Skip to Navigation

Especially for Directors

We've selected content from the Christian Education pages that is of special interest to Church School Directors.

Interview with Matthew Duncan: the goal is to be engaged with each other

Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education
Interview Series: Church School Directors throughout the Archdiocese
Matthew Duncan, St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church, Pawtucket, RI

July 2019

The Goal Is To Be Engaged with Each Other


How long have you served as Church School Director?

This is my first year as Sunday School Director at St. Mary. Before that I taught our teen Sunday School class and was the SOYO adviser.

How many students attend your church school? How is your church school organized for Sunday classes and how many teachers are assigned per class?

We have about 50 students on our rolls (but we don’t get that many on a weekly basis). Currently, our Sunday School is made up of four classes: preschool-kindergarten, 1st-3rd grade, 4th/5th grade, and middle school/high school. Each class has one teacher, except the middle school/high school class, which has two teachers. We also have a music teacher who teaches our students Liturgical music every other week. Our teachers—Jiana Dayekh, Nancy Muller, Holly Lazieh, Elijah Vollendorf, Andrea Vollendorf, and Maureen Gurghigian—are all extremely hardworking and dedicated. We’re very lucky to have them in our Sunday School.

A Team Approach to Sunday School Leadership

An Interview with Wafa Omeish and the Church School Leadership Team
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, Coral Gables, FL

The Saint George Sunday Church School has an interesting leadership structure. There is a principal, vice principal, and a team of officers and coordinators. The official role and responsibilities of the Principal are defined as, “In charge of curriculum development and implementation. Maintaining a standard of student behavior designed to command respect and minimize classroom interruptions. Orienting/training staff.  Planning and conducting faculty meetings as necessary; planning and implementing Recognition Sunday Program.”

A brief description of the additional positions are as follows:

Vice Principal - Support and assist Principal in all areas.

Secretary - Take minutes of meetings, keep all Sunday School records, maintain files at Church office.

Original 2018 Christmas Pageant Available for Download

Now available for download! An original Nativity Pageant created by Rebekah Yergo (Church School Director at St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in York, PA) and Rosemary Shumski (Administrative Assistant at the Department of Christian Education) is available for use in your parish. The writing, stage preparations, and costumes will be a hit with your children, who will feel like they are in a real production!
View the photos of the 2018 production.

RESOURCES

Nativity Pageant script
Commitment Form for parents

YouTube video of "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" Cambridge performance
"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" lyrics
"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" audio file

Nativity Kontakion lyrics

"Heaven and Earth" lyrics
"Heaven and Earth" music score
"Heaven and Earth" audio file

Jennifer Buchko and Samia Zolnerowich: Partnering as Friends and Co-Directors

Jennifer and Samia have been co-directors of the Sunday Church School at Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD, for 10 years. They have actually been friends for over 25 years! They even co-taught the 2nd-3rd grade Church School class for 3 years, including their first year as co-directors.

Please share with us a little about yourselves and the Church School Program. How long have each of you served as Church School Director? Please describe how the Church School program responsibilities are divided and shared between co-directors. This is our first interview with co-directors, and I am very interested in learning.

When we began as directors, we split our duties where Samia would be the contact person for the priests and teachers and Jennifer would take care of the paperwork, registration, emails and newsletters. Now we both jump in and do whatever needs to be done.  This helps when one of us is really busy with our families; there is someone that can take over for the other one. We love working together. We can plan together, brainstorm together and support the teachers. It also allows one of us to help out in a class when needed and leaves the other one in the office to be ready to answer questions for parents or church members.

St. George Class Enjoys Creative Workshop

March, 2019

Anna-Sarah Farha, Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Miami and the Southeast, attends St. George in Jacksonville, FL. Recently she shared these photos (click "Read More") of the Kindergarten and First Grade class at St. George, busily writing and decorating in a creative workshop featuring this year's Creative Festivals theme. Students were introduced to the theme—"Antiochian Village: Past, Present, & Future; 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' (Philippians 4:13)," and then were able to decorate sugar cookie arches resembling the arch at Antiochian Village. "Of course, the boys ate their arches at the end of class," Anna-Sarah said with humor. Students also worked on their written entries.

The Best Way to Learn is to Teach

An interview with Nancy McNeil

St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church, Woodway, TX

Nancy has been a Church School Director at various churches for over 20 years and now serves at St. Andrew, a smaller, mission parish.

