Time for a Digital Revolution in Youth Training

The photo is not pretty. It is just one of my favored topics to remark on for the reason that it is 1 of the most essential to the future of our group. In the Armenian Diaspora, the enemy is ignorance and a absence of know-how. The distraction of a secular globe and geographic expanse to our communities have weakened our Armenian instructional program in The usa, particularly on the east coast and in the midwest. There are exceptions with whole time universities and weekend educational facilities that company community communities. Frequently though, the signs obvious are in Sunday and Saturday faculties: declining enrollment, dedicated instructing workers (but not ample of them) and a deficiency of sustained commitment from the mum or dad neighborhood. I will confine my responses now to our Sunday Colleges, but 1st a brief comment about language universities.

Unless of course our language is spoken in the household, the decrease of literacy is unavoidable. I have discovered that a resurgence can occur later on when younger grown ups gain an appreciation of their heritage and a want to receive language techniques. When it gets to be a “pull” somewhat than a “push,” we get. Quite a few young Armenians via their heritage training and relations with Armenia have made a language curiosity as a portion of their acquiring id. Additional on that in a long term column. 

Rev. Fr. Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church surrounded by Sunday Faculty students as he opens the regular thriller box, February 24, 2020

Our Sunday Educational facilities have normally been a harbinger for religious and heritage (ethnic) instruction for the reason that of the built-in history of our religion and nation around the previous 1,700 years. When we research Mesrop Mashdots or St. Gregory, we also find out Armenian background and vocabulary. The unhappy truth of our church buildings, each in the Diocese and the Prelacy, is that our universities have been in drop. The classic strategies of households attending church and the kids attending Sunday College concurrently are in position but are a shadow of what they were a generation back. We can use any barometer of measurementregistration, attendance, instructing capabilities and funding the bottom line is we are not conference the challenge.

A significant section of the trouble is that we actually have not manufactured the schooling of our small children a leading precedence. We delegate to the unbelievably focused, nevertheless struggling educating team that are holding our schools with each other. God bless them. This is not their failure. Let us just take a second to obstacle the premise that it is a precedence. Search at the minutes of parish council conferences, parish assemblies or Diocesan or Prelacy assemblies. How significantly real time and sources are dedicated to examining the problems of training and implementing ground breaking answers? The respond to is a disproportionate total compared to its affect on our upcoming. Is there any one bigger variable to our long term than the readiness of our little ones? If not, then how do we make clear our incapability to stop the decrease? 

It would seem most are pleased with obtaining some young ones in the chancel or in the very first couple of pews just about every week as a indication that anything is okay. An straightforward assessment would reveal that the figures are fifty percent of what they have been a era ago. Much less children are registering, and regular attendance is the exception. How can we manage trainer morale when they prepare significantly less and offer with wide swings in attendance 7 days to 7 days? What knowledge do the kids actually get in this sort of an unstable natural environment? Is that understanding sufficient to meet up with a threshold for useful literacy in our church? What is our foreseeable future when only a couple have the functioning expertise of the church? Are we doomed to “functional illiteracy” where by we function, but uncover it tricky to have the institutional capabilities to prosper? In advance of we go on with some feasible answers, I will mention that there are some vivid spots in today’s church. The “immersion” programs that emphasis on regional and nationwide education and learning workshops, schooling and retreats have been pretty profitable. They are education deacons, acolytes and choir members. Young folks obtain to discuss their religion and make social associations based mostly on the church working experience. This is real in equally the Prelacy and Diocese. They are garnering sufficient assist to educate leaders in various regions for numerous parishes. These youthful people today implement their knowledge to altar services, choirs and other ministries. I applaud these efforts and want to accept them.

We need to have innovation in the below 12 domain. Innovate: to strengthen one thing by implementing new methods, procedures and thoughts. The immersion packages were breakthrough contemplating when they started off. New suggestions, they took affordable pitfalls and regarded as the shifting natural environment. The target of bringing folks nearer to God via the traditions of the Armenian church did not alter. Immersing ourselves in the teachings of Jesus Christ did not transform. What changed is how small children are studying and the natural environment in which we function. Our Sunday Universities are stagnant since we have been reluctant to innovate centered on the transforming environment. Most of the immersion applications impression the teenaged groups and older. This is usually not the greater part of Sunday School demographics. Kids underneath 12 have primarily been made available the conventional education procedures (with some mentioned exceptions in communities these kinds of as Bible camps). We know that making values is a perform of function modeling (in the dwelling) and repetitive patterns in the instructional method early in the window. Why would we suboptimize our impact to the youthful teams for the reason that our methods are outdated? It undoubtedly boundaries the amount that engage in the immersion alternatives, and many are shed in this changeover.

