St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church
A parish of the Orthodox Church in America
Parents of our parish
by Fr. Silviu

Dear parents of our parish, know that there are many ways in which you can help your kids grow up in the Church. Rather, it is on you to bring them up in the Church or not. Principally, live out the Church in your home. Among many practical and simple things, this life means the following.

First, please speak to your children about church and church school as often as possible, especially with the smaller ones. Ask them what they have talked about in school, what they have learned, etc. This will help them remember better what they have been told in school and will make school even more familiar to them. Also, this will give you ideas about activities you can do at home. Many materials are available online (some free, some for sale), particularly on the following websites:,,

Second,  keep in mind that, as they approach kindergarten age (about 3), our kids should participate in the liturgy rather than simply play in church. If your children are not there yet in age, then let them play, but please make sure they play in the most quiet way possible. Do not bring with you any toys which make noise or can be used in a noisy manner. Please, no Legos, toy cars, electronic games, tablets, etc. Bring instead coloring books (even better, bring coloring books with church images), or other books, soft toys, etc. But do keep in mind, quiet playful activities work in church if they are already introduced and become common at home. If a child does not play quietly and cannot hold his/her attention for long at home, he/she cannot be expected to play quietly and to be attentive in church. Fill your house with calm and quiet so that our church, too, is also filled with calm and quiet.

Third, please do not feed your children in church. If your child must be fed, then please step outside. This is an ancient practice and of great importance: in church one eats and drinks only what is blessed, what the church provides. By the way, it goes without saying that this prohibition includes us, the grown-ups. If one is sick or is elderly and needs to eat and/or drink something during a service, that is certainly allowed even right before Communion, but the eating and drinking must still be done outside of the church. Children should start fasting after the age of 7.

Fourth, please do not ask or—God forbid—force your children to take communion if they don’t come to church and don’t take communion on a regular basis. Often in such cases children spit out the holy Communion immediately after taking it. Talk to your child about church and Communion, bring them to church often, let them see how others commune for a few months, and then ask them to commune. Please do not expect that they would just do the proper thing out of the blue, as the saying goes. From now on, in order to avoid any spitting out of the holy Communion, I will refuse to give it to children whom I see rarely. If you come to church rarely, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, please do not send your children to the chalice.

As a related note, allow me to say one more thing: if you don’t come to church regularly, you will be the last generation in your family who will attend it at all. It is only by a miracle that your children may be brought back to the Church by God’s mercy alone, but statistics have shown that the parents’ habit of rare attendance almost always leads to the death of the faith in their children. Even if you come to church rarely, certainly you come because you think Church is important. Let me emphasize: your children won’t think like you. To them the church will be entirely insignificant. In their early years children are incapable of abstracting things and dissociating behavior from thought, and your rare attendance will be to them a sign that you don’t care about the Church, even if you tell them that you do. And in their later years, they will see the Church as an antiquated custom of old generations of no relevance to themselves. In today’s ferociously secular world the only good chance you give your own children for being part of the Church is your true membership in it. 

Fifth, let me emphasize that how one prepares for church is very important. Our experience in church is very much determined by our preparation. Careful preparation will give us a sense of anticipation of something important and special, even a sense of awe and reverential excitement. We go to church joyfully, to meet God and to be in his presence. The preparation for church happens in every moment of our life. We cannot reasonably expect not to feel indifferent or out of place in church on Sunday if Sunday morning is the only time we give a thought to it and to God. As I already emphasized, children especially cannot put on a show of piety once a week and will rather act out their heartfelt habits. To put it another way, the manner in which we are in church is prepared by the manner in which we are at home and everywhere else. We, the parents, ought to be people of constant prayer.

Sixth, as a note on the general raising of children, do keep in mind that our Tradition has always seen this essential and blessed task as being proactive and not reactive. As saints have emphasized many times, the education of children in all things begins before they are even conceived, in the manner in which we parents build up our own character, so that by the time we have children we are people of light, joy, sobriety of thought, and gentleness. The rearing of children itself happens while they are still in their mothers' wombs. The parents, formed in the character which I already mentioned, express their love and care for their children while still unborn. They speak to them, comfort them, and teach them. After the child is born the second part of their education begins, part which is done in such a way that the child is not raised as a bundle of egotism and self-will. Generally, we raise our children to be people of ego in two ways--on the one hand, by praising them or making them the focus of our lives, and, on the other, by offending or belittling them. Surprisingly, but not counter-intuitively, when we criticize our children in any harsh ways, in any belittling manner, we force them to concentrate their souls in their egos, so that they can reject our words and can find some "peace" in themselves (or rather a sort of ego-stroking balance to our hurtful attitudes), so that they can endure.  

Therefore, all teaching must start before, and must certainly solidify while the child forms habits in all aspects of life, and not after habits are formed. First and foremost, we teach them the good habits in ourselves, in our own habits, by example, before their own habits are even forming. And second, we are with them throughout their own character-forming growth. We teach them how to eat just as they start eating. We teach them how to be attentive to things while they develop their attention abilities: we spend hours and hours reading to them, drawing with them, coloring with them. We teach them attention by holding our own. Also, even before they start speaking, we teach them how to do it as we speak well around them. When they finally speak, we teach them to speak quietly, with gentleness, with patience, without interrupting others, without speaking over a grown-up. It is a great tragedy of today's child-rearing, of today's playroom culture, that children are left to develop by themselves, in their own spaces, in whichever way their ever-growing egos move them, with very little interaction with grown-ups, and only afterwards parents are reacting to the habits which are already formed and which they themselves don't like. How many parents are overwhelmed by their children because of this lateness in their child-rearing? And how many lose their patience with their children? And even end up hating the entire experience of being a parent? And how many children do not know how to interact with other children or with grown-ups? This is not how our Tradition sees proper child-rearing. In one word, our Tradition tells us to teach our children the virtues. There is an old Romanian saying that children are being fully formed in their first seven years of life. I think they are fully raised up, all the way, in their first three years. Or rather I should say the last stage of education is completed in the first three years of a child's life, but the entire education should last twenty-some years and must include the years in which the parents themselves mature (so that they themselves are people of virtues) and the time when the child is in the womb.

So, dear parents, do not be surprised that your child speaks all the time or most of the time in church, or that they cannot hold their attention, that they must be constantly entertained or looked after, if they speak at home whenever they like and if you constantly entertain or focus on them. If you shower them with kisses and praises when they please you (thus showing yourself to be a person of ego and raising them also to be the same), only to snap at them in anger when they no longer please you. Or if you do whatever they want, only so that they stop terrorizing you. Their behavior in church is an extention of their general behavior at home and everywhere else, and this general behavior is a mirror of how you raised them in their first two years of life. Or rather, their behavior in church is only an expression of their habits.

Finally, let me point you to the page about "saints on the raising of children." Read and take their words to heart. 

Mailing Address
St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church
PO Box 667
Pharr, TX 78577
704 W Sam Houston
Pharr, TX 78577
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