The following interview is with the Sunday School Leadership Team at Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Coral Gables, Florida. Although their's is not a small church school, the concept of team leadership is undoubtedly familiar in smaller parishes where volunteers wear many hats. Sharing the leadership responsibilities of a church school can make it manageable rather than overwhelming.
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.
Treasurer - Responsible for the financial management and reporting of the Sunday School finances.
Public Relations Coordinator - Promote a favorable image for the Sunday School by publicizing events and programs, writing/coordinating material for the newsletter. Update Sunday School Facebook and Cathedral website information. Update bulletin boards, photos.
Hallway Monitor - Ensure lights are turned on and classes are set up as needed. Deliver snacks to each classroom after the teachers arrive. Ensure children stay in their respective classrooms until dismissal bell rings.
First Confession Program Coordinator - Present 2nd-3rd graders with an 11-week program that will explain the Sacraments of Confession in order to prepare the students for their first confession.
Creative Arts Festival Coordinator - Oratorical Festival, Bible Bowl, Art, Photography, Poetry, and Writing for Pre-K-12. (Feb-Mar)
Youth Choir Coordinator - Organize youth choir; maintain records and assist Choir Director to teach/train youth to participate during services and special occasions, especially the Christmas Concert.
Snack Team Coordinator - Create a rotating schedule and coordinate with parents to prepare students’ snacks.
Godparents Sunday Coordinator
Summer Bible School Coordinator
Wafa Omeish serves as Principal. Our thanks to her and the Sunday School team for participating in this interview. Please share with us a little about the Sunday School program at Saint George Cathedral. How many students attend your church school?
For the 2017-2018 Church year there were 85 students enrolled. This current year has an enrollment of 73 students.
How is your church school organized for Sunday classes?
All students proceed to class immediately after Holy Communion. They are served a light snack before the lesson begins. Class concludes at 1pm and students are dismissed into the Church Hall. Elementary students are grouped in classrooms by grade, and 7th-12th grades meet together. We are fortunate to have a Day School attached to the Cathedral (not affiliated with Saint George), and we utilize that classroom space for Sunday Church School.
Which curricula do you use for Sunday classes?
Archdiocese curriculum and other designed materials and activities.
What type(s) of training does the teaching staff participate in?
Seminars conducted by our priest. We have previously had the pleasure of Archdeacon Saed Rihani leading a workshop for teachers. Throughout the church year, there are weekly "check in" meetings with the classes separately.
Do you hold staff meetings? If so, how often and please briefly describe the meetings.
Meetings are held monthly. An agenda is prepared by Sunday School officers, including the review and approval of last meeting minutes, liturgy report, principal report, finance report, public relation report, old business and new business.
How does your parish show appreciation for church school staff?
Staff are recognized and thanked during Recognition Sunday at the end of the Sunday School year. Appreciation gifts are presented to all staff at that time. There is also a staff appreciation dinner at the end of Sunday School year.
Please describe the First Confession program at Saint George Sunday School.
The First Confession Coordinator incorporates material about the Sacrament of Confession into the existing 2nd-3rd grade curriculum over the course of 11 weeks. Students participate in First Confession on Lazarus Saturday and take Communion as a group the next day (Palm Sunday) as well as on Pascha. All the participating students dress in white. Parents are invited to join the students on Lazarus Saturday for a small reception to celebrate the occasion.
Please describe the annual Church School Christmas Pageant.
The Cathedral Dean and Principal decide on a program that includes church hymns and religious songs to be performed during a 1-hour presentation the Sunday before Christmas. The presentation takes place at the Church immediately after Liturgy. Rehearsals start about three weeks before and are mandatory.
What are some church school challenges/issues that you did not expect to encounter, and how have you addressed them?
Attendance is low at times. Staff contacts the families to encourage improvement.
What advice do you have for parishes wishing to establish/grow their church school?
Be organized and creative. Especially stick to the teachings of the Bible, the main component of the Sunday School curriculum.