Category Archives: Ideas

On the Sacraments: the Sacrament of Baptism

This post is part of a series about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church. In this post, we will look at the Orthodox Christian Sacrament of Baptism.

Baptism is the first sacrament or mystery that we encounter in our Orthodox Christian life. It is the door through which Orthodox Christians enter into the Church. Stepping into the life of the Church through baptism enables us to experience all of the other sacraments. Our baptism marks the beginning of our death to ourselves, and the glorious unification of our soul with Christ.

The “Orthodox Study Bible” defines baptism as “The sacrament whereby one is born again, buried with Christ, resurrected with Him and united to Him. In baptism, one becomes a Christian and is joined to the Church.” (p. 1776) It continues by discussing Christ’s baptism. His baptism was significant because of its effect on the physical world. Our Lord’s baptism made water become holy, and now water can be used as the means for the Holy Spirit to grant us new life!

We begin the sacrament of baptism with the exorcism, wherein the person to be baptized (or their godparents, on their behalf) rejects Satan and unites themself instead to Christ. Prayers for the consecration of the water happen next, then the anointing by oil of the person to be baptized. After that comes the triple immersion, where the person is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The newly-baptized person is then chrismated, given the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Chrism which is used to anoint them. After the newly-baptized person has been chrismated, they are tonsured. Tonsuring (cutting bits of hair and burning them as an offering to the Lord) shows that the newly baptized person is willing to be obedient to Christ and sacrifice to Him. Following the tonsuring, there is a procession wherein the newly baptized person and his/her Godparents process around the font and/or table. This procession is a sign of spiritual rejoicing, and it’s done in a circle because God is never ending, as is a circle. The baptismal service culminates in communion. The Eucharist is a physical way in which Christians can mystically be united with Christ, and the freshly-baptized person is now so thoroughly transformed that they are able to meet and receive Him through the Eucharist.

St. Gregory of Nyssa called the baptismal font “both tomb and mother,” a picture that helps us grasp the importance of the sacrament of baptism. At the moment of our baptism, we die to ourselves, and in the same instant we are born into life in Christ and His Church.

Glory to God for His gift of the sacrament of baptism!

Here are some scriptures and quotes from Church Fathers on baptism, as well as a few resources that you may find interesting and helpful as you study this important sacrament. What baptism resources have you found helpful? Comment below and share them with the community!

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Teachers of young children may want to use this lesson plan and printables to help their students learn more about baptism: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/013-EN-ed02_Holy-Baptism.pdf

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The Teaching Pics ( http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics) offer a series of pictures on baptism that can be very helpful as you teach a lesson on the subject to any age group. Pictures S1 – S8 show the significant events of a baptism. The text that goes with each picture explains the process well. If you do not already have them, you can order the teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf

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This book can help younger students learn about their baptism: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Baptism-Chrismation/View-all-products.html

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Dr. Pat’s Orthodox Super Sunday School Curriculum offers free online lessons. Here are links to lessons on baptism for each age group:

For ages 3-5: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/baptism-0

For ages 6-9: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/6-9-years-old/baptism

For ages 10-12: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/10-12-years-old/baptism

For middle school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/middle-school/baptism

For high school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/baptism

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Other Christians with whom our students interact have vastly different beliefs about baptism and its importance, so it is imperative that we help our students to know what baptism is, how it works, why we practice it even with infants, and how vital it is to our life in Christ! Invite older students to read this article during a class on the sacrament of baptism: http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/infant-baptism-what-church-believes. After reading it, challenge the students to read at least one of the biblical accounts of baptism listed in the article, and to make a list of 3 things they didn’t know about baptism or found interesting.

