A man once asked some of his friends the following question: “What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘ministry’?” He received many answers to the question, but two of them were rather unfortunate. “That’s Father’s job,” his friends replied. Ministry simply defined is serving others. The fact of the matter is that every Orthodox Christian is called to ministry. That is, we are all called to serve.
Every year on Meatfare Sunday, two Sundays before the beginning of Great Lent, we hear the Gospel account of the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31–46). Christ gives a sobering account of the judgment of the righteous and the wicked.
The righteous inherit eternal life, having acts of mercy as evidence of their faith in Christ. The Lord places them at His right hand, stating “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” The wicked, on the other hand, are sent to eternal punishment for their lack of mercy.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.” Our Lord identifies with those in need, and our response to them is an indication of our response to Him.
Some people may ask, “Why do I have to serve the less fortunate? Why can’t I just worry about my family and friends?”
While it is important to look after our friends and relatives, and to serve them during their times of need, Jesus clearly states that we benefit when serving those who cannot repay us. In the Final Judgment passage, He uses the following people as examples: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.
Let us also consider the Savior’s words in Luke 6:34: “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.”
So if serving is important for us as Orthodox Christians, how do we lead our children to it? Children can be quite impressionable.
Parents, grandparents, and godparents often have a profound impact on the younger members of their families, particularly in matters of faith. Their example, or lack thereof, has the potential to shape children’s attitudes toward the Church and serving others.
It is essential to make Orthodoxy a regular part of a child’s life as early as possible, both on Sunday in church and throughout the week at home. In addition to praying together daily as a family, it is also wise to reinforce your child’s Church school lesson from the previous Sunday.
Furthermore, families should make charitable service a regular component of their lives. If your son or daughter happens to ask why your family is visiting the sick, attending Orthodox prayer services at nursing homes, or volunteering to feed the hungry, you may simply respond that “Christ wants us to do this.” Stated another way, genuine Christian faith influences our actions. Orthodoxy is not just a religion; it is a way of life.
There are numerous ministry opportunities for Orthodox Christians both in the parish and in the community at large.
Most parishes have ministry opportunities such as altar servers, choir members, chanters, readers, greeters, church school teachers, and many more. It is also important for us to serve those who are beyond our home church’s walls: the community at large.
Though opportunities may vary from one city to another, there are many Orthodox ministries that are in need of volunteers and/or donors.
Ask your priest how you may get involved in one or more ministries at your home parish, and discuss the possibilities with your children.
Come up with a project that works for your family.
Christ teaches us about mercy: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
May we emulate the mercy of Christ as we serve those around us.
Gerald Largent is ministry coordinator of the St. Panteleimon Orthodox Christian Outreach, a tax-exempt, pan-Orthodox ministry under the spiritual protection of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Lakewood, Ohio (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA–Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople). He regularly visits residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other group homes. You can contact Gerald at [email protected].