When are applications due?
Applications are due June 15th, 2017.
Who can apply?
We invite applications from any Orthodox parish affiliated with the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America and located in the United States.
Is this project open to parishes in Canada?
Per the guidelines of our Lilly Endowment initiative, we are not accepting applications from Canada at this time. However, all are welcome to learn along with us through our website, enewsletter, and social media!
What’s the benefit to our parish?
The Telos Project provides Orthodox parishes an unprecedented chance to have support and a collaboration network as they strive to reach young adults in their communities. We expect these pilot parishes to do amazing things, paving the way for the future of Orthodox young adult ministry and enriching their own communities. Our job is to support you with ministry resources, the latest on young adult research, and continual project design mentoring. (We may not have all the answers, but our job is to help you find them!)
What is our parish signing up for?
Each parish team will be expected to send three of its members to our annual learning conference here in Boston (see consultation dates here). We will cover the cost of travel, as well as lodging and meals during the conference, for these team members. Throughout the year, teams will also participate in webinars, community surveys, and other learning opportunities.
What’s the application like?
Choosing a Team FAQs
Who should we select for our team?
Each team must have at least the following members:
- A key parish leader (parish priest, youth director, pastoral assistant, or parish council member)
- A young adult between the ages of 23 and 29
- Up to 5 additional members of the community
Think about gathering a team with a diverse range of skillsets, including strategic planning, event coordination and outreach, and social media. Most importantly, team members should empathize deeply with the needs of young adults and articulate clearly their commitment to the project. (Teams are encouraged to have no more than seven members.)
Five years is quite a time commitment. Can team members come and go as long as the parish leader stays in place?
We are anticipating some degree of turnover in all teams – particularly with the young adult team members, as they may be in a very transient place in life.
Do you encourage most team members to be ages 23-29? Or do you also prefer generational diversity within the teams?
This is really up to you and what you feel is best for your community, and we expect there will be many different configurations. On the one hand, the more young adults are involved, the more leadership opportunity and engagement you will gain from them. On the other hand, the more age groups you include, the more you’re communicating to your parish community that this project is exciting for everybody, and not just young adults. Older adults in particular can bring wisdom to the project and help your young adult outreach become more integrated into and supported by the whole parish community.
Pilot Parish FAQs
How will you choose pilot parishes?
We will be looking for a cohort of parishes diverse in jurisdiction, size, region, and background in programming for young adults.
How large do you expect the applicant pool for pilot parishes to be?
We’re sorry to say that we have no idea! So far, we’ve had a lot of interest, but because this is a whole new project, we have no way of predicting exactly how many applications we’ll get.
Are there particular programs or things that Telos will be looking to implement? Or is this expected to be more of a grassroots effort with different teams trying different things?
Grassroots! We’ll be encouraging parishes to spend the first year of the project getting to know the young adults in their community and to design ministries around what they learn. We expect and want different teams to try different things and know that each parish has its own particular history, character, strengths and areas for growth. We’ll be providing the support to offer you great learning on this process and then reflect with you and across the teams on what you’re learning!
Among the 14 pilot parishes, is there a quota established for each jurisdiction? For example, do a certain number of parishes have to be Greek?
We’ll be looking for a cohort of pilot parishes diverse in size, region, and jurisdiction. Ultimately, what we end up with will depend on who applies and who is the best fit for our project.
Can you tell us a bit more about the learning resources that will be made available to pilot parishes?
Pilot parishes will participate in quarterly webinars, some of which will feature guest speakers covering topics as diverse as social media, fundraising, and marketing for young adult ministry. We will also be providing teams with summaries of the latest research about young adulthood and ministry design.
We have an active group of young adults in this age group who regularly attend services and are active in their faith, but are searching for leaders. Is this project a good fit for helping create lay leaders out of already attending young adults?
This is exactly what it’s designed for! We hope that this project encourages young adults to take up volunteer and leadership roles in their church communities. This is one reason why each team must have at least one member between the ages of 23-29. Our research indicates that many young adults want to get more involved and invested in their parish community, but they just haven’t found the right opportunity.
