One of the great struggles we have today in the Church is preserving our children in the Orthodox Faith. Too often they seem not to be interested. Can we somehow motivate our kids to be excited about following Christ and being Orthodox Christians? I believe there is a way. It takes commitment and hard work, but it’s worth it.
1. Make Your Family Your Priority
More important than anything other than the Kingdom of God is our family. I believe if we’re going to raise Orthodox Christian families, our spouses and children have to be our highest priority, next to Christ and His Church.
For the believer, our journey with Christ and His Church always comes first. On that matter, the Scriptures are clear, the Fathers are clear, and the Liturgy is clear. At least four times each Sunday morning we call to mind our holy and blessed God-bearer and all the saints, saying, “Let us commit ourselves and each other and all our life to Christ our God.” Our relationship with God comes first, our commitment to our family comes next, and our dedication to our work is third.
As parents, we need to make a vice-grip-firm commitment that above job, above our social life, above all the things that vie for our time, we will prioritize our families.
If you’re busy, find a way to compensate. I made appointments with my children. If your time is in heavy demand and you don’t block out time for the kids, you’ll never see them. If someone calls and has to see you, you say, “You know, Joe, I’ve got an appointment. I can see you tomorrow.” You decide to prioritize your family.
2. Tell Your Children of God’s Faithfulness
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses is talking to the children of Israel about the importance of keeping God’s commandments. And then he speaks directly to parents and grandparents: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
Maybe you are a parent who came to Christ later in life and feel you didn’t do a good job spiritually with your kids, and now they have families of their own. Well, now you’ve got a crack at your grandkids! This opportunity does not mean that you become your grandchildren’s parent. But what you can do is tell those grandchildren what God has done for you, just like Moses says. Talk to them. If you’ve become more dedicated to Christ later in life, tell your grandkids about that. Tell them lessons that you’ve learned. Tell them real-life stories about God’s faithfulness and His mercy to you.
Moses goes on to explain the importance of such conversations by recalling what the Lord had said to him: “that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children” (Deuteronomy 4:10). Children who are rightly taught the Word of God will teach their own children.
And that is the same spirit we tried to keep in family prayer. When the kids were little, we read Bible stories to them every night. We would pray together. We did that all the way through, and as they got older we encouraged them to say their own prayers at night.
3. Love Your Spouse
Thirdly-and I can’t stress this enough-we do our kids a favor when we love our spouses. Psychologists tell us that even more important than a child feeling love from parents is for that child to know mom and dad love each other. Kids know instinctively that if love in marriage breaks down, there’s not much left over for them.
The beautiful passage that describes this love is in Ephesians 5. It’s the passage that we read as the epistle at our Orthodox weddings. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church”
(v. 25). That means, gentlemen, that we love her enough to die for her. We martyr ourselves to each other; that’s what the wedding crowns are about. I love my wife more than life itself. The crowns also speak of royalty. In my homily at the marriage of our younger son, I said, “Peter, treat her like a queen! Kristina, treat him like a king!” That arrangement works out really well.
4. Never Discipline Out of Anger
There are times when things go wrong, even badly wrong. I would love to tell you that none of our six kids ever missed a beat. Or that mom and dad were infallible. I don’t know of a family where that happens. I will say that on a sliding scale, three of our children were relatively easy to raise, three were more challenging. When some of them got stubborn in their teenage years, I would say to Marilyn, “Remember what we were like at that age? They’re no different than we were.” I was difficult as a teenager, and some of that showed up in our kids.
St. John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). The opposite of that is also true. There is no greater heartache than when our children do not walk in truth. We’ve had a few big bumps in our family. There were nights my wife and I were both in tears as we tried to sleep. We would say, “Lord, is there light at the end of this tunnel?”
One of the verses I memorized out of the Old Testament early in my own parenthood was Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, / And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Let me assure you, that promise from God is true. There were days I wondered whether our family would stand before the Lord fully intact. Thank God for repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace.
Two of my daughters have come to me independently as adults and thanked me for holding their hands when I corrected them. They both had friends whose dads embarrassed their daughters, disciplining in a way that was probably too strong. I encourage fathers to guard against a discipline or correction that engenders wrath in your children. After the correction, give them a hug and let them know you love them.There are times when a father may need to refrain from discipline on the spot because he is angry. Remember that line from “The Incredible Hulk”? “You won’t like me when I’m angry.” If that’s true for a cartoon character, how much more is it true for a real-life dad?
5. Help Your Children Discern God’s Will
Let’s look again at Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The phrase, “in the way he should go,” is not speaking of the way you want him to go. Rather, it’s the way God wants him to go. In other words, taking into account that child’s gifts, his emotional makeup, his personality, his intellect, his calling, you help him discern the path God has for him.
I’m really pleased that Peter Jon is a seminarian and that Wendy’s husband is an Orthodox deacon. But I’m no more pleased with them than I am with Greg, who is a marketing guy, or with Terri, who is a mom of five, or with Ginger and Heidi, who both work outside the home to help their husbands provide for their sons.
To repeat, our job as parents is to try to discern with our children what God wants them to do, and then train them in that way. Whether their calling is in business or law or retailing or service to the Church, I want them to be the best they can be, for the glory of God. And by the way, all of us are in the ministry of Christ by virtue of our baptism. We are ordained as His servants-lay or clergy. Therefore, whatever we do, our goal is to do it for the glory of God.
