Sunday, November 5, 2017

Needed: A Renewed Approach for Orthodox Sunday School


I am greatly saddened at the lack of understanding of our Orthodox faith by many of our members. We are not teaching the faith to our children and they are becoming lukewarm Christians from observing their parents and then become Nones, not attached to a church, when they go off to college. Change is needed - Change in the curriculum and in our teaching methods. I don’t exclude myself from this criticism.

In our secular schools teachers have learned how to deal with the short attention spans of our youth. They know the class has to be entertaining and interactive and the parents involved. They have been learning to use new technologies to assist them. In our Orthodox Sunday Schools we need to learn from them and adopt their methods.

First, we must learn to integrate video interactive smart boards and smart phone/tablets into our lessons. We can now link our efforts with smart phones all kids have now days for further interaction in the classroom (some schools
have tablets like iPads as a part of classroom equipment). But more is needed. In addition to engaging our children in the classroom we need to engage them in learning throughout the week along with their parents. Today we have the tools to do this with texting, email, Twitter, instagram, Facebook, YouTube and others. Our Archdiocese has developed many short and entertaining videos in series like Be the Bee that should be integrated into or lesson plans as well as those created by teachers and students. A teacher who cares will learn to not just engage our kids in the short time on Sunday but also during the week as well. Interaction between classmates and parents can nowadays occur anytime, not just in the classroom. There are platforms that allow for sharing of all forms of media and all types of interaction. Videos can be shared to be viewed before coming to class and class time can then be used for more interactive activities like skits, role playing, making videos and so forth. 

In addition we need to rethink our curriculum. There are three stages that need to be taught: 1. The Orthodox way of life; 2. the history of the Church and how the truth of the work of the Apostles has been preserved; and finally, how our Orthodox faith differs from what other Christian Churches teach. The Orthodox way of life, which includes participation in the Sacraments, daily prayer, fasting, reading Scripture and lives of the saints, and being aware of the liturgical cycle and seasons, can be taught in the lower grades along with the motivation of the Lords Prayer and the Creed. In the intermediary grades a comprehensive study of the history of the Church beginning with the life of Christ, the book of Acts and then the early Christian life, the Councils, the Byzantine Church up to our present day Church. In the 11&12th grade the focus can be on a deeper discussion of our faith and how it differs from other Western Churches. (There is an excellent book by Fr Andrew Damick, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, that can be used to help build specific lessons) in this way our children will have the “tools” of a sound practice of the Orthodox Way of life, an assurance of the continuity of Truth received from Christ and His Apostles by understanding Christian history, and knowledge to effectively interact with those of other Christian Churches knowing how to counteract their misguided teaching after they graduate from High School and leave the shelter of home. Of course all this needs to be done using the teaching methods stated in the beginning and keeping the parents involved.

We cannot sit by and blame the inattentiveness of the students or lack of involvement by the parents. We need to recognize the forces of Protestantism, atheism, and relativism found in our modern world and proactively take counter measures. Salvation is at stake in our efforts. The aim of theosis must be made clear and the power of the Church, the Body of Christ, understood so our youth can surrender their self-centeredness to His teachings and fully utilize the means He has made available to us in the teachings of the Church through the Orthodox way of life.

Ten Points for Orthodox Way of life
Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
Smartboards

1 comment:

  1. Sadly it's true that there are many Orthodox who don't know even the basics of our faith. It's very tragic. But I have to disagree that the way to remedy that is by following a Protestant model of Sunday School. I feel that that model (having age segregated classes being taught with methods based on those of our (now predominately failing) school systems) will just allow for our faithful to continue further down the path of ignorance and lukewarm-ness.

    Yes, we can take advantage of the technological tools we have available, but I think the heart of the issue is teaching people how to LIVE our faith in their day to day lives. The family should be seen as a unit and teaching should be integrated in such a way that members of the family are unified in their goal of fully living out the faith. We're not going to get that by fancying up the current Sunday school paradigm. There needs to be an overhaul of how we view Christian education. I don't have all the answers, but I do agree with you that what we're doing now isn't working.

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