Please share with us a little about yourself and the St. Andrew Sunday School Program:

I have had the privilege to serve as Sunday Church School director in several different Orthodox parishes for over 20 years. In the 40+ years I have been Orthodox, I have continually worked with GOYA programs and Sunday Church Schools. My job as a public school teacher apparently just carried over into working with children at church.

How many students attend St. Andrew Sunday school? How is the program organized for Sunday classes and how many teachers are assigned per class?

St. Andrew is a smaller, 6-year-old mission parish and has a possible 24 students. Our average SCS attendance on Sundays is 17. We have divided the students into four classes this year with a 2-4 year-old class; a 5-8 year-old class; a 9-13 year-old class; and a high school class. Our youngest class has been blessed with a talented pre-school teacher who works with an aide. Our elementary class has two extremely dedicated teachers who have been working together since before their arrival at St. Andrew. I teach the intermediate/middle school class.

Veteran Educator, Thriving SOYO Department, In-House Curriculum

An Interview with Arlyn Kantz
St. Peter Antiochian Orthodox Church, Fort Worth, TX

Arlyn Kantz journeyed from an evangelical background to Orthodoxy seven years ago. She has taught history and Bible at St. Peter’s Classical school for the past six years and has served as director of Christian Education for the parish for the last three. Before becoming Orthodox, she worked in curriculum development for special populations while raising four children. She and Will, her husband of 25 years, recently handed off the reigns of a thriving SOYO department to capable younger hands.

How many students attend your Sunday school? How is your program organized for Sunday classes and how many teachers are assigned per class?

We have approximately sixty children in our parish, birth to eighteen. Twenty-two attend Sunday School on a regular basis. Sunday School meets after mass for forty-five minutes. Our children are organized into three classes: PreK-1st grade, 2nd-6th grade, and then 7th-12th grade. Our two younger classes do not hold firm to the boundary of age, depending on attendance and maturity and the preference of some children to be with a sibling. We do hold a firm line though on attending SOYO, as teens need a space of their own. We are blessed to have two teachers per level. Sometimes teachers rotate every other Sunday and sometimes they team teach depending on what is going on with their personal schedules and the number of children attending each Sunday.

The Feast Day of Theophany

On the day of Theophany we learned that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We also learned that when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River, the water was made clean. On the feast day, January 6, we remember that one day all of nature will be made clean and new again. Here is how we celebrate the feast....

Click here to read more (PDF)!

See also Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed by Phyllis Onest

Interview with Sammye Fuller: Supporting Sunday School as a Teacher, Then as Director

Sammye Fuller is in her seventh year as Sunday School Director at Holy Trinity Antiochian Orthodox Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. The parish has 25 students enrolled for the 2018-2019 school year.

Please share with us a little about yourself.

Technically, I have been the Sunday School Director for about seven years. However, since we did not have a Director before that, and I was the only Sunday School teacher in the beginning, perhaps it has been longer.

We have four classes. The preschool class is for 2-ish to 5 years old, with one teacher and one or more helpers when available. Parents often stay if needed. The elementary class is 6-9 years old.

The Great Feasts: The Life of Our Lord

By Carole Buleza

The Twelve Great Feasts and Pascha, taken together, are an overview of the life of our Lord. While it is important for our children to know about His miracles and teachings, it is just as important for them to know the main events of His life story. Our salvation resides in His life. Furthermore, just as we are baptized into Him, our own story—our life—must rest on His. Jesus’ life comprises the “foundational story” for Christians. A foundational story answers the ultimate questions of life, death and why we are here, and guides our thoughts, values, and actions. The Christian story provides answers to all these questions and gives us the virtues of faith, hope, and love that, even if not recognized as such, influence our attitudes and actions and curb the anxiety that comes from unexpected events and uncertain times. It is a strong foundation. (Read the rest of Carole's introduction.)

Grades K–1
Great Feasts K–1 
Icon Postcards 

Grades 2–3
Great Feasts 2–3
Icon Postcards 

Introducing The Great Feasts Program

The Great Feasts: The Life of Our Lord

By Carole Buleza

The Twelve Great Feasts and Pascha, taken together, are an overview of the life of our Lord. While it is important for our children to know about His miracles and teachings, it is just as important for them to know the main events of His life story. Our salvation resides in His life. Furthermore, just as we are baptized into Him, our own story—our life—must rest on His. Jesus’ life comprises the “foundational story” for Christians. A foundational story answers the ultimate questions of life, death and why we are here, and guides our thoughts, values, and actions. The Christian story provides answers to all these questions and gives us the virtues of faith, hope, and love that, even if not recognized as such, influence our attitudes and actions and curb the anxiety that comes from unexpected events and uncertain times. It is a strong foundation.

