Today I am excited to welcome Amber from Rejoice in the Home. I discovered her lovely blog about a month ago and am so happy that she agreed to write a guest post. I hope that you enjoy her thoughts on creating the “little church” within the home.
Going to church regularly greatly supports our faith. The Reverend Dr. Thomas Fitzgerald says:
“Orthodoxy believes that the Christian Faith and the Church are inseparable. It is impossible to know Christ, to share in the life of the Holy Trinity, or to be considered a Christian, apart from the Church. It is in the Church that the Christian Faith is proclaimed and maintained. It is through the Church that an individual is nurtured in the Faith.”
Since attending church is central to our faith as Orthodox Christians, it only makes sense that we bring the life of the Church into our home.
St. John Chrysostom spoke about how we are to make our homes “little churches.” How can we go about fulfilling this calling? We must examine the qualities found in our churches and do our best to translate them into our home life.
Here are 5 practical ways to make your home a “little church”.
1. Display Your Faith
If you were trying to find an Orthodox church in a new town you would follow your GPS. How would you know that you have arrived at the correct address if you’ve never been there before? You would likely see a bulb-shaped dome (cupola) with an Orthodox cross on top of the church, as well as its name on a sign.
Once you entered the building, you would see clergy censing icons and laypeople lighting candles. The walls would be covered with iconography, incense would fill the air, and church music would ring in your ears. A sense of calm would envelop you as you settled into your pew and the service began.
When we see these symbols of our faith we know we have entered a house of worship. Likewise, adorning our homes in a similar manner (make us and others aware we have entered a little church) creates a Christ-filled home.
As we enter our home, our love for God should be evident. We should see icons, crosses, Bibles and spiritual books on display. Our prayer corner may include censors or candles. Our favorite Biblical quotes may be hung on our refrigerator or bedroom mirror.
It can be easy to forget about God in our busy home life, so by placing reminders of Christ throughout our home, we become more likely to focus on Him.
2. Pray to God
If there is one thing that we do often in church that we need to do more at home it’s pray. I’ve heard priests say that in Orthodoxy we “pray before we pray.” In essence, the Divine Liturgy is one long prayer to God. We continue saying “again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord” followed by “Lord have mercy.” We insert petitions for specific people (clergy, president, country, all civil authorities, homebound parishioners, those celebrating birthdays, etc.).
We can begin our dialogue with God with any familiar prayers we know. Whether it’s the Lord’s prayer, O Heavenly King, or the Jesus prayer, we have multiple avenues to commune with God. When we want to connect with God we can use these prayers followed by our private devotions.
By having set times for individual and family prayers, we bring the sense of order found in the church into our homes. Do you pray with your family before meals? At the beginning of the day or the end? No matter when you choose to pray (and you can certainly pray more than once) it’s good to keep it consistent.
There is no more powerful way to raise your children in the faith than to instill the importance of regular prayer time. When you make prayer a regular habit, your home will feel like a “little church.”
3. Nurture Your Faith
We go to church to deepen our faith in Christ, so it’s our jobs as Orthodox wives and mothers to nurture this faith at home. To avoid complacency in our faith we need to keep on learning and encourage our spouses and children to do the same.
There are so many ways to grow in our Christian faith. Reading the Bible strengthens our foundation and connects us to God in a truly profound way. Quality spiritual books can support us in living out the faith in practical ways. If you prefer auditory learning you can download podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio and listen to them in the car or while doing chores.
It’s important to remember that learning is not a solo effort, but something that you can do as a family. Carve out time to do a family Bible study or to listen to a spiritual lecture. It will spark great discussions and everyone will learn something from it. If you can’t do it together then at least share what you are learning with your spouse and children.
Your children should see you learning about the Faith, no matter their ages. As you strive to grow in the faith your children will take notice and want to emulate you. Don’t underestimate the value in nurturing the faith at home.
4. Develop a Sense of Community
Each year my church hosts an annual food festival. It’s such a fun time because I get a chance to see the entire church community come together. We put in long days and tons of work because we care about supporting our church and each other.
I’ve felt this sense of community in both my church and within my husband’s family. Seeing how close my husband is to his siblings and parents is what I admire the most about his family. I can tell they were raised in a loving, Christian home – a “little church” community.
To imitate the church, our homes need to have a strong sense of community. Our church is a family of believers working together to help each other in this life and the age to come. Our home should be no different.
How can you develop a strong sense of community within your family?
- Go to church together
- Share a meal together and pray before it
- Pray as a family
- Discuss your days (not just what happened, but your thoughts and feelings, too)
- Make time for each other
- Share hobbies and interests
- Read the Bible and other spiritual books and discuss them with each other
- Volunteer together
- Teach your family that your home is a safe place to be vulnerable
- Resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner
- Correct each other in loving ways without being judgmental
- Help each other out with chores and errands
- Live by the fruits of the Spirit, putting “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” into all you do. (Galatians 5:22)
We need to spend quality time with our husbands and children if we want to cultivate community within the home. Don’t be too busy to make time for each other. Find simple ways to connect.
5. Practice Hospitality
We partake in fellowship with other church members during coffee hour. After a long morning of prayers and fasting, it’s such a relief to have a meal provided, no matter how simple. It’s also a wonderful chance to make friendships with other believers.
We can demonstrate our gratitude for the church’s hospitality by returning the favor. Why not invite others into your home to share a meal? What better way to share Christ’s love than to do something nice for others as a family? That is the mark of a Christian household – to be generous, opening up your home to all.
Inviting others into your home is the final step in making your house a “little church”. Your guests will see your faith evident in their surroundings, as well as when you sit down to pray. They may see spiritual books on your coffee table which could open up a discussion on faith. Lastly, they will notice your virtues, and understand your family to be a loving community of believers. When your family practices hospitality all five of these qualities are put into action. This is how you will know that your home has become a “little church”.
One of the best resources on building a “little church” in your home is: Blueprints for the Little Church by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Be sure to check it out!
Amber Metz is an Orthodox Christian, a wife, and a writer. She helps women prioritize their faith, family, and wellness at her blog, Rejoice in the Home. If you want to strengthen these areas of your life, be sure to check out the many free resources she provides on her blog.