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What difference does our baptism make in our life? This article shares two accounts of the power of baptism. Teachers will be encouraged in their own faith by reading these accounts. Perhaps older students will enjoy reading these accounts, as well, if you decide to incorporate them into a lesson on baptism. http://orthochristian.com/80501.html

 

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Learning About the Saints: St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (August 13 or 26)

In 1724, in the village of Korotsk, in the Novgorod diocese of Russia, Sabellius Kirillov and his wife had a baby boy, who they named Timothy. Timothy’s father was a cantor. Unfortunately, when Timothy was still young, his father died. The family was very poor after Sabellius’ death. Timothy’s mother planned to send Timothy to live in the home of their neighbor, who was a coachman, but Timothy’s brother Peter stopped her. Since the family was so poor, Timothy had to work outside of the home, even while he was still very young. He would work all day just to get a piece of bread to eat.

When Timothy was 13, he was sent to a school near the Novgorad archbishop’s home. He paid his way through school by working with the vegetable gardeners. Three years later, God provided a grant that allowed Timothy to attend the Novgorod Seminary. He did really well in school, and became a teacher at the seminary after graduation. He taught Greek, then rhetoric and philosophy. Four years later, Timothy was tonsured with the name Tikhon and he became the seminary prefect.
A year later, Tikhon was transferred to Tver, where he became the archimandrite of Zheltikov Monastery. He worked there until he was made rector of the Tver Seminary and placed in charge of the Otroch Monastery.

Fr. Tikhon was named as one of eight candidates for bishop of Novgorod. In the process of discerning who should be bishop, three times the lot fell in Tikhon’s favor. So, on May 13, 1761, Fr. Tikhon was consecrated as the bishop of Novgorod.

Two years later, Bishop Tikhon was transferred to Voronezh. While he worked in that diocese, the bishop encouraged his people by his life, his guidance, and the books that he wrote. He did what he could to make sure that every priest, deacon, and monk had a copy of the New Testament. He encouraged them to read it every day. He also encouraged them to be very reverent when they were performing their holy duties. He worked very hard to build up the churches in his diocese, to convert a school into a monastery, and to help pastors realize how important it was for people to be educated. He worked so hard that sometimes he did not have time to sleep! Because of all of this work, by 1767, Bishop Tikhon’s poor health forced him to stop being the bishop. He went to the Tolshevsk Monastery to rest and recover.

After almost two years of recovery, Bishop Tikhon went to the monastery of the Theotokos in Zadonsk. While he was there, he taught people about the Christian life. He was so wise. But Bishop Tikhon did not just tell people how to be a good monastic! Instead of telling them, he showed them with his own life how to do so! Almost every day, he went to the church and served or read or sang in the choir. Later, in humility he stopped doing those things that made him visible. Instead, he would just stand quietly in the altar during the divine services, reverently making the sign of the cross. Outside of church, Bishop Tikhon spent a lot of time reading about the saints and reading the writings of the Holy Fathers. He memorized the whole Psalter so that he could recite or sing the Psalms while he traveled from one place to another.

When he was healthy again, Bishop Tikhon considered going back to Novgorod. He missed his flock there and wanted to help them, and they invited him to return. But his elder, Elder Aaron, would not allow it. Bishop Tikhon did not argue with Elder Aaron even though he wanted to go. Instead, he tore up the invitation to return and continued quietly serving at the monastery. During these years, he kept writing. He wrote “A Spiritual Treasury, Gathered from the World” in 1770 and “On True Christianity” in 1776.
Throughout his life, Bishop Tikhon lived very simply. He slept on straw and used a sheepskin coat for his blanket. When workers laughed at him for his simple lifestyle, he would calmly accept their laughter and say, “It is pleasing to God that even the monastery workers mock me, and I deserve it, because of my sins.” One day a fool hit Bishop Tikhon on the cheek and told him not to be so haughty. Instead of being angry or dismissing the fool because he was a fool, the bishop was thankful for the reminder. For the rest of his life, he gave the fool 3 kopeks every day, out of gratitude. The bishop often said, “Forgiveness is better than revenge.”

Bishop Tikhon loved the common people and did whatever he could to help them. Sometimes that meant going to their landowners and helping them become more compassionate to the poor who lived on their land. Other times he gave his own money to the poor. He ended up giving away all of his retirement money! Gifts that his admirers sent to the bishop were also given to the poor.

