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Especially for Teachers

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

Resolve for the New Church School Year

As we draw nearer to the start of another Church (and for many of us, another Church School) year, we should prepare accordingly. This new year offers us the opportunity to begin afresh and look for ways to improve ourselves. With this in mind, let us approach this new year(s) with resolve.

Resolve is an appropriate word for the beginning of a year. Two of its definitions are especially appropriate. One way that Google defines resolve as a verb is, to “decide firmly on a course of action”. The start of a new Church/school year is a great time to do that! What action should we firmly decide to take?

We do well to consider that question, perhaps in the context of a few others! Let us take this chance to sit quietly alone, or with a spouse/family member/friend, and ponder the following:

  1. Evaluate. Think back over this season we’ve just come through. How did we do in that season? How have we changed for the good?
  2. Prioritize. Sort our habits, identifying the good “keepers” and bad “time to change this” habits. Also, make a list of what lies ahead in our schedule. Of everything on that list, what is most important?

Once we’ve looked at where we’ve been, how we’ve grown, and where we’re headed, we are ready for the noun form of resolve. One of Google’s definitions of resolve as a noun defines it as the “firm determination to do something”. There are many things we should firmly resolve to do. We will look specifically at these two:

Bishop Thomas Greeting for the Ecclesiastical New Year, 2018

September 1, 2018

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ!

"You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance." Psalm 65:11

I greet each of you in the name of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ as we embark upon a new church year. The Lord grants us to see the dawn of another new year for our repentance, nothing else. It is not given carelessly or frivolously and because it is God's gift to us; we will have to give an account of how we spend the gift freely given to us.

We mark the passage of time primarily in one of two ways: 1) according to the secular calendar or 2) according to the church's cycle of fasts and feasts, the commemoration of saints, and the great feasts of the Lord. If we mark our time according to the secular calendar, we will find little time for God and the spiritual life. Our lives will pass rapidly (this in and of itself should give us pause) and our days will be passed with work responsibilities, family responsibilities, and holidays. There is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves. However, when these responsibilities crowd out the spiritual life we begin to adopt a secular or worldly attitude about life and death.

Games for the Church School Classroom

We have gathered some ideas of games that can be played in Sunday Church School. Those of us who are on summer break can take advantage of this time to review these, select the ones that will work with our class, and then have them available for the upcoming year. Some of these games can be prepared ahead of time. Others we will just want to be familiar with so that we have them as an option for use with our lessons.


Let’s get ready to have some fun with our Sunday Church School classes!

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Find some Orthodox game ideas here.

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This page offers 12 games that would each be a fun way to review or test learning at the end of a lesson. You may want to gather and prepare some of the required equipment so that you’re ready to go when you want to play one of these games with your class!

Teachers and Summer Break

It is summertime in the northern hemisphere, and for many of us, that means a break in the Sunday Church School routine. During this break, let us take time to be refreshed! Having a break gives us time to rest and to evaluate our work. How are we doing? What is working with our students? What is not? What other ideas are out there? What might we want to try that could improve the quality of our students’ education in the Sunday Church School classroom?

Here are a few resources that may help us to evaluate and recharge. (Note: not all of these are Orthodox. Each of them does, however, contain ideas that can help to refresh us and be ready for the next Sunday Church School year.) 

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Ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut or just need to breathe a little? This page offers 25 hands-on ideas that people in Christian ministry can do to reset their creative juices.

On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: Pascha and Pentecost

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book The Year of Grace of the Lord: a Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!


The time of Easter and Pentecost is a season of great rejoicing in the Orthodox Christian Church. In this part of the liturgical year, we celebrate Our Lord’s glorious resurrection, His ascension, and preparing our hearts for His sending of the Holy Spirit to us at Pentecost. Each of these events has a feast of its own in our liturgical year, because of their great importance.

Easter (as it is called by the monk who wrote The Year of Grace of the Lord, though many of us refer to this feast as Pascha) is a feast in its own category: it is the Feast of Feasts, and is too important to be included with the other twelve feasts of the liturgical year. And rightly so, for it celebrates a victory like no other!

On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: Great Lent

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book The Year of Grace of the Lord: a Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!

Great Lent consists of the 40 days leading to Holy Week, which, in turn, immediately precedes Pascha. Since its early days, Great Lent has been observed as a time of penitence, spiritual growth, and illumination. Although it is a time of great spiritual struggle, it is also a time of deep joy for Orthodox Christians, as we prepare our hearts to experience Christ's Passion and Resurrection.

Several Divine Liturgy Resources for Young Children

We have previously shared the lovely board book What Do You See at Liturgy? by Kristina Kallas-Tartara. As we mentioned in that blog post, the book consists of a gentle rhyme paired with pictures of what a child will see when they go to the Divine Liturgy. We continue to recommend this book as a helpful tool to help little ones enter into the service when their attention needs to be redirected.

