"Making Time for God"
By Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.
The Church School year is nearly over. Before we know it, we’ll be packing kids off to Sports Camps, Band Camp, Dance Camp and Cheerleading Camp. These are all wonderful experiences for our children, but what have I forgotten?
Summer Camp! The Summer Camp program of each Metropolis is not only a life-changing experience for some of our young people, but it is one way for them to step out of their compartmentalized lives and enter the world of “Making Time for God” 24/7 for one week.
Tell me if I am wrong, but I believe that deep within of us, we want our children, grandchildren and godchildren to stay within the Orthodox Church, to marry and baptize their children (our grandchildren and great-grandchildren) in the Orthodox Church and to pray for us after we are gone.
If so, we had better be proactive.
In the 3rd century Tertullian of Carthage expressed an eternal truth: “A man becomes a Christian with sound teaching; he is not born one.”
It takes effort and commitment on our part as parents, grandparents and godparents! “Making Time for God" must be a priority in our own lives first. Placing our focus on God before and after the children are born is the effort and commitment.
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” [NRSV]
God promises children will stay in the Faith if we have done our part. Let us pray that our efforts are the best we can do. Thus, when the time comes for them to use their God-given gift of free will, they will choose to stay in the Faith that has, by then, become their own.
What does training a child in the right way involve? St. John Chrysostom’s 4th century wisdom includes:
(1) “The primary goal in the education of children is to teach, and to give the example of a virtuous life.” Teach the Faith by the example of a life that seeks to be: faithful, moral, respectable, honorable, worthy, decent, reputable and virtuous.
(2) When St. John Chrysostom said, “Fathers and mothers: Go and lead your child by the hand into the Church,” he was talking about regular Family Worship.
The “Practice” part of the “training” includes participation in the “Worship of the Church.” Worship is the Greatest Teacher. In “Worship” we hear God’s Word, sing God’s Praises and receive God’s Spiritual Food. In other words, when we Worship we do more than "Make Time for God," we can totally focus on God.
BEFORE A VACATION plan on "Making Time for God" each Sunday mornings. Locate the nearest Orthodox Church. The Assembly of Bishops website offers a parish directory of the canonical Orthodox Churches in America - http://assemblyofbishops.org
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America is made up of all active, canonical Orthodox bishops of the United States of America, of every jurisdiction.
Attending Orthodox Churches in different parts of the country or of different backgrounds can be exciting. If the children are unenthused, approach it like a Church School “religious game.” Make it fun, educational, plus a chance to meet other Orthodox Christians.
The Goal: Each family member is to look for things that are different from their home parish experience, but not to the exclusion of worship. After the Coffee Hour, make time to list and discuss the observations. Compare the findings with the next parish the family visits.
No matter where FAMILIES RELOCATE and STUDENTS go to COLLEGE, there is usually an Orthodox Church to attend. Because Orthodox Christianity came to America from different countries, expect to see some different traditions.
More important, though, is that all Orthodox Christians recite the same Creed and have the same beliefs.
CHOICES - The final way of “Making Time for God” is making good Choices involving time. When signing up for fall activities, weigh the value of each activity. Parents are in the best position to help children choose what is in their best interest.
Carefully consider the time commitment of each activity. If any conflict with Worship, ask yourself, “Is this it the right activity for my child?” Scheduling too many activities means participation in HOPE, JOY, GOYA, Church School and Worship suffer. How do you feel about this?
LOOK AT THE LONG TERM - If “Making Time for God,” which includes Church-related activities, is important for the ongoing and future participation of our children in the Orthodox Church, what do we have to do? What greater gift can we give them than coming to know Christ and the Orthodox Christian Faith?
HISTORICAL NOTE - For centuries the entire Christian community was involved in the spiritual formation of Christians - both children and adults - by example, in the Liturgy and in daily life. They did not have to “Make Time for God,” it was the norm. Today there is competition for time commitments
St. John Chrysostom stresses the importance of the religious and spiritual formation of our children when he said, “With us, everything should be secondary compared to our concern with children and their upbringing in the instruction and teaching of the Lord.”
We have to “Make Time for God.”
OCEC-Orthodox Christian Education Commission, EOS-Eastern Orthodox committee on Scouting, OCMC-Orthodox Christian Mission Center, OCAMPR-Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion, IOCC-International Orthodox Christian Charities, and OCF-Orthodox Campus Fellowship.