This is a video I made for the youth group I run at my protestant parish. We usually meet once a month and we play group games, have a time of prayer and a devotion from the Bible....and we have, from time to time, thrown the occasional pie in the face of a willing and eager kid. So this girl Shellie had been begging me for weeks to throw a pie in her face so I promised that at the next meeting everyone would see her get a pie in her face but as you can see from the video it didn't happen exactly like she thought it would. (I kept my promise~ everyone at the youth group saw Shellie get hit with a pie but it was on this video instead of "Live"). The look of surprise on Shellie's face is priceless because she NEVER expected her mom to throw the pie in her face...anyway, watch the video, it's cute.
Now something I have been wondering. Protestants, especially Evangelicals, are very good at having different ministries for specific groups. I, myself, am involved in Children's minsitries and a lot of resources are given towards that in order to provide an atmosphere where kids want to come to church, providing them with spiritual input and fun. My own parish does this well. We have a fantastic Bible Quizzing program where kids compete and learn a book of the Bible. We have a Christian Scouting program that teaches life skills and, again, spiritual things.
We have Children's Church, which takes place during the regular Worship time but, I confess, I dislike the idea of kids leaving the service to "do their own thing". I would rather have the kids participate with the whole church instead of segregating them.
This idea of targeting and giving special attention to the youth of our congregation comes from a very real desire to keep our children interested in church and making it a place kids want to come to. It seems to work. On the whole, the kids of our congregation are not "being dragged to church" but are eager to attend. In fact, I have heard stories of children waking up their parents so they wouldn't be late for Sunday Morning Worship. Our parish seems to be able to put "fun" into church without, I believe, sacrificing any spiritual formation. Evangelicals, from what I can see, have been willing to adopt from pop culture, all in an effort to keep kids interested.
I have an annual event which is very much adopted from pop culture. It is Messy Game Night
which borrows from games and antics on the Nickelodeon television channel. Yes, there is slime, Yes, it makes a big mess and, yes, the kids absolutely love it.
These are pictures of a kid getting slimed at Messy Game Night, used with the permission of Jonathan Fonner (The Photographer) and Sean's mother, (The kid getting slimed)
And, at the event, we do have a "messy devotion"; that is, we use an object lesson to teach a spiritual point. Granted, the kids are more distracted at this event and don't give full attention to the spiritual input as they do at other events but it is still there (as it is in every event we do for the children).
Now all the while I was running Messy Game Night this past summer I was thinking, "I can't imagine something like this happening at the Orthodox Parish I attend Vespers at." It just seems like a very un-Orthodox thing to do -I mean, do Orthodox let their kids have Chocolate syrup fights:) - Keep in mind I really am not involved in the life of the Parish at the Orthodox Church except by attending Vespers on a Saturday night. I don't know how they do Sunday School for the kids. I don't know how they do adult education for us older people, I don't know what they do for teens. I don't even know how they drink coffee at coffee hour because I have never been there. So all I am doing is guessing.
My question is this: Would the Orthodox Church see any value in having events like this? Or is it seen as too extreme? Messy Game Night is the most popular event I run all year and even kids who don't like getting messy like to attend just so they can watch the others. But, would that justify it in the mind of the Orthodox Church? Or would such a thing vary from parish to parish?
The reason I ask is I believe paying special attention to the youth and kids in parish life is essential to the vitality of the church. Maybe, the Orthodox agree with that statement but would see other ways to accomplish that. I do get the sense that events like Messy Game Night would be seen as wasteful and too extreme in Orthodox eyes who, are after all, very conservative. I too, believe it or not, am conservative but I like to do creative things that is outside of the norm. I think by doing that, you really get a person's attention. And when you get there attention, you hit with the Gospel.
So I would love all those who are in Orthodoxy to comment on this. Please enlighten me! What "out of the box" thinking do the Orthodox do to get the attention of their youth?