“Let the little children come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10: 14). The words of Jesus Christ, the Church’s founder and head, summarize Orthodox Christianity’s entire ethos in regards to children. They are to be integral members of the community, participating even before they will remember in the Church’s rites and sacraments, being nurtured by a Church “family” that acts as a complement to a child’s parents, grandparents, and extended natural relations. Orthodoxy has no “children’s church”; instead, our children come to the services, especially the Sunday Divine Liturgy. They receive the sacraments, including Holy Communion. They are encouraged to feel at home in “their Father’s house.” When they become tired or disruptive, as all little ones sometimes do, their parents take them outside for a brief “time out,” but always they return to join the community in its praise and worship of the Holy Trinity. Slowly but surely, over weeks and months and years the message is driven home, gently, and by repeated example.
More formal education reinforces the subtle, powerful teaching of the Divine Services. First and foremost of course come the child’s parents. They have the awesome and joyous responsibility of raising their children in an Orthodox Christian home, helping them as they learn to pray and live a Christian life.
Supplementing the work of parents and the message of Liturgy is Church (Sunday) School, which meets each Sunday roughly from September through May. Classes are organized around 3 convenient age groupings, and the emphasis includes both activities and classroom teaching in order to learn more about the Faith.
The fundamental idea informing all these programs, and all that the Church does for our children is to help in strengthening the “armor of God” St. Paul talks about in Ephesians. We know that children today face all kinds of temptations and trials. The Church wants to help equip them, as they are able, with the grace and truth needed to pass through childhood and emerge as Christian adults, prepared to love and serve the Lord all their days.