Planting & Nurturing the Seed of Faith
Fr. Alexander Goussetis
"How do we keep our children in the Church?" As a pastor this is a question that I hear posed very frequently. It is a valid concern, especially in light of increased secularism and even hostility toward people of faith in our culture. There are no easy answers. Yet a verse from the ancient Book of Proverbs still resonates in our contemporary world:
Train up a child in the way (s)he should go,
and when (s)he is old (s)he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
The actions and values of parents strongly influence their children’s spiritual lives. Whatever we model for our children will have a much greater impact than any words or lecturing we may impart. The spiritual foundation we establish for them may determine the degree to which they remain active and committed Christians in the future. Here are the conclusions of just a few of the many sociological studies regarding this influence:
Parental religious values have a very strong bearing on adolescent church attitudes. They are far more important than socio-economic factors, the type of school attended, the years of formal religious training, either in Sunday School or parochial school, or religious education programs... The very strong influence of parents is mostly through their behavior, not through a conscious effort to socialize their children into the church (Hoge and Petrillo).
...The image of God, as has been shown, is closely related to the image of the parents; the ideas of God, sin, guilt,, and forgiveness grow out of experiences of parental love and au- thority and their parents reactions to their successes and failure and their joys and sorrows (Hirschberg).
... A crucial aspect of passing Christian faith is the amount of God-talk in the home, and the involvement of the father in this is of particular importance (D. Ratcliff & J. A. Davies).
As parents we need to examine our hearts as to how well we are sharing Christ and His teachings with our children by word and example:
- Do we pray with our children?
- Do we read the Bible to them and with them?
- Do we pray daily for our children?
- Do we teach them who Jesus is and what He means in our lives?
- Do we make family attendance at the Divine Liturgy the priority of the week?
- Do we go to Holy Confession and instruct our children to do so?
- Do we prepare for and receive Holy Communion, the living Resurrected Christ, on a regular basis with our children?
These are the basic duties and privileges of the Orthodox Christian parent. To neglect these duties is to handicap and withhold the fundamental building blocks of the Christian life here on earth and for eternal life for our children. We all fall short in our divine vocation as parents, but let us renew our commitment to bless our children with the resurrected life in Christ.