Illuminator - October 1996
WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?
By Phyllis Meshel Onest, Diocesan Religious Education Director
The greatest frustration expressed by those present at all workshops, and observed by me during parish visitations, is the difficulty in getting parents to commit to their children's religious education. This includes bringing them to the Divine Liturgy on time, ensuring that they attend classes regularly, and permitting them to stay for the entire class!
I am sharing this concern because it seriously undermines the health of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. If parents do not accept the responsibility of educating children, if children are not brought to Church regularly and on time, if children do not learn how to worship God and do not believe worshipping God is a priority, if soccer, football, gymnastics competitions, etc. take precedence to God and Church on Sunday mornings... why would they want to come to Church when they are on their own? What path have they been taught?
Could it be that the current generation of parents who grew up attending Church School classes during Divine Liturgy missed a stage of spiritual development? Were they able to learn "why we worship," "how to act in Church," and "how to worship" at a young age? Or were they taught that Orthodox Christians could come and go to Liturgy whenever it is convenient? How could they have learned that there is a beginning and an end to the Liturgy? How would they have learned to guide their own children's worship? It appears that the consequences of our previous system of Church School have had long-term negative effects.
I agree with the recommendation of the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Religious Education Committee: "Parishes should provide orientation programs for parents to reinforce religious instruction in the home." We need to direct a concerted effort to educating parents as to what it means to be Orthodox Christian parents! In addition to these programs, there are resource materials for parents in a variety of areas. A packet of materials was distributed at the Regional Workshops for this purpose.
Another important resource for parents and families is ORTHODOX FAMILY LIFE. The discussion at Diocesan Workshops revealed the need for materials to engage parents in the religious education of their children. To keep the cost down and to get the materials into the hands of as many parents as possible, it is offered as "master sets" to be reproduced and distributed by the parish, thus a "Parish Ministry to Families". Several parishes include it as a "special insert" within their monthly bulletins.
Let us make this year "THE YEAR OF THE FAMILY." Let us do all that we can to strengthen and nurture our families. May our Lord bless us in this holy endeavor.