Time for House Blessings

Theophany has already passed for those of us following the new calendar. The waters have been blessed. Our souls have been cleansed and refreshed by the drinking/sprinkling thereof. So now it’s time to help our Sunday Church School students learn about house blessings to ensure that they are prepared when the priest arrives to bless their home.

We should teach our students that the house blessing has been part of Orthodox Christian practice for centuries. They should also learn that although the house blessing is not a sacrament, it is an important part of helping Orthodox Christians to live the Faith at home. We also should teach our students (or at least refresh their memory) about the house blessing service itself: First, we can teach them about the service – the order of service, the prayers, and the hymn. Talk together with your class about the prayers, which request God’s sanctification of the home, and what they mean. Together sing the troparion to remind the students of how it goes; and then discuss the words in the troparion. Consider how special it is that they will have time to spend with the parish priest. Remind them that every member of the family can participate in and help with the house blessing, and that the entire family will benefit from the house blessing.

On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: Christmas and Epiphany

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book “The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church” by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!

The feasts of the Nativity (simply called "Christmas" in The Year of Grace of the Lord: a Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church) and Theophany (referred to as "Epiphany’"in that same book) fall within days of each other, regardless of the calendar being followed. Christmas falls on Dec. 25 (or January 7), and Theophany follows on its heels, on January 6 (or 19). For many of us, local culture offers multiple traditions related to Christmas, but few (or even none) related to Theophany. The monk who wrote the book encourages his readers to think beyond our culture’s interpretations (or perhaps misinterpretations?) of these feasts, and embrace them in a truly Orthodox manner.

On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: The Time of Advent

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book “The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church” by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!

Beginning on November 15 (or 28), Orthodox Christians around the world begin to prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ at Christmas. This time of preparation and fasting is 40 days long and leads right to the Feast of the Nativity. (It is the same length as Great Lent, which leads to Holy Week and Pascha; but there are different restrictions in each fast.) The Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple takes place during the Nativity Fast.

Back Pocket Ideas for Sunday Church School Games

If your Sunday Church School continues to meet year ‘round and you want some fun ideas for summer classes, this blog post is for you. If you are taking a break from teaching for the summer, but are thinking ahead to next year and how you want to switch things up a bit in your classroom, this blog post is for you. If you just love to collect fun ideas and keep them in your “back pocket” so that you can pull them out and use them with your Sunday Church School class at a moment’s notice, this blog post is for you! (Does that cover everyone? We hope so! We think this blog post can be helpful for you!)

Virtuous Year-End Awards

For many of us in North America, the Sunday Church School year is coming to an end. The end of a year offers the opportunity to note growth and accomplishment in all of us, but especially in our students. This a good time to review their growth and celebrate with them the positive ways we have seen them change.

Perhaps your Sunday Church School offers awards at the end of the year, such as certificates celebrating perfect attendance, most improved, best at ____, etc. Those achievements are important, and should be noted. But there are even more important ways for a child to improve than curriculum and attendance. As Orthodox Christians, we should constantly be evaluating and celebrating our spiritual growth and that of our students. The end of a school year is a great time to do so! Let us take a little time to think about each of our students and note their growth in the virtues. Growth in virtue is one way to measure their growth in The Faith. Perhaps this year would be a good time to begin giving our students virtues awards as well!

Not sure where to start? Check out our recent blog posts on the virtues, which offered suggestions of ways to teach our students about each of the virtues. Each of these blog posts can offer us helpful information about the virtue on which it focuses, which we can then apply as we think about each child. How have they grown in humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence? Which of these virtues do they best exemplify in their life? In which virtue have they grown the most?

On Pursuing the Virtues: An Introduction

Author’s note: During Great Lent Orthodox Christians focus more intently on becoming more Godly and less self-centered. Thus it seemed that Great Lent was the best possible time to feature a series of articles on pursuing virtue. The author spent a series of weeks sharing about virtues and looking at ways to teach our Sunday Church School students about them, so that they can join us in our pursuit of them. All the virtues have been covered on the blog at this point; below please find our introduction. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Read our blog, "Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School Teachers"

In this series of blogs, we will focus the virtues. There are many, but for this series we will focus on the seven capital virtues mentioned in the Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians: humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence. As the book mentions, each virtue is the positive counterpart of a grievous sin. In order for us to become more like God, to grow in theosis, we must not only resist and repent from those sins in our life, but we must also labor to attain the virtues.

Great Lent and Holy Week Activity Calendar

 

 

 

 

 
Share this Lenten calendar with your students to use with their families as they walk through Great Lent together.