Working with children has always been my goal! An interview with Anna Rowe

Anna Rowe is in her second year as church school director at St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Van Nuys, California. The parish had 70 students enrolled in church school for the 2017-2018 school year.

Please share with us a little about yourself:

I love working with kids and helping them learn about Christ. I am from Kansas, and recently moved to sunny California! My favorite things to do in my new state are go to the beach and to hike the mountains. When I am not at the beach, hiking, or at church, I am teaching kindergarten.

Did you have previous training/experience that prepared you for the Director role?

I have a degree in education, and I am currently a teacher. Working with children has always been my goal! I was also a church school teacher at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas.

Are there books, resources, etc. that you would recommend to Directors for their own development/enrichment/training in the role of Director?

I really like the The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers book because it leaves so much room for discussion. I also love using Google Drive to keep everyone involved with church school in the loop about registration and attendance.

Book Review: Removing Barriers

Removing Barriers: A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Your Parish More Disability Friendly (a Faithtree Resource)

By Anna-Sarah Farha

Take time to purposefully consider whether or not your parish is disability-friendly…Once you have given thought to the subject, you’ll likely be aware that there are many areas of parish life to evaluate when determining whether any barriers are present which could prevent full participation for a person or family living with a disability. Barriers can be physical, attitudinal, or even programmatic. (Programmatic Barrier: “any program that cannot be accessed by persons with disability has a barrier that must be considered and intentionally removed.” page 47) So, after completing the analysis of where your parish lands on the disability-friendliness scale, now begins the task of removing existing barriers through education and physical changes. The book Removing Barriers: A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Your Parish More Disability Friendly (a Faithtree Resource), is available to guide your efforts from an Orthodox Christian perspective.

Interview with Laila Ferris: Integrated Learning in the Digital Age

Laila Ferris has devoted 25 years and counting to serving as church school director at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, El Paso, Texas. Presently, there are 37 students enrolled and classes are organized by groups of two grade levels, plus grades 8-12 together as one class.

Which curricula do you use for Sunday classes? 

We use a combination of curricula/materials from the OCEC and from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to support our students’ learning. We also use online lessons provided by our Archdiocese Department of Christian Education. The teachers develop lesson plans that use active and engaging learning activities through which the lessons are taught and learned.  We are presently working towards developing more opportunities for learning activities via apps and web-based programs for our students (as the digital generation) to expand their learning experiences. Our plan is to be able to purchase iPads for use in the classrooms to support digital projects. But in the meantime, the church school staff will continue to use their personal devices to grow our instructional lessons digitally.

New Resource for Small Church Schools: The Mustard Seed @ Blogspot

 

 

 

 

 

 


Small church schools have unique needs. The Mustard Seed website was created several years ago as a way for the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education (AODCE) to support these needs. Through the vision and dedication of Catherine Sullivan, an Associate of the Department, materials and curriculum suitable for small church schools were selected and organized on The Mustard Seed website, with regular additions and updates.

Meeting Your Staff Needs

Staff meetings are an important part of a church school. Regularly coming together as a group of educators to support one another and discuss what is happening within this parish organization is encouraging and helpful for everyone involved. Ideally, one staff meeting is held each quarter, with a training event or enrichment workshop in place of the summer meeting.

As a tool for church school directors (CSDs), the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education (AODCE) has created templates for first, second and third quarter staff meeting agendas. Each church school is unique, with unique features. Meeting agenda templates may need to be tailored to fit your needs.

You will find links to an introductory note for the CSD and to the templates below.

If you are a CSD and would like to be added to our listserv, please send your name, parish and email address to aodce.csdirectors@gmail.com.

Interview with Church School Director Rebekah Yergo: My Overwhelming "Yes!"

Rebekah Yergo is entering her fifth year as the Church School Director at St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA. The church school enrolls an average of 80 students, with classes organized by groups of 2-3 grade levels and high school students together in one class. Many thanks to Rebekah for being willing to share her experience with other directors. 

How were you called to this role/what led you to this role?

An opening became available and our parish priest approached me and asked me if I would serve. There are moments in time that you just know it’s a ‘God moment’. This was one of them for me because I said yes, just as he completed the initial question and without any elaborating. I felt this bubbling up, overwhelming yes come out of my mouth before it even registered in my brain what the question was. There are only a couple of other times I’ve felt this way about a path I’ve followed, and I’ve got to say, I like it when God makes it that obvious. It has been a fantastic journey so far.