These, then, are the steps we have tried to take with our children. Thank God, these measures have produced good fruit. At our stage in life, it is wonderful with just the two of us at home to think back over the years and to thank the Lord for children, spouses, and grandchildren who are faithful. There is nothing like it.
That doesn’t mean there will never be any more problems. I’m naïve, but not naïve enough to believe that. There may be bumps yet to come in our lives. But as we confess at our weddings, “The prayers of parents establish the foundations of houses.” These years are not kickback time, but they are a time of thanksgiving.
May God grant you the joy in raising your family in Christ that we have known in raising ours.
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Proactive Approach Trims Risks Linked to Chronic Illness among Children in Ministry Settings
Good planning limits ministry liability when handling children with infectious diseases
If a parent approaches a worker in your children’s ministry to say that his or her child has a serious chronic illness such as AIDS, hepatitis, or tuberculosis, will the worker know how to respond? How will workers respond if they learn that a child is being treated for temporary afflictions like lice, chicken pox, influenza, or the common cold? What if a parent or guardian wants to enroll a child who has not undergone standard immunizations?
For the health and safety of the children, ministry leaders should take a proactive approach and develop policies and procedures for handling children with infectious diseases. In many ways, this is a legal balancing act as ministry leaders must balance the interests of the infected minor with the ministry’s responsibility for the overall health and safety of all children and ministry workers. An infectious diseases policy can mesh legal requirements with generally accepted “best practices” for handling infectious diseases in settings involving minors.
Develop “Best Practices,” Policies, and Procedures
A good place to start is The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has established infection control guidelines for health care workers that churches can adapt to meet the needs of their ministry situations. State health authorities and organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics also are excellent resources that can help ministries identify “best practices.” Brotherhood Mutual’s sample policy form includes standards adapted from CDC guidelines, attendance standards, and other logistical information that can be helpful as you develop such a policy for your church or ministry.
Guidelines related to including or excluding minors from church programs should follow the requirements set by the CDC and state and local health departments. Any infectious diseases policy you develop should itemize specific symptoms of short-term illness that would exclude minors from ministry activities.
If a ministry decides to accommodate an unvaccinated child or a child with a chronic communicable disease, a special medical needs agreement can facilitate the child’s participation in ministry programs and activities. Brotherhood Mutual has developed a sample medical needs agreement for that purpose.
Protect Minors’ Privacy Interests
Ministry leaders should be sensitive to the privacy interests of minors with chronic, communicable diseases and encourage parents to voluntarily notify the church if their child has such a disease. Develop a health information form that asks for health-related background information that ministry workers need to recognize a potential health emergency. Brotherhood Mutual’s sample health information form can provide the foundation for one you develop for your ministry.
A church can limit its risk of being the target of a privacy suit by making sure that private health information is shared only with ministry workers on a “need to know” basis. Generally, parents of other children in a church’s childcare program do not have a right to know about the health status of other children in the program.
Finally, ministry leaders should be aware of any legally mandated reporting requirements to state or local health departments or regulatory authorities when the church is aware of a minor with an infectious disease. State laws commonly name specific communicable diseases that designated mandatory reporters such as physicians and school nurses must report to authorities.
Ministry Worker Training Helps Ensure Effective Policy Implementation
Training of ministry workers is essential to the proper implementation of the ministry’s infectious diseases policy. Ministry worker training should instill a thorough understanding of the church’s policy and the significance of the special medical needs agreement for a child with a chronic communicable disease. It also should build the workers’ knowledge of applicable health, safety, and legal guidelines for church programs for minors. Workers should:
- Be aware of signs and symptoms of illness.
- Know procedures for handling sick children.
- Understand standard guidelines to reduce the spread of infection.
- Be informed of emergency care protocols and the location of first-aid supplies, the use of CPR, and first aid.
- Clearly know the church’s expectations for handling the private medical information of children.
As employers, churches must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements to develop an exposure control plan for blood borne pathogens if they have employees exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials. Training of employees is an important element of complying with OSHA requirements, and an important part of a church’s overall worker training program on infectious disease control.
Maintain Open Communication
Keep the lines of communication open with parents regarding the ministry’s policies and procedures pertaining to infectious diseases. Ministry leaders should ensure that all parents receive a copy of the ministry’s infectious diseases policy and know the church’s guidelines for protecting the privacy interests of minors.
In addition, if the ministry admits unvaccinated children, notify all parents and legal guardians, in writing, that there are—or may be in the future—unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children in attendance at the ministry facility. It’s generally permissible to address the importance of vaccinations and to include the possible consequences of not vaccinating children, such as unvaccinated children being excluded from attendance during an infectious disease outbreak. Also, inform parents that their children’s likelihood of contracting a vaccine-prevented illness may increase, as vaccines are not always 100 percent effective. Do not share the names of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children, except with caretakers who have a need to know.
Consult an Attorney
Church leaders should consult with a local attorney who can provide guidance on the many complex legal issues involved in developing an infectious diseases policy and the related forms and procedural guidelines. A local attorney can provide important instruction to church leaders on relevant federal, state, and local laws that the church or ministry must follow, as well as important overall legal risk management guidance.
Originally Published Here
Trust and obey
The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson. Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible. His grandson who wanted to be just like him tried to imitate him in any way he could.
One day the grandson asked, “Grandpa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?”
The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket,” and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.
At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got very far. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Grandpa, it’s useless!” “So you think it is useless?”
The old man said, “Look at the basket.” The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out. That is the work of God in our lives; to change us from the inside out and to slowly transform us into the image of His son.”