Near the end of his life, Bishop Tikhon saw visions of the Theotokos and the Apostles Peter and Paul. He was given the ability to prophesy that Russia would win over France in 1812. His attendants reported other wonders performed by the bishop, as well, including seeing him transformed in prayer, with his face glowing. In his humility, he asked them not to talk about it.

Bishop Tikhon knew that he would repose on a Sunday, and he was given a three-year warning before his repose. This is how he learned about it: he had a vision of a beautiful meadow. He wanted to go into the meadow, but was told “In three years you may enter. For now, continue your labors.” After seeing the vision, the bishop stayed in his cell much of the time, and received communion frequently. Not long before he died, he had a dream of a tall, twisty ladder. He heard a command that he should climb the ladder. He was afraid at first, because he was ill and weak. But he told his friend Cosmas, “when I started to go climb, the people standing around the ladder lifted me higher and higher, up to the very clouds.” Cosmas told him that he thought perhaps the ladder was the way to the Heavenly Kingdom, and that the people helping him climb were all the souls that Bishop Tikhon had helped by his advice. Now they were helping him into heaven as they remembered him. The bishop, crying, agreed that he had had the same thought and that he would soon depart this life. And he did, on Sunday, August 13, 1783. He was only 59.
Almost 53 years later, on May 14, 1864, Bishop Tikhon’s relics were uncovered and found to be incorrupt. He was elevated to sainthood by the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday August 13, 1861.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, please pray for our salvation!
Sources: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/73196.htm and https://oca.org/saints/lives/2011/08/13/102287-st-tikhon-the-bishop-of-voronezh-and-wonderworker-of-zadonsk-and

 

Here are some ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about (and from) St. Tikhon:

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Listen to this 2-minute “Saint of the Day” podcast about St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, to help your students learn about his life: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday/aug_13_-_st._tikhon_of_zadonsk

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This well-known quote by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk is a great focus for your class, after having heard the story of his life: “As a merchant from various lands gathers various goods, and brings them into his house and treasures them there, likewise a Christian can collect from the world soul-saving thoughts, and by collecting them in the treasury of his heart can form his soul.”

Share the quote with your students, then hand each of them a copy of this printable pdf of a treasure chest: http://coolest-free-printables.com/2013/02/03/printable-treasure-chest/ Talk together about the quote. What did St. Tikhon mean, “soul-saving thoughts?” And where in the world can we find these? Spend a period of time brainstorming and sharing thoughts that you all may wish to collect in the treasury of your heart. They can include Holy Scriptures, songs from the church, quotes from the church fathers, etc. Have your students write (or draw) their favorites into the treasure chest, to help them remember that they are collecting that treasure. (Alternate idea: instead of using the pdf treasure chest, purchase simple boxes or hinged treasure chests – available for about a dollar at craft stores – and have your students decorate them. Throughout the year, allow students to add a quote or scripture from each lesson to their “treasury.” At the end of the Sunday Church School year, they can review the SCS year by looking through their treasure chest and remembering the lesson associated with each insert. Send your students home with their treasury at the end of the Sunday Church School year, with a copy of this quote from St. Tikhon and the admonishment to continue to collect these kinds of thoughts in their hearts for the rest of their life!)

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Did you notice, in  the story of the of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, that he had the entire Psalter memorized? Well, guess what? He had also memorized the entire New Testament! May his life encourage us to continue our efforts to teach our students to memorize the scriptures, as well! After studying his life and telling the students about his broad memorization of scripture, select a passage to help the children to memorize. Need ideas for how to do so? Visit our blog post on that subject! https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/on-scripture-memorization-part-2/
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St. Tikhon has been called “The Chrysostom of the Russian Church” because of his many straightforward and beautiful writings and teachings. Here are a few of his teachings. Share some of them with middle-years (or older) students, and discuss them together!

