My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
WHAT IS FAMILY MINISTRY?
By Rev. Father Alexander Goussetis
"The family is a microcosm of the entire Church, a most sacred place where relationships with one another are cultivated in the love of Jesus Christ." - Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
More and more in our Archdiocese, we are seeing the development of family ministry as parishes begin to host family nights, parent retreats, mom mornings and a variety of other activities that fall under this umbrella. Ministry to family, however, is so much more than just hosting programs and retreats. It connects the Church with the home. It focuses on equipping the faithful to apply the teachings and practices of the Orthodox Faith in every dimension of their lives. It can benefit every member of our parish family!
But who is part of this family? In the traditional sense, the family is composed of the parents and children in a household all brought together by Divine grace-the "domestic church." Additionally, it must be understood that the Church--the body of Christ--constitutes a broader dimension of the family through the very real spiritual relationship established through the Baptism and Chrismation that unites all of its members. We are all one family in Christ!
When we see our parish as a family, we extend family ministry beyond the demographic of parents and children and look at the entire cycle of life. Recently, a parish was hosting a family night for parents and children. On the day of the event, a woman in her eighties who had no children or grandchildren asked if she could come--the parish, of course, welcomed her. Instead of sitting home alone, she joined the family night. She watched the children playing, helped with crafts, listened to the adult's program and broke bread with her fellow parishioners. She left with feelings of joy and a sense that she belonged to the Church family. Not only did she benefit from attending, but the children and their parents also benefited from interacting with her throughout the evening. This is what Family Ministry does--it brings all the children of God together.
On a practical level, how do we develop this type of family ministry? How do we attempt to connect Church and home? As a parish, consider the following core values when developing a family ministry.
Engaging in an active, authentic relationship with Christ manifested through personal prayer, community worship and sacramental life.
Through what lens do we view the world? Are our daily decisions dictated primarily by political perspectives, scientific insights or cultural observations? As valuable as those worldly disciplines may be, the goal of the Christian life is to develop and cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ. The liturgical and sacramental services inform us and shape us, revealing the pathway to salvation. Personal prayer allows for an intimate union with God, sharing our daily joys and struggles with our beloved Creator. As a parish family, we encourage our members to engage in an active, authentic relationship with Christ. As we minister to families we can ask ourselves the following:
How do we encourage parish family members to develop a rule of prayer that guides their daily connection with God?
How do we inspire parish family members to become active participants in the worship cycle of our Church?
How do we impress parish family members to pray for one another in their homes and throughout the day?
How do we motivate parish family members to fully participate in all the sacraments the Church has to offer?
Providing balance and structure in our innovative and creative endeavors through the Holy Tradition of our faith.
The social norms of society often change over time, sometimes from permissive to restrictive and back again. Families may struggle with how to live an authentic Orthodox Christian life, especially when the standards and ethos of society shift or conflict with the Orthodox Christian Faith. Fortunately, the teachings, practices, and values of our Church have remained balanced and consistent for 2,000 years, allowing families to rely on a firm foundation while adapting to the needs of the family at any given time.
How do we teach our parish family members about the role of Holy Tradition in their daily lives?
How do we guide our parish family members toward developing a relationship with a spiritual father--preferably their parish priest--to help them maintain an Orthodox perspective while navigating through societal shifts? How do we educate them as to what this relationship should be?
How do we help our parish family members integrate the rhythm of the Church year into their daily lives to promote balance and structure?
How do we as a parish use innovation and creativity to aid our parish family's spiritual journey?
Giving of ourselves sacrificially through genuine mutuality.
Jesus is the ultimate model of self-sacrifice, inviting us to a deep and intimate relationship of love both in this life and the world to come. In 1 Corinthians 12, Saint Paul offers the image of the body of Christ, emphasizing that every part of the body has innate value and works together for the greater good. The family is the ideal setting for modeling mutuality and support for one another, joyfully surrendering our own ego while expressing a selfless love for each member. (Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God