On Overcoming the Winter Blues

The beginning of February marks the middle of winter for the northern hemisphere. For many people, winter can a dreary and depressing time. Why is this the case? Are children also thus affected by winter, or is the sense of gloom limited to adults? Can anything be done to help those of us who feel discouraged during the winter months?

We did a little research into the above questions, and learned a few things which we will share with you. We learned that there are multiple reasons why winter can drag down our emotions, especially because of the reduced light and/or sunshine that people living in wintery climates experience. The combination of less daylight and colder outdoor temperatures also discourages people from getting fresh air and exercise (two other possible remedies for combating gloom). We learned that children are affected by these struggles in a similar way as adults are affected. We found many suggestions of things to do to combat the so-called "winter blues" including the idea of getting out of the house within 2 hours of waking up, and exercising (outside, if possible).

Saints of Recent Decades: St. Maria of Paris

Commemorated July 20 or August 2

In 1891, in Riga, Latvia, a baby girl named Elizabeta (“Liza,” to her family) was born to the Pilenko family. The Pilenkos were Orthodox Christians, and raised Liza in the faith. When she was 14, Liza’s father died, and Liza was so upset that she gave up her Faith. When the family moved to St. Petersburg, instead of going to church, Liza began to hang out with radical people who, like her, liked to read and wanted to make the world better. They would spend hours talking about revolution and about theology, but (in Liza’s words) they “seemed to do nothing but talk.” She wanted to actually DO something to make a change. Years passed, and Liza slowly came back to her faith.

Saints of Recent Decades: St. Maria of Paris (July 20 or August 2)

In 1891, in Riga, Latvia, a baby girl named Elizabeta ("Liza," to her family) was born to the Pilenko family. The Pilenkos were Orthodox Christians, and raised Liza in the faith. When she was 14, Liza's father died, and Liza was so upset that she gave up her Faith. When the family moved to St. Petersburg, instead of going to church, Liza began to hang out with radical people who, like her, liked to read and wanted to make the world better. They would spend hours talking about revolution and about theology, but (in Liza's words) they "seemed to do nothing but talk." She wanted to actually DO something to make a change. Years passed, and Liza slowly came back to her faith. 

When she was only 18, Liza got married. Three years later, she left her husband and moved back to the house where she grew up. While she was there, she gave birth to her daughter Gaiana. Three years after Gaiana's birth, Liza was accepted as a student at the Theological Academy of The Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg. She was the very first woman to study there! For a while in 1918, Liza was the mayor of her town. This was during the time that the Bolsheviks were taking over Russia, and she was accused of being part of their Red Army. She was arrested and taken to trial. Her judge, Daniel Skobstova, said she was innocent, and he had her released instead of executed. After she was free, she went to find him to thank him. They quickly became friends and were married only a few days later!

Saints of Recent Decades: An Introduction

In our forthcoming blog posts, we will be focusing our attention on saints who have lived in recent decades. (We will use the term "recent" somewhat loosely, as some of them lived more than a hundred years ago, which most children consider to be very, very old.) Our intent is to provide a resource for you that can be used to introduce your Sunday Church School students to saints who they can see in icons but also (at least in most cases) in actual photographs as well. Seeing the photos can help the children to better grasp the reality of the saints' existence, that they are real people who actually lived and struggled just like we do to live an Orthodox Christian life. It is our goal that along the way, all of us will "meet" new friends as we learn about these saints who have walked the earth more recently.

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (commemorated on August 6 or 19) is an important one for Orthodox Christians to celebrate! After all, the Transfiguration was a revelation of the Holy Trinity (God the Father spoke, Christ was there, of course, and the Holy Spirit was revealed in the form of a cloud). Also, at the Transfiguration, Christ's radiance was physically seen by the disciples so that they could better realize His Divinity. In addition, Moses and Elijah were present, showing the disciples that in Christ the law and the prophecies are fulfilled. And so it was that on Mt. Tabor, God allowed the disciples to have their own "mountaintop" experience, just as Moses (Mt. Sinai) and Elijah (Mt. Horeb) had during their life on earth.

Since this Feast is important, we need to learn about it ourselves, help our children know about it, and together celebrate the Feast! Transfiguration is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp, but especially so for children. How can we help our children learn what it was like for the disciples to see Our Lord's Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor? Our Lord did not slip into a hidden wardrobe and change out of His ordinary clothes into shiny robes, nor did He simply step into a giant spotlight shining down from the sky. Rather, the disciples were simply permitted to physically see some of His Divine Glory shining through. (But not all of it: just "inasmuch as they were able," according to the troparion of the day). So, how can we begin to explain or show the Transfiguration to our children?