“Prayer does not consist merely in standing and bowing your body or in reading written prayers….it is possible to pray at all times, in all places, with mind and spirit. You can lift up your mind and heart to God while walking, sitting, working, in a crowd and in solitude. His door is always open, unlike man’s. We can always say to Him in our hearts, ‘Lord have mercy.’” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“In going to church, think that thou art going to the house of the King of Heaven, where with fear and joy one ought to stand as in heaven before the King of Heaven. While standing in church, do not look around to the sides and do not look at how someone is standing and praying, lest thou be condemned with the Pharisee, since thou didst not come to judge others, but to ask for mercy for thyself from God the Judge and Knower of hearts. Gaze with compunction toward the altar alone, where the holy sacrifice is offered. More than anything else, beware of laughter and conversations, for whoever laughs or converses while standing in church does not render honor to the holy place and tempts others and prevents others from praying.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“If we want, Christian, to have our heart filled with divine love we must first empty them of the love of this world, its frivolous and sinful customs and then turn our hearts to the one God, our only good and happiness and eternal beatitude.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbours, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness or unforgiveness of your sins, then, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how serious it is.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not conquered by anger, but is made even more inflamed. But meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies, softens them and pacifies them.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“True Christians live in this world as travelers, pilgrims, and sojourners, and they look ever toward their heavenly homeland with faith and with the eyes of the soul, and they strive to reach it. You should also be a pilgrim and sojourner in this world and constantly look toward that homeland and strive to obtain it, and so the world with its enticements and lusts will become abhorrent to you. Whoever seeks eternal blessedness and desires it and strives to reach it will despise everything temporal, lest while seeking the temporal he be deprived of the eternal.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

May his words bless and challenge us to follow Christ more fully!
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St. Tikhon of Zadonsk once said, “…love of God cannot exist without joy, and whenever a man feels the sweetness of the love of God within his heart, he rejoices in God.” Talk together with your Sunday Church School students about this quote. How did St. Tikhon show this to be true in his own life? How can we live in such a way as to “feel the sweetness of the love of God” in our hearts? Have each student illustrate or write ideas around their own copy of the quote, and then take it home so that they can put it somewhere that reminds them of it. Find a printable pdf of the quote here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/st_tikhon_of_zadonsk_love_of_god.pdf
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With your students, read what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about their duties to their parents! Talk together about each duty. Share from your own experience any stories related to these duties and how you did/did not uphold them in your own life. Invite students to share from their story, as well. Then talk about the duties: How do these duties compare to what the rest of the world is telling us right now? How would following St. Tikhon’s guidance help each student? What ideas do they have of how to fulfill these duties, especially the ones that seem different from what today’s world says that kids should do? http://serfes.org/orthodox/children.htm

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Here’s a 2-minute video featuring a quote from St. Tikhon about loving your neighbor and not judging them. Discuss this quote with older students: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Jw7oiZU9qzc

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With older students, review what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about love of God by visiting this blog: http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/signs-of-love-for-god.html Encourage each member of the class to select one point to work on in their own life, one way in which they desire to better love God. Invite them to create something (written, musical, or artistic) to help them meditate on that point.

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On Ideas for Games

We have gathered some ideas of games that can be played in Sunday Church School. Those of us who are on summer break can take advantage of this time to review these, select the ones that will work with our class, and then have them available for the upcoming year. Some of these games can be prepared ahead of time. Others we will just want to be familiar with so that we have them as an option for use with our lessons.

Let’s get ready to have some fun with our Sunday Church School classes! Here are some game ideas that we found:

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Find some Orthodox game ideas here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2016/10/orthodox-games-on-go.html

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This page offers 12 games that would each be a fun way to review or test learning at the end of a lesson. You may want to gather and prepare some of the required equipment so that you’re ready to go when you want to play one of these games with your class! https://paththroughthenarrowgate.com/sunday-school-games/

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These games are perfect for Bible memory, but could also be adapted for use with a quote from a saint or a summary of the Sunday Church School lesson: http://paththroughthenarrowgate.com/12-bible-memory-verse-bible-games/

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Despite the name, the activity ideas at this page are not nearly all games. However, some of them are, and all of the ideas could possibly come in handy for you. Check it out and see if any of the activities would work for your class this year! https://disciplr.com/49-best-sunday-school-games