Which curricula do you use for Sunday classes?

We have an eclectic mix; a couple of our seasoned teachers have created their own that best fits their classroom needs. We have a couple of classes that use the Greek courses and some that use varying OCEC offerings. Every third year we offer The Way, The Truth, The Life for grades 7-9. We have not found a consistent plan that works for all our teachers and all our students.

Original Christmas Pageant for 2017, Available for Download

Now available for download! An original Christmas pageant entitled Light of the World written by Rebekah Yergo (Church School Director at St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in York, PA) and Bonnie Flowers, is available for use in your parish. The writing, stage preparations, and costumes will be a hit with your children, who will feel like they are in a real production!

Additionally, attached is the sheet music that is used in the production.

View the photos of the Light of the World production.

On Evaluating the Sunday Church School Year

The school year is wrapping up in North America. For many of us, this means that Sunday Church School will also be taking a summer break. A change from the usual routine is a good time for us to think and evaluate what we do and take steps toward making improvements. Let us take advantage of this time to review our classroom and lessons this year, thinking about what worked and what did not work, and then figure out steps to take to improve for next year.

Evaluating all of this at once can feel overwhelming. We recommend blocking out a few evaluation sessions in our summer schedule, concentrating on one aspect at each session. Suggested review sessions could include: classroom setup; curriculum; interactions with students; teaching style; etc. Each of us knows which areas of our Sunday Church School class experience need the most consideration, and we should schedule a self-appointed review session for each of those specific areas.

Desired Attributes of Sunday Church School Directors

By Chris Andreas

Though it would certainly be difficult to find individuals possessing all the attributes mentioned below, all are desirable for those wishing to hold the position of director of a Sunday Church School (SCS). Directors are those who must make everything “go,” and the programs will be at their best only when the leadership is equal to the tasks.

Faithful Members of the Church Sunday Church School
Directors are role models for the teachers, the students and their parents. A Director who says one should attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy and the sacramental life of the Church should also be a Director who attends and participates in them. A Director should think of her/himself as a continual learner of the Faith, reading, studying and reflecting on the Orthodox Tradition and passing along new books and ideas to the teachers. A Director should be spiritually motivated, filled with fervor and excitement.

Our Departmental Lenten Resources and Links for Great Lent

Throughout the exploration of our page, we have discovered many valuable archived articles, resources, links, and activities that pertain to Great Lent. These may prove to be quite beneficial to you in the coming weeks and months. These offerings have been gathered and organized below, for you to explore, read and utilize.

Resources

Articles

Crafts and Activities

Original Christmas Pageant Available for Download

Now available for download! An original Christmas pageant entitled Out of Egypt, written by Rebekah Yergo, the Church School Director at St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in York, PA, is available for use in your parish. The pageant was successfully performed in 2015; the writing, stage preparations, and costumes were a hit with the children, who felt like they were in a real production.

Additionally, attached is the sheet music that is used in the production.

View photos of the pageant

2017 Creative Festivals Material Now Available

The Department of Christian Education has published resources for the 2017 Creative Festivals. Creative Festival categories include Art, Creative Writing, Poetry, Photography and Media.

Several items are available for download to assist you as you introduce the theme, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Mark 11:17)

Lesson Plans: The plans are designed for one (or two) 40-minute classes, and written at four levels: Preschool and Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, 4-6, Middle School and High School. More than enough material is offered, choose what will work for your class.

Teachers Are the Key - So Recruit!

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

Who is teaching is of greater importance than what is being taught.

The late spring and summer months are the time to find and prepare teachers for the upcoming school year. We are looking for a particular type of person. Someone who participates in the liturgical life of the church on a regular basis, who interacts well with the youth, who is willing to learn more about the Orthodox faith and teaching, who may be a professional teacher.

Our Church Schools need teachers who are sensitive to both the meaning of the Orthodox faith and the message as expressed in their lives. They want to share the faith and in a way that their students can best learn.

Christ Speaks from the Cross – A Holy Friday Retreat

by Elissa Bjeletich

Lately, I have been fascinated by the idea of Family Retreats, of events that feed the parents as much as they feed the children. Orthodoxy is a way of life, and you can teach facts and ideas in a weekly class, but to truly follow Christ we must be living as His body. Sunday School teachers can plant seeds and inspire thoughts, even inspire faith and prayer — but parents have the power to do so much more. By establishing an Orthodox home with a pattern of prayer and fasting, parents can help their children develop a healthy spiritual rhythm that they’ll carry throughout their lives.

Syndicate content