Youth Involvement in the Armenian Church A Top Priority: Youth representatives provide first-hand accounts and strategies for youth participation in churches

The World General Assembly dedicated a portion of its meeting to discuss Armenian youth and its current status in the life of our church.  His Holiness invited four individuals to represent the voice of the youth and offer suggestions to foster youth participation in our churches.  Those youth who traveled to Antelias were: Carnie Armenian (Western USA), Aris Tavtian (Iran), Tamar Kanarian (Eastern, USA), Ani Najarian (United Arab Emirates).

It is known, and acknowledged, that our youth need to have a more active role in the growth, security, and longevity of our church. However, their participation is lacking as a result of a variety of challenges our Prelacies are facing: assimilation, lack of knowledge, lack of motivation, distance to activities, demands of work and school, and language.

His Holiness Aram I professed that we need to take the church to the people, and we have to make this a priority for our youth.  The two representatives from the United States recalled the May 2015 visit of His Holiness Aram I to the annual AYF Eastern Region Seminar, where more than 300 youth from the ages of 10-26 were gathered for an education and social weekend.  His Holiness’ presence was immense and inspiring.  His dialogue with the attendees, addressing their questions and concerns, was precisely what they needed.  We need to encourage and establish this type of relationship between our clergy and lay leadership with our youth. This will help our youth feel more welcomed in our church- physically and spiritually- and be more willing to help carry out our church’s mission.

The core to solving the youth issue is very simple.  First, they need to be listened to and their needs, interests, and how they want to be involved in our church need to determined. Second, older generations need to be more open to establishing dialogue with the youth.  They should not only share with them their experiences with how our churches operate, but be open to our youth’s thoughts, suggestions, and more modern ways of working. Finally, we need to exercise the existing outlets where our youth are already engaged, such as social media and other community organizations, where they are maintaining their Armenian identity.

In his remarks, His Holiness Aram I stressed that we cannot leave our youth in the periphery of our church and their concerns and challenges need to be a top priority.   We need to be more action oriented and captivating, and think outside the four walls of our church. His Holiness put forth a motion to the Executive Council that the Catholicosate work to create a join effort between the Youth and Audio Visual Department to establish, and have the youth carry out the work to fulfill, a formalized network for youth engagement and collaboration across the world.

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