There are two calendars that many Orthodox Christians observe during the year: the public school calendar and the liturgical calendar. The attention given to these two has a significant impact on how well-connected kids are to their local church and their experience of parish life.
If children are involved in several sports activities or musical programs at school, chances are they are tied up with practices, recitals, actual sporting events, or weekend band competitions. Parents become a taxi cab service during the week ushering their children to and from these events. That means there is not a lot of time left for getting involved in anything church related, whether that be a service or a youth activity. What complicates things even more is that people no longer seem to live close the parish they attend. It is not unusual for some people to have a 45 minute to a one-hour drive to get to their church. I had a priest recently tell me that whenever he tries to plan a time for kids to get together for a particular event, it is a real challenge getting a commitment from families to bring their children.
So why is this so? It seems children find these school activities fulfilling and enjoy participating in them. Secondly, if they don’t show up for practice, they face the possibility they won’t be able to play in a game or participate in a school play or music program. I think there is also a philosophy many believe that by getting involved in school activities, it keeps kids busy and out of trouble. All of the above are powerful motivators for participating in school related activities.
This active observance of the school calendar does negatively impact a family’s participation in the liturgical calendar of the church. It is a big reason why for many, church life is a Sunday only experience. This leaves little time for youth to connect with their parish and their fellow friends.
How do we address this issue if it is a concern for families? It is easy for me to tell parents they just need to say “no” to some of the school activities, so that they can go to church for a planned event like a Festal or Lenten service or youth retreat. I am sure many priests have told parents the same thing. I don’t know if this approach has worked all that much. If families do choose to cut down on some of the school related activity, what do we have to offer as the Church that will encourage children to make a closer connection? I will continue this theme next week.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul