Every now and then the subject comes up at my church about when the best time would be for Sunday school. It's not a raging debate or anything. It's just sometimes it gets discussed, and lately it has come up again.
Being an Armenian church, our liturgies last about two hours, to two and one half hours. The kids go to Sunday school during the time of the liturgy, not before or after. Once a month the kids are brought in shortly before Communion to hear a special sermon from the priest and to partake of the Sacrament.
There are those who would like to put Sunday school before or after the liturgy, so kids can attend the service with their parents. The Orthodox Church is, after all, a Church of worship, and children should be immersed in this as they grow up.
Those who want to keep the current system argue (perhaps realistically) that no Armenians are going to get up early enough on a Sunday to bring their kids to church before the liturgy starts, and that people are not going to want to stay longer for the classes to take place afterward.
So I am posting this topic here because I am wondering what is done about Sunday school in other OO Churches. I guess I would also like to hear from our EO friends, but really only if their services are as long as ours. (I get the impression that some EO services are, but some aren't.) I know that Armenian services are more or less on the short end of what you will find in the OO tradition. Ethiopian services, from what I have seen and experienced, can go for four or five hours.
So what is done in most churches in this situation? I don't believe in shortening the liturgy. I'm very much opposed to the "our liturgy is too long, let's shorten it to 45 minutes" mentality. So I'd like to know what other churches with long services do with regard to educating the children. Do you also have Sunday school during the liturgy? If so, how do you get the kids into church? Do you have Sunday school before or after the liturgy? If so, what do you do about parents who don't want to come early or leave late? Or do you find that people are happy to accommodate an early or late schedule for the classes?
I just want to see what works in other parishes.
Well, I'm EO, but in my parish what we've done for the last few years, are 2 different things, both of which have worked out VERY well. 5 or 6 years ago, when we had a priest who did longer Liturgies all the kids attended liturgy up until the Gospel reading; they hear the Gospel, and then after the Gospel there is a brief "kid's sermon", then the kids go downstairs for Sunday school, then the regular sermon would follow. Then just before Communion, they come back up for Communion and the end of Liturgy. That worked out pretty well, and might work for Church's with longer Liturgies.
The other thing we've done more recently with a priest who's Liturgies run a little shorter is the kids attend the entire Liturgy, but all kids receive Communion FIRST, then go downstairs from Sunday School. The priest then gives the sermon at the END of Liturgy (not after the Gospel reading), which ends up giving the Sunday school a good half an hour, maybe more depending on different things, length of sermon, number of Communicants etc....
Both I think worked out pretty well. The first example was originally done as a "stepping stone" towards kids coming for all of Liturgy, since before that plan was in use, there basically wasn't much of a sunday school program at all, and no families ever attended Liturgy.
BTW yes, we do have Orthros but NO ONE ever comes to that, except 2 or 3 people.
I heard that years ago, (like 15 yrs) they used to have Sunday school during Matins, but too many people complained and no kids ever showed up for sunday school, so the program basically died for years until my first example was put into action some years back. It depends on each parish though I suppose....
Hope that's helpful.......