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Keep these wiggle-busters (at different suggested age levels) in mind for when your students need a few minutes’ break from an intense lesson: https://buildfaith.org/8-quick-games/#gref

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This page offers ideas for using sticky notes for simple games to learn Bible verses or to inspire guessing what the lesson will be about: http://daniellesplace.com/html/fast-easy-bible-games.html

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Although they’re called “Bible review games,” many of these could be adjusted to review other lessons, as well. http://daniellesplace.com/html/BibleVerseReview.html

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“Praying Man” is a review game (like “Hangman,” with a more positive outcome for the loser)! http://www.booksbycorine.com/blog/how-to-play-praying-man

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If your preschool class’ curriculum includes some Bible stories, you may want to check out these story-specific, free printable file folder games: https://christianpreschoolprintables.com/bible-file-folder-games/

 

On Pursuing Virtue: Faithfulness

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko begins his discussion on faithfulness by reminding the reader that God is absolutely faithful. This virtue is one of His main characteristics! When the virtue of faithfulness is found in people, it is there because of the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit.

People who are faithful always keep their word. They are completely loyal. They stay true to their calling. No matter what happens, they steadfastly serve in truth and love. The faithful person will follow God’s will even if others do not notice or appreciate what they are doing. God sets for us the best example of faithfulness. He always makes promises and covenants and always keeps them, even when people have not kept their end of the “bargain.”

God incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ, showed us humans how to be faithful by being perfectly faithful throughout His life on earth. He carried out his mission dutifully, and thereby accomplished all that God sent Him here to do. Our Lord taught about faithfulness in the parable of the talents. In that parable, He teaches that the truly faithful servant is the one who takes what the Lord gives and fearlessly grows it into more. That servant is the one that is commended, who has truly carried out what his Lord set forth for him to do.

The discussion on faithfulness continues by stating that to be truly spiritual is to be completely faithful in everything: not only in all of our deeds and in all of our words, but even in all of our thoughts! We need to beware of pride, covetousness, cowardice, envy, and the temptation to not humbly serve where we are, with what God has provided: all of these are enemies of faithfulness. Anytime that we think highly of ourselves, are afraid to try what God has asked us to do, wish for our neighbors’ stuff or talents, or continually seek satisfaction from the world, we grow faithLESSness in our life.

If we want to be faithful, we need to be steadfast. We must be fully committed to doing the tasks that God has set before us with whatever faith, grace, and strength He provides. Fr. Thomas says, “The only way to find joy, wisdom, and peace is to be faithful to one’s own uniqueness, knowing that each person has his own specific life and vocation from God which no one else has; his own specific mission which no one else can perform.” When we live and act in this way, we will develop faithfulness in our life, and accomplish those things which God has intended for us to accomplish with our life, for His glory!

May we all grow in the virtue of faithfulness, and help our students to do so as well!!

Read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussion of faithfulness here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/faithfulness

Here are some ideas of ways that we can help to teach our Sunday Church School students about the virtue of faithfulness:

