In the Orthodox Church, we often refer to the home as “The Little Church.” The idea is that the home should reflect the Church as a place where the faith is taught and lived. The home is where children learn about Christ and how to follow him, where love and forgiveness and repentance are practiced.
That can seem like a pretty tall order when you’re just trying to remember to take your laundry out of the washing machine before it begins to mildew. (Or, maybe that’s just me….)
However, there are many simple, practical, and small ways that we can begin to make our homes a little church. Here are:
12 Practical Ways to Live Out the Faith at Home
1. Pray the Morning Prayers as a Family
Mornings can be a crazy time–people running around to get ready, lunches to prepare, buses to catch. However, starting our day off before the throne of God in prayer shows our children that faith is the ultimate priority in our family. Even if you just gather in your icon and pray the Lord’s Prayer together, starting the day in prayer sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you have more time, you can find the complete morning prayers in your prayer book (we like this one in our house).
Related Article: Making Time for Morning Prayers
2. Create an Icon Corner
Setting aside a designated place to pray in your home has been an important part of Orthodox tradition from the very beginning. Therefore, Orthodox families have icon corners in their houses with various icons, prayer books, candles and incense, holy water, and more. Filling our homes with icons of Christ and his saints gives us constant reminders of the need for prayer, of the reality of our faith.
Related Article: How to Create an Icon Corner
3. Read Orthodox Children’s Books Together
If your children are anything like mine, they look forward to our family reading time each night! One simple way to bring our faith into our daily lives is to begin reading some Orthodox stories during that reading time. There are many fantastic children’s books out there about the life of Christ, of the saints, of holy living, and more. We also have a shelf in our living room that is dedicated to our Orthodox books. The shelf is easily accessible to our children, inviting them to read them at any time.
Related Article: Top 5 Favorite Orthodox Children’s Books
4. Read (or Listen To) the Daily Readings as a Family
In the Orthodox Church, each day has certain Scripture readings that are assigned to it. These include a Gospel reading and either an Epistle or an Old Testament reading. Your family can read these together, perhaps at the dinner table or before Evening prayers. You can also listen to the daily readings through Ancient Faith Radio’s podcast The Path. We also like to read the Gospel in our children’s Bible so it is slightly easier for the little ones to understand.
Related Article: Top 10 Best Resources for Orthodox Families
5. Pray the Evening Prayers
Adding the Evening Prayers to your bedtime routine can be transformational to your family. You can make it as simple as you would like. In our family we often just pray the Trisagion prayers, the Jesus Prayer, and then sing a hymn. I am amazed at how even our youngest can learn to pray the Lord’s Prayer and sing along with us!
Related Article: Creating a Routine of Evening Prayers
6. Ask Forgiveness of Each Other
Each member of a family will offend the others at one time or another. That is why asking each other for forgiveness is so important. Parents can teach their children how to ask for forgiveness, model it, and in turn ask their children or spouse for forgiveness when needed. Another great way to practice forgiveness is by having a “mini-Forgiveness Vespers” as a family once a week or more. Each family member will prostrate before the others, say, “Forgive me, a sinner” and hear, “God forgives and so do I.” What a powerful practice.
7. Make Name Days a Big Deal
Our culture goes all out in celebrating birthdays! However, in many Orthodox countries, name days (or saint days) are an even bigger deal. Each Orthodox Christian has a saint that they were named after or received at chrismation. That saint’s feast day is then known as the person’s name day. Help teach your child the importance of their relationship with their saint by celebrating their name day. We let the child celebrating choose a special meal and special treat, hold the icon of their saint during prayers, lead in singing their saint’s troparion, and listen to the story of their saint.
Related Article: Celebrating Name Days
8. Sing the Hymns of the Church
Children love to sing and listen to music. They also learn things much better when they are put to music. This makes singing hymns such a fun and natural way to incorporate the faith into daily life. You can listen to Ancient Faith radio, purchase Orthodox music to play at home and in the car, sing hymns from Liturgy during prayers, etc. If your church sings the Lord’s Prayer, sing it during prayer time to help your children learn it. The options are endless!
9. Fast Together
There are four fasting periods in the Orthodox Church–Great Lent, the Apostles Fast, the Dormition Fast, and the Nativity Fast. In addition, Orthodox Christians also fast every Wednesday (in remembrance of the betrayal of Christ) and Friday (in remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion). Fasting for the Orthodox means abstaining from meat and dairy products as a way to eat more simply and focus on prayer and almsgiving. Involving your entire family in the fasts–talking about the reasons for fasting, giving to food banks, letting children help plan the menus–can be a meaningful way to live out the faith at home.
Related Article: Our Family’s Plan for Great Lent
10. Find Ways to Give to Others
The family unit is not only focused on itself, however. We are called to help our children learn to love and serve others as Christ commanded. This can mean volunteering together at a local charity, cleaning the church building, writing letters to elderly church members, or donating toys and clothes to shelters.
Related Article: 10 Ways Your Children Can Serve Others
11. Pray Before and After Meals
Perhaps the simplest way to begin making the home a Little Church is by praying before and after meals. This small act reminds the entire family that everything is a gift from God, that everyone depends on His blessing and provision. Giving thanks for our food can lead to a spirit of humility and gratitude in other areas of life.
12. Attend Liturgies as a Family
Finally, one of the most important things that we as parents can do for our children is to take them to Church. Bring them before God in the Divine Liturgy, pray with them, listen to the Word of God, and receive the Eucharist together. Yes, it can be very difficult (not to mention exhausting!) having young children in Church. But, remember, they are God’s children. And he wants them in Church. He welcomes them–and you–to His house.
Related Article: Engaging Children in Church: Tips and Tricks for Parents
Above all, the greatest way to live out your faith at home is through love. Love God. Love each other. Love others.
The rest will follow.
What would you add to this list? How do you live out your faith at home with your family?
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