’s conference and see what it’s all about. I promise you’ll take back encouragement and soul-nourishing experiences. Help keep our Orthodox communities strong by lending your time and talents, and you’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll get in return.
I leave you with Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” I pray to see you at Connect in October!
-Nick Grivas, Operations Coordinator