The church school summer calendar often includes Vacation Church School. Exciting for some church school directors, overwhelming/intimidating for others. Pulling from the article "New Life in the Summer: Summer Church School", by Nadine Eskoff, we'll look at the how to establish the foundation of a successful and realistic summer church school program in a parish of any size.
Vacation Church School planning & resources
"Put a real ring and enlightened zeal into your parish with a summer church school program. True, most people are looking forward to a little rest and relaxation, summer trips, summer camping; but as the summer goes on, there tends to develop an undercurrent of anxiety, a yearning for something to do, something that can capture that reserve energy and organize it into something positive."
"A summer church school of one or two weeks duration is not really as overwhelming as one might think; five basic elements are necessary:
2. love for children, church, and education
3. organization4. hard work
5. pooling of the many, often untapped, resources in the parish and in the community."
“The summer church school program provides a wonderful opportunity for church growth. Instead of a void or period of stagnation in the summer months, a new excitement is generated to enhance the regular liturgical life of the parish. This is an excellent chance to invite the children in the neighborhood to come and see. Encourage church school children to bring their friends. The children also inspire their parents to want to come and participate.”
"A basic theme should be decided upon early in the summer so that your program can be well publicized through the parish news, and mechanics, like car pools, can be arranged. Generally, the theme should be one not covered in great depth during the regular school year, due to lack of time."
“Generally the program calls for a similar schedule on four
of the five days and then on the fifth day, there is a Liturgy followed by a field trip and picnic. We run a three-hour intense program in the morning. This does not put an undue burden on the staff and allows children a half day for play and the opportunity to run off excess energy. Don't let small (or low) attendance discourage you. Our first summer program was attended by 7 to 10 children. With the adjustment to a better time in the summer, the excitement created by the children themselves, and the addition of children from a neighboring Orthodox parish, we began to average as many as 35 children each day.”
“Clergy may be particularly enthusiastic about a summer church school program. First of all, it gives the priest an opportunity for interaction with the children, allowing them to grow in their love and friendship for him through the activities and the closeness of the situation. With the flexibility of the schedule, the priest is able to prepare the children in more detail for the celebration of the Liturgy. In our program, on the day before the Liturgy the older children prepare the 'Prosphora' for the offering of the children. On the day itself, the 'Proskomedia' (the Liturgy of Preparation) is done outside the altar (as in the early church), with each child presenting his or her prosphora with the names of the loved ones to pray for during the Liturgy. The responses during the Liturgy are sung by the children, a role which they have been rehearsing all week.”
Program enhances summer parish life
“At the end of the session a display of the children's materials can be placed in the Church hall or foyer; perhaps a short presentation can be made on the following day for the whole parish to enjoy.”
Online Vacation Church School Resources
Teach students a new skill by including a Prosforo baking session for older students as part of Vacation Church School. Lesson plan, puzzle activity, and sample photos available through this link:
An online Orthodox Christian catalog with Vacation Church School materials for purchase:
"The Hub" from the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) describes many details of Vacation Church School, such as choosing a theme, daily schedule, choir rehearsal, and more:
The final post in this series about closing the church school year will focus on Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and how church schools using this program could close their Atriums for the summer and then prepare for the upcoming school year.