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Though geared toward parents, this series of lessons on faithfulness offers many stories and verses from scripture that can be used to teach faithfulness to Sunday Church School students. It also offers discussion starters about faithfulness in a variety of areas of life, while also offering activity ideas. http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/lessons/faithfulness
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This guide to helping parents talk with their children about faithfulness may offer some ideas that could be used in the Church School classroom. There are ideas for all ages of children. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual-growth-for-kids/fruit-of-the-spirit/reflecting-gods-faithfulness
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This lesson on faithfulness is geared to preschool students. It includes printable illustrations for the stories (of Joseph’s faithfulness despite being sold by his brothers and of the Theotokos’ faithfulness to God’s request of her), along with craft and activity suggestions. http://storage.cloversites.com/pinedalechristianchurch/documents/28%20Preschool%20-%20May%2014.pdf
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Teachers of younger students may find a picture book from this list that can help to start a discussion on faithfulness: https://meaningfulmama.com/books-faithfulness-kids.html
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This teacher gives ideas of ways to use the story of Daniel with young students, to help them learn about faithfulness: http://handsonbibleteacher.blogspot.com/2011/03/fruit-of-spirit-faithfulness.html
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This lesson (actually, a children’s sermon) uses the book “Horton Hatches the Egg” and the story of St. Simeon to demonstrate faithfulness to children. It includes links to activity ideas and printable pages at the bottom of the page. https://www.sermons4kids.com/our_god_is_faithful.htm
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This lesson encourages participants to be faithful in all that they do. Based on the parable of the two sons, the lesson offers the story, suggested activities, and printable activity pages. https://www.sermons4kids.com/yes_or_no.htm
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Teachers of early elementary-aged students may find ideas they can adapt and use from this lesson on faithfulness: https://ministry-to-children.com/faithfulness-bible-lesson-fruit-of-the-spirit/
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https://www.jellytelly.com/blog/3-bible-stories-to-teach-kids-about-faithfulness suggests three stories from the scriptures that can help us to teach children about faithfulness: the story of Ruth, the story of David and Jonathan, and the Parable of the Talents. While this page operates on a subscription basis for its video storytelling, the ideas and passages are listed, so that a non-subscriber can find and share the scriptural stories with their students.
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This series of lessons on the fruit of the Spirit includes one on faithfulness, and would be appropriate for teachers with younger students. The ball-catch craft nicely illustrates how we need to be faithful in order to truly succeed! http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2014/09/fruit-of-spirit-curriculum-10-free.html
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A teen leads this (mostly audio) video meditation on God’s faithfulness. A relatable example of how we trust our favorite snack to faithfully taste the same every time, and not let us down, helps the listeners think about God’s faithfulness. There’s also a free printable page with the questions asked in the presentation, so that listeners can write out their answers. http://studentdevos.com/track-2-lesson-1-god-is-faithful/
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This blog post clearly reminds us that God is faithful to us, no matter what we are experiencing. The blog itself is not a Sunday Church School lesson, but either of the two craft ideas would work very well in conjunction with a middle or high school lesson on faithfulness. One suggests decorating a jar to collect stones on which the owner will list the ways that God has been faithful to them. The other involves decorating a box to be filled with scripture reminders of God’s faithfulness (printable verse cards are available at the post). https://www.notconsumed.com/promise-box-so-that-we-may-never-again-forget-his-faithfulness/ ***
“‘O Faithless generation. How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?’ (Mk 9:19) Think about these disturbingly harsh words from our Lord in the Gospel reading today. ‘O Faithless generation.’ Were they words only for His generation 2000 years ago, or do they describe the times we live in?” ~ http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/struggling-to-stay-on-the-faithful-path

Teachers of older students may want to share this homily on faithfulness with their class, as part of a discussion on this virtue.
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Consider concluding a class on faithfulness by acknowledging faithfulness together. Encourage each student to think of one person that they really rely on, one person who exemplifies faithfulness to them, and then have them create a card to give to that person to thank them for being so reliable. They may want to include a verse about faithfulness (ie: “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, That they may dwell with me; He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.” (Ps. 101:6 NKJV); “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’” (Matt. 25:21 NKJV); or “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10 NKJV)). Need inspiration for making the cards? What about something simple like this, but with the word “faithfulness” on the front instead of “thank you”? http://www.kwernerdesign.com/blog/easy-diy-thank-you-cards-ombre-watercolor/#_a5y_p=5834276

On Pursuing Virtue: Kindness

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko’s chapter on kindness begins with the statement that spiritual people are kind, always gentle, and never cruel in any way. But kindness is more than a fruit of the Spirit evidenced in the life of humans who are following God: God Himself is kind! And He is not just kind to the good. Luke 6:35 reminds us that He is “kind to the ungrateful and selfish.” That’s pretty much everyone, at least at some point in life!

We Christians are encouraged to accompany God in kindness. This is most important when we are helping others to see an error that we have noticed in their life. Fr. Thomas mentions that we can usually put on a kind front for those we don’t know well. But the people who we are the closest to may more easily receive an unkind response or reaction from us. These people are the ones who need our kindness the most, and he encourages us to extend kind words and actions to them, as well as our more casual acquaintances. He says that there is never an excuse to be insensitive or harsh to anyone, regardless of how close we are to them.

