Having myself grown up in small membership churches, not experiencing a large membership church until college, Tye’s observations and explanations about the small membership church reached to my core. Many a time, many a page, did I stop reading to reflect upon a personal memory that connected with her words.
I was part of a church that had no budget for a Nativity play and eight of the ten participants within the cast were related, with my sister as the director. I was part of a church that held Bible Trivia Night in the sanctuary because the fellowship hall was in one of many various stages of completion. I was part of a church with no-frills operations, yet to the credit of a few dedicated members, there was an emphasis on Christian education for youth and adults, even though we had to follow a nontraditional model to accommodate our limitations. And because of the creativity, innovation, inclusivity, improvisation, passion, and dedication of these volunteers, the Christian education program thrived and eventually grew.
It is possible. And if it is already going strong within your parish, there are ways to further enhance your programs without compromising on the distinct identifying qualities of Christian education within the small membership church. In the book, Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, author Karen B. Tye will help us “think together about the essential qualities and consider the basic aspects of this process we call education, especially as it pertains to the small church setting. We will highlight some of the basics, including whom we educate, where and when we educate, and the resources we need.” (page x, Introduction)
The beauty of considering Christian education within a small membership church is that we are reminded how Christ focused on the small, the simple, the humble when He was teaching. Reflect upon that as you work to establish a Christian education program or improve upon an existing program. Launching a Christian education program is filled with joy and challenges. Thankfully, we are not alone as we prepare. We should always remember Jesus’ promise that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He will be with us (Matt 18:20). We must take hope and strength from this promise and move forward with purpose and assurance! “Our small size is to be celebrated and cherished for the gifts it brings. We aren’t just a little church, or we don’t just have forty in worship on Sunday. We are a cell in the Body of Christ and can faithfully educate our members to do and live as God would have us. Small is beautiful! Thanks be to God!” (page 84, Christian Education in the Small Membership Church)
-Submitted by Anna-Sarah Farha, church school teacher at St. George Orthodox Church, Jacksonville, FL
Within the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education, Anna-Sarah Farha is the direct liaison and support for our Sunday Church School Directors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Antiochian Department of Christian Education (AODCE) invites you to connect with directors throughout the Orthodox Christian community and access resources for Church School Staff through a Facebook page dedicated to Church School Directors.
This Facebook page is updated regularly to reflect relevant topics of discussion such as curriculum, following the Liturgical year, challenges to issues faced by directors and the corresponding solutions, building your program, and articles of interest. Join the Facebook group and jump into the conversation so that the network of directors can be strengthened and encouraged through dialogue, surveys, and interviews.
Next Up: Chapter One review of Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen B. Tye