What if we assemble the local team and complete the application and a plan to move forward but then are NOT selected to be a part of the 14 pilot parishes - then what? Any help for those folks?
Yes! All are welcome to learn along with us through our website, enewsletter, and social media. We are also in the process of designing alternative resources for those who apply but are not selected to be a pilot parish and will have suggestions as to how to continue to move forward with the momentum you’ve built in applying.
Can pilot parishes receive grant funding?
Once pilot parishes are selected, they will have the opportunity to apply for modest grant funds to assist parish teams in learning from the young adults in their community and developing ministry to better engage them. These funds are modest (I.e., not enough to support a fulltime person) and there will be a matching component on the part of the parish. Funding is not the key part of this initiative, however; we want pilot parishes to be involved in this project because their parish has the interest and capacity to engage young adults.
Can we look beyond the 23-29 age range?
We are limited to the 23-29 age range because that was the age range Lilly Endowment Inc. set for this young adult initiative. We are one of 12 Christian colleges and seminaries participating in this initiative, and we will all be exploring this age group together; Lilly Endowment will be gathering data from us to understand this larger age demographic. We recognize that many parishes’ young adult ministries include other age ranges, but for the purpose of consistency, we’ll be focusing in on this 23-29 range.
How does the Telos Project hope to measure the effectiveness of any of these pilot programs within the participating parishes? Will there be a survey to establish a benchmark level at each parish prior to starting the program within each parish? What are the actual goals for the project? You enumerated a vision to "understand the spiritual" lives of Orthodox young adults between 23-29 but how do you intend to measure this?
We love this question so much! It gets at the heart of a passion of ours in the OVM—the question of evaluation for Orthodox ministry. Several years ago our OVM Director had these reflections on evaluation for Orthodox ministry.
Lots to say but here is a section from our Project Purpose and Goals:
The Telos Project will: (1) Encourage 14 Orthodox Christian parishes to nurture the religious lives of young adults (ages 23-29) in their communities; (2) Develop a cohort of leaders on the local level—from among the selected pilot parishes—who want to lead this effort; (3) Track and disseminate the innovation and learning of cohorts and leaders. This tracking and dissemination will focus on: current research on the religious needs of young adults—their interests, concerns, and longings; real stories of the innovations of partner congregations in young adult ministry, both successes and failures; and the process itself: education and design for Orthodox ministry, local team building, and collaborative reflection of the learning hub.
We can draw on and adapt some of the wider literature on the religious and spiritual lives of young adults, taking a lead from the National Study of Youth and Religion and research from the Barna Group. But a huge project of the grant is thinking through this and wrestling with this, and making sure our evaluation measures are contextualized for our Orthodox Christian vision and context.
A five-year period is a long commitment. Why could we not do one-year increments in which one group begins and passes on the information they have gained to another group and then the next group continues?
We built this five-year period into the grant recognizing that parishes change (and grow) very slowly. We want to give parishes the time to really dig into the project, build relationships with the young adults in their communities, and then reflect on their efforts. This also allows us to learn what works and what doesn’t, instead of just piloting the same thing over and over without a sense of some guiding principles. But some things to think about: (a) your leadership team doesn’t have to say the same group of people for all five years. Young adults are very transient—they in particular may only be able to invest for part of the time. That’s okay. (b) We’ll be sharing what these parishes are learning throughout the life of the project; this way, everyone can learn along with us. (c) We’re very interested in continuing the project with additional cohorts of parishes, and this just depends on Orthodox philanthropist and foundations sharing the vision of the project and then making it possible! If you know of people we should be reaching out to for this, let us know!
How many young adults are in the Church today?
It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of the relationship between young adults and the Orthodox Church – which was one of the motivations for this project! Currently, there are about 30 million young adults in the US in the 23-29 age range. We’re hoping to conduct surveys and research studies to get a better idea of young adults’ engagement in the Orthodox Church.