Fr. Thomas goes on to clarify that kindness doesn’t mean glossing over or ignoring other people’s sins. Instead, he says, it means that we forgive them. He also states that kindness will not always look like “being nice” to others and going along with them in whatever they do. Sometimes a truly kind person needs to set others straight if they are doing something that is wrong. The person’s kindness will shine through by the way they convey care to the person doing wrong, even in the midst of this correction. He says that a kind person’s correction will not have any cruelty, demeaning, ridiculing, or condemning. Instead, a truly kind person will correct another with encouragement and gentle understanding.

Kindness to all others, lived in this way, is a tall order. May God help us to grow in the virtue of kindness. When we do, we will be able to truly love all others as kindly as He does! May we help our students to do so, as well!!

Read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussion of kindness here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/kindness

Here are some ideas of ways that we can help to teach our Sunday Church School students about the virtue of kindness:

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Inspire your students for kindness! This blog post offers ways a classroom teacher can help to create and nurture an environment of kindness. It’s geared toward regular ed. teachers, but many of the ideas can inspire Sunday Church School teachers, as well! https://www.weareteachers.com/49-ways-to-create-a-tidal-wave-of-kindness-in-schools/
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Teachers with younger students may want to share a story or two with their class, to begin a discussion of kindness. Here are a list of secular books that may fit the bill: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/childrens-books-about-kindness/
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Here are a handful of the many stories and people from the scriptures that could be used in a lesson on kindness:
Joseph (beginning in Genesis 37)
Rahab (beginning in Joshua 2)
Christ
The Good Samaritan
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The biblical story of Ruth is a story filled with kindness. This middle-years lesson plan focuses on various kindnesses exhibited throughout Ruth’s story, and offers a fun activity and craft idea related to kindness that could be incorporated into a lesson on this virtue. https://ministry-to-children.com/clothed-in-kindness/
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This lesson on kindness is geared towards families, but could be helpful to a teacher planning a lesson on kindness. Find Bible stories, scripture verses, and activities related to kindness here: http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/lessons/kindness
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“I think giving children hands-on ways to serve others and show special acts of kindness will go a long way in teaching them to think of others and derive joy from generosity.” ~ from http://www.momentsaday.com/teaching-children-to-think-of-others-a-simple-random-act-of-kindness/
This link offers an idea of how one mom helped her children perform a random act of kindness. Talk about it with your class, and brainstorm ways that your class can do random acts of kindness, whether together, in your parish, or something that you prepare together and each carry out/deliver separately.
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This two-minute video shares the pages from a picture book about kindness. It can be a helpful addition to a lesson on kindness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5HEKWib33g
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Although this blog post is geared towards parents helping their children learn kindness, it offers ideas for a variety of age groups that Sunday Church School teachers may find helpful as they plan a lesson on kindness: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual-growth-for-kids/character-development-kindness/power-of-kindness
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This lesson for younger elementary students offers ways to learn the word kindness and what it means, based on various scriptures. https://ministry-to-children.com/kindness-bible-lesson-fruit-of-the-spirit/
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Many saints model kindness. Share the story of a kind saint with your class during a lesson on kindness.
A few ideas include:
St. Luke of Crimea (https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/learning-about-the-saints-st-luke-of-crimea-commemorated-june-11/)
St. Seraphim of Sarov (https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/learning-about-a-saint-st-seraphim-of-sarov-commemorated-on-january-2/)
St. Gerasimos of the Jordan (https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/learning-about-a-saint-st-gerasimos-of-the-jordan-commemorated-on-march-4/)
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This very simple object lesson uses water, pepper, soap, and sugar to demonstrate the effect kindness has on others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPu7r4RdYhQ
and
This object lesson uses water and objects dropped into it to demonstrate the ripple effect that kindness has, and offers the opportunity to talk about how no kindness is too small to make a difference: http://penniesoftime.com/object-lesson-on-acts-of-kindness/
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Teachers of older students may want to show their students this 3-minute video about what researchers are finding about how kindness affects us physiologically. After watching, talk about your learnings. How did we get “wired” to respond physiologically to kindness and being kind? Why do you suppose God made us that way? What can happen if we build this virtue in our life? What if we do not cultivate it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUcxoNFiomY&list=PLvzOwE5lWqhQWsPsW5PQQ5gj5OBewwgUw&index=9
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Teachers of teens may find this youth lesson on kindness helpful: https://ministrytoyouth.com/youth-group-lessons-on-kindness/
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Want some ideas of ways your class can do some random acts of kindness? Check out the ones in this blog post: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/try-a-little-kindness/
Or in this one: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/on-being-a-bucket-filler/

