Not too long ago, a friend of mine sent me a booklet from nearly forty years ago from a parish which had a large, active, and I must say, “successful” program. It has had me thinking about all the roles that can be present to develop a strong religious education program in a parish.
As we are rebuilding our parish religious education programs, this could be a time to build a larger team than before. A larger team, with more roles defined can bring more energy to the program. Divide tasks, almost into specialties, can become a way of helping overcome any hesitation someone might have. It’s hard to decline when the task seems relatively small. This focus allows someone to use their talents for the program, helping the children in the program. Also, building a team around the program is also nurturing future leaders for the program. Who knows? Today’s arts and crafts coordinator could be a future director of the program.
Naturally, our first thought turns to finding enough teachers for the classes. Indeed, teachers are necessary. But small teams of teachers can be recruited for a class, allowing for continuity when someone is absent or bringing a new teacher on-board over time.
But let’s consider all the other roles that a parish program need or can have.
The Parish Priest should be considered essential to the program. He should be actively involved with the program, especially working with the team, teaching them the Faith so they can teach it to others.
The Director (or Supervisor) who coordinates and leads the program. The Director can have Co-Director as well. This individual usually works very closely with the parish priest about the content and direction of the program.
Parish Council liaison. Depending on the parish organizational structure, a liaison between the council and the program can help keep communication open between the parish leaders and the program. It’s useful for budgeting purposes, facilities and equipment needs.
Youth Safety Coordinator. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America requires Youth Workers, which includes teachers and others involved in the program, to be registered and trained as youth workers. The coordinator handles the necessary background check processes and training.
Arts and Crafts coordinator. Let’s face it, not all of us can use glitter and glue well. Find someone in the parish who is creative, who can share ideas and projects, and help a teacher and class.
Communications coordinator. Who sends notes to students that have been absent? Who wishes them a happy name day and birthday? This can be via email, social media, or notes and cards in the mail.
Finance coordinator. Who can help the program spend money? Who can help use it wisely? Does the program hold fund raising events? What happens to the funds? Who can keep good records of any revenue and expenditures, reporting it back to the parish council or working with the parish accountant?
Supplies coordinator. Who is keeping an eye on the necessary supplies for a program? Ordering, purchasing, keeping an inventory of the items that are shared among the classes?
Resource person. Teachers need background books and articles, sharing them. What about supplemental materials for students? Who is monitoring the many new resources being created and distributed by Orthodox developers? Who helps teachers find things that can enhance their teaching?
Registration coordinator. Every year someone can be handling the registration of students into the program, developing the records that are needed, and organizing and sharing them with the teachers.
Music coordinator. Find an individual to work with classes, teaching hymns of the Church.
Special Programs person. Who will organize the Christmas Pageant? Who will organize the Oratorical Festival?
All of these roles, and there are others, create the rich environment that helps to nurture faith in young people, support teachers, and engage families with the parish religious education program.