The way to fix the trouble of Sunday University schooling is to develop an natural environment where the children are telling their moms and dads that they want to be there. Convincing parents to convey kids who are not enthusiastic only worked in the lessen ages. Lots of of our educational institutions bear this out as they are loaded on the front end with registrants and then the ranks slim out as little ones matriculate to the upper grades. We have to be eager to choose dangers, to consider new suggestions, to innovate. The goal is to bring the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ in accordance to the Armenian church into the hearts and minds of our children. Period of time. All alternatives have to be deemed. Something a lot less undermines the goal of generational continuity.

Our church in The us has customarily opposed, both actively or passively, any alter that will take children out of the standard early morning classroom environment. Once again, most of the non-common solutions have been with the teenaged groups. With the pre-school to below 12 group, we are in have to have of a modify that reinvigorates the commitment to discovering. The pandemic has compelled adjustments on us that may have been unheard of a yr and a 50 percent back. The introduction of Zoom or other streaming alternatives was a requirement for some semblance of training. As we return to “normal” and our Sunday Universities open this tumble, we will re-interact with the common classroom approaches. The unspoken opposition to the “virtual” solutions is that kids have to be physically in the church. I concur, but we need to utilize new ideas to help that want.

How quite a few times have you watched children glance at a movie in a automobile or at dwelling with remarkable emphasis. It is awesome to witness their absorption watching Sesame Avenue or Curious George. I have constantly dreamed of an “Armenian church Sesame Street” where by age ideal programming is made available via a YouTube channel (for example) to educate on our Christian faith, Armenian church theology, the Bible and significantly extra. The use of animation and puppets would join with these age groups. If the programming was available in the ease and comfort of your home, audiences could be improved substantially. Building continuity is critical in the children’s fascination. A weekday session could connect to the Sunday Faculty classroom that 7 days and then in turn lead back again to the weekday session. Above time, the pursuits of the kids and the requires for socialization will enhance the desire to attend in-person on Sunday. The digital content availability would make it possible for “make up” which is problematic now. At an absolute least, it will be a broad enhancement about the current method.

Another benefit to this technique is the elimination of redundancy and dependency on educating techniques domestically. The programming would be made by a nationally funded set of material experts both of those for the weekday and Sunday lesson. No more time would we battle with the uncertainty of how to handle the classroom variation in 100 parishes. The likelihood of a person procedure for both of those the Prelacy and Diocese would be a reasonable aim. Imagine thatdoing work as one. Neighborhood resources could be used to jobs or other offline routines. The benefits are seemingly unlimited. It is an example of making use of what we uncovered from the pandemic with innovation to mature our affect. The Diocese has released an instruction method with wonderful promise identified as Vemkar. So far, it’s concentrated on the teen and above age groups. This  get the job done could be built-in into Vemkar as decrease age modules. There are pockets of younger experts who are having difficulties to carry out this vision: a younger deacon in Massachusetts making information for a local parish through the pandemic or an additional young person at the Prelacy with a eyesight for animation. There are other individuals from our talented new technology. We need to take out the synthetic boundaries that protect against them from connecting. Where by is our assist?

There are 3 useful obstacles to this vision: will, talent acquisition and sustainable funding. The will is our preference. Either we see the possibility and seize it, or we will practical experience a gradual decrease. The talent exists either with proven programming or creating a long lasting workers. Funding is generally a concern. Why is it that when Vehapars occur to this place, we normally have the time and the income to approach, nevertheless we wrestle to commit resources to our long term? In simple fact often, thousands and thousands are raised for regardless of what pet job our leaders articulate. If we can’t see the long term, then perhaps we can faux the Vehapars are coming and utilize those assets to this exertion. Seed revenue to hire the skills for articles growth and upkeep is a tiny amount of money to demonstrate the concept and appropriate promoting to parishes. I maintain asking myself, what is the level of our beautiful structures, publications and legacies if we really do not have the future era? The power to modify this picture lies with a unique era. Hear to individuals who 1 day will inherit the duty. Open your eyes to the obstacle. Innovate so the beauty of our church will carry on.

Stepan Piligian

Stepan was elevated in the Armenian neighborhood of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A previous member of the AYF Central Executive and the Jap Prelacy Government Council, he also served several yrs as a delegate to the Jap Diocesan Assembly. At present , he serves as a member of the board and government committee of the National Affiliation for Armenian Reports and Investigate (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Basis. Stepan is a retired government in the computer system storage field and resides in the Boston spot with his wife Susan. He has used many decades as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and up to date troubles to the younger technology and adults at faculties, camps and church buildings. His passions include the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sporting activities and examining.

Stepan Piligian