Teacher Resources on Pinterest

Are you familiar with the popular content sharing service that allows members to "pin" images, videos and ideas to share on the world's catalog of ideas? It's called Pinterest! If you haven't visited yet, you definitely should! As a teacher, aren't you always looking for new ideas to share with your students and compliment the subject you are covering? The AODCE has made it simple! Visit our pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/aodce for lessons, crafts and resources for all of your lesson planning needs. You'll find information about Saints, Icons, and Feast Days, as well as suggestions for classroom displays, working with children with special needs, and Orthodox family life. If you are already a Pinterest user, follow our boards! If not, joining Pinterest will provide you with a valuable organized resource tool for teaching Orthodoxy to our students!

Two Possible Ways to Teach Church School Students about Ascension

1. Take your students on a hike. Find the highest point of your church's property, and have your class there. (If you are unable to do so, ask your students about the highest place they've ever been. How far could they see? What did they see? Imagine that you have all hiked to that spot together.) When you arrive at that high space, talk about the Ascension. Pretend together that you are the disciples, reunited with your Lord after the difficult time of His death and the joy of His resurrection. How do you feel, having Him in your midst again? If He invited you to the top of the hill like this, would you go with Him? What if He stood in the middle of you and began to talk: would you listen? If He began to tell you He will be leaving, how would you feel? What would you think about? When He suddenly began to float up from the ground and keep rising into the sky, right in front of you, what would you think? (If you are outside, you could demonstrate this with a face "of Christ" drawn on a helium balloon attached a really long string - so you could eventually retrieve it - or with a small plastic toy "Christ" taped to a kite that flies as high as you can get it to go from your picnic spot.) And what if He got so high that He disappeared in the clouds? (If you've done the demonstration mentioned, you will need to retrieve the balloon or kite now, noting that we're not Christ, so we can't do what He did!) Even though we can't actually lift into the sky like that, we can imagine what it must have been like for the disciples left behind! What if, as you were talking about Christ leaving and disappearing in that way, suddenly there were two other men there with you, asking what you're looking for, and telling you that Jesus will come back again someday? How would you react? What would you think? What would you do next?

Pascha Resources for Sunday Church School Teachers

Pascha is the Feast of Feasts! It is a time of the year like no other. That is as it should be, for it is when we celebrate the most important thing that there is to be celebrated: the resurrection of our Lord, and His trampling down death itself by His own death! Let us celebrate accordingly, and find ways that help to communicate to our Sunday Church School students how important this festal celebration is!

We have gathered a few links in case you are looking for additional ways to set this feast apart with your students. We hope that these ideas enhance what you already have planned to do, and to teach them about the celebration. May we all be granted to see His glorious Resurrection once again, and may we help our students to celebrate well alongside us. May the Light of Christ indeed illumine us all!

On The Lord's Prayer: An Introduction

The Lord's Prayer is an integral part of an Orthodox Christian's life. Our Lord Himself taught us to pray this prayer, so we know that it is both important and right for us to pray in this way. We find this prayer in the Holy Scriptures in Luke 11:1-4 and also in Matthew 6:7-14. We pray this prayer daily at home. This prayer is also an important part of our church services. It is important that we teach our children how to pray the Lord's Prayer so that they can participate with the family at home and also with the church family during the Divine services.

But is it enough for the children to learn the words to the prayer? Is it not much more important for them to pray the words with cognizance of their meaning? How can we help our children to understand what they are saying when they pray this wonderful prayer? Over the next few weeks our blog posts will focus on the Lord's Prayer, looking at the prayer piece by piece, and delving into its meaning and importance. We will share quotes from Alexander Schmemann's book, "Our Father," and include ideas of ways to help our children to learn the prayer.

Our goal is to learn to better pray the Lord's Prayer, and to help our children to do so as well.

To learn more, follow our blog at orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/orthodoxchristiansundaychurchschoolteachers.

Scripture Journaling

In our last few blogs, we have looked at the importance of memorizing the Scriptures and helping our Sunday Church School students to do the same. This blog post will offer another way to meditate on (and even memorize) the Scriptures: Scripture journaling. As you maintain a Scripture journal, you meditate on and/or memorize the Scriptures by creating an artistic illustration of a different Scripture passage on each page of the journal. There are many ways to do so, and you do not need to be an artist to create a Scripture journal. If you can write or if you can doodle, you can create one of these journals. Even young students can make a Scripture journal! It is a fun, creative way to delve into the scriptures, and can add an artistic dimension to your Sunday Church School classes.

You will need a blank journal for each student. You will also need pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, watercolors; whatever art supplies you wish to work with in the journals. (Note: remember that if you plan to use markers or watercolors in the journaling, you will want to provide each student with a journal with thick pages so that the colors do not bleed through to the next page. It is also important to place extra paper behind each page as you work, to absorb any possible bleed­through.)

Click here to read more (PDF)!

Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed?

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

Begin Everything with Prayer

Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one's business or office, and even college dorm rooms. "The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children - the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed." (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)

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