Our newest interview series is meant to highlight the work of those people who have been called by God to assist his Holy Church as Pastoral Assistants/Youth Ministry Directors .
Sampson Kasapakis is a graduate of Hellenic College Holy Cross, with a Master of Divinity. He is currently the Pastoral assistant/Youth Director of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Ft Lauderdale, FL. Additionally, Mr. Kasapakis is also the Parish Relations Coordinator for the Orthodox Christian Network.
FLM: Tell us about your position and what is the most interesting part of it?
Sampson: Well not many people know that I actually have more than one position serving the Orthodox Church. I currently work as the Youth Director/Pastoral Assistant for St. Demetrios in Fort Lauderdale, FL and as the Parish Relations Coordinator for the Orthodox Christian Network. St. Demetrios just so happens to be the home base for the Orthodox Christian Network so it is great! The most interesting part about what I do as the Youth Director/Pastoral Assistant is creating relationships, with not just the youth of the parish and their families, but everyone.
FLM: What led you to work as a pastoral assistant/youth ministry director?
Sampson: Well, here at the Metropolis of Atlanta we have St. Stephen’s camp every summer and I was a camper there from the first year the Diakonia Retreat Center opened in 2004, to 2007. I saw how this place changed my life for the better and I wanted to give back my time to a place I still call my “my home away from home.”
As every camper’s dream is to become a St. Stephen’s Counselor, my dream became a reality after my first summer of college. I saw how I now had this opportunity to be able to give these campers the same amazing experience I had at St. Stephen’s camp. While I was a counselor, I was blessed to have the same group of kids for 3 years straight. Year after year, I got to see how this program affected their lives, especially their spiritual lives. And though it is the program itself that is life changing, you as a counselor play a part in this transformation that occurs–while at the same time, being transformed yourself. This transformation is what led me to becoming a pastoral assistant/youth minister.
As youth directors, we have the opportunity to bring the youth of our Church closer to Christ, and at the same time, becoming closer to Christ ourselves. We get to be a witness to this transformation that occurs the stronger a person’s relationship is with Christ, and at the same time, become transformed ourselves.
FLM: What are your short-term goals in this position?
Sampson: When I first started this position, my short-term goal was to create a year-long program by setting the dates from the beginning of the year. The parents of our youth will be able to see the dates and put in their calendar from the beginning of the year. No surprises. If they play sports, have family trips, etc. they would hopefully plan their schedules around these church activities. With this in place, we began to see a growth in participation of our programs and events at St. Demetrios.
FLM: What advice can you give to readers whose parishes might be lacking in a pastoral assistant/youth ministry director?
Sampson: Not every parish has a Youth Director/Pastoral Assistant, but they do have volunteers that assist with Youth Groups. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone who works within the church is to have passion and love for what you are doing. In general, people, and especially youth can tell if you don’t want to be there; If you don’t have that true desire to put forth that effort. More importantly, in general, it is passion and love towards anything that inspires people to have that same feeling towards whatever it might be.
Think about the beginnings of our faith. The reason our faith and religion began, spread and grew to what it is today was because of the unconditional Love and compassion that Christ had for all. People were witnesses to His love, His passion, and His eventual sacrifice he made for all of us. As Church ministry volunteers/workers, you offer your time to serve the Church. You are there to lead and be present within your youth’s lives. You are there to be witnesses to their spiritual maturation. Good news is, it isn’t rocket science. You don’t need a degree to do what we do. It’s simple: Passion and Love.