On Pursuing Virtue: Patience

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

 

Fr. Thomas Hopko begins his discussion of patience by stating that, in order for us to completely obey God in all that we do, we must have the virtue of patience. This gives us an idea of how important this virtue is! Our Lord demonstrated for us perfect obedience to God in the context of incredible patience.

Patience is one of the fruits of the spirit, and it truly needs to come to us from God, with our cooperation. The Cambridge dictionary defines patience as “the ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaining or becoming angry.” This does not come easily to us, nor does it “just happen” in our life. Fr. Thomas writes that we begin to acquire patience when we courageously and hopefully wait on the Lord through everything that comes our way. That means putting up with other people (as well as with ourselves!), and slowly growing in the grace of God. He says it takes a daily effort on our part to follow God’s commandments and do what He wills for our life. “Only those who are patient, according to Christ, bring forth fruit from the seeds of God’s Word that are sown in their hearts.”

Patience does not come quickly. It is work to pursue godliness, and that work is hard and long. Fr. Thomas reminds his readers that we can’t become patient just by using our own willpower: it is a grace that comes to us from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

He writes that patience “is the power to ‘stay on the cross’ no matter what, doing only the will of the Lord.” Patience is not a solitary virtue: it is closely tied with faith, hope, love, humility, and obedience. Fr. Thomas encourages those who want to grow in patience to work at it daily through fasting, prayer, communion, remembering God, abiding in Christ, and viewing life through the light of God’s Kingdom. Uniting ourselves to Christ and living by the Holy Spirit’s power, he writes, is what the spiritual teachers tell us is the only way to acquire the virtue of patience.

May we all grow in the virtue of patience, and help our students to do so as well!
Read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussion of patience here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/patience
Here are some ideas of ways that we can help to teach our Sunday Church School students about the virtue of patience:
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This gathering of ideas for teaching children about patience offers a variety of scriptures and Bible stories, as well as craft and activity suggestions that can be used for various ages. (It is not Orthodox, and is written for parents to use with their children, but much of it can easily be used in an Orthodox Sunday Church School setting.) http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/sites/default/files/Patience-2015.pdf
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Here is a list of picture books that could be used in conjunction with a lesson on patience. They are not Orthodox, and many are not even religious in nature, but can be helpful, nonetheless: https://meaningfulmama.com/books-patience.html
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Consider an activity such as “pass the parcel” (found here https://3boysandadog.com/patience-and-preschoolers-and-free-psalms-printable/) to help young Sunday Church School students learn about patience by practicing it!
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Here is what one teacher did to help her young Sunday School children learn about patience: http://handsonbibleteacher.blogspot.ca/2011/01/this-quarter-seems-to-be-flying-by.html
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This humorous blog post offers ideas of Bible stories on patience, as well as one on IMpatience, that could be part of a Sunday Church School lesson on the virtue. There’s also a suggested craft idea that could be used for a variety of ages! http://jeaninallhonesty.blogspot.com/2008/05/sunday-school-fruit-of-spirit-patience.html
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Find two stories (a fictional one, and a story from the life of Christ), along with a suggested Psalm to memorize, any or all of which could be incorporated into a lesson about patience here: http://childrenschapel.org/biblestories/fruit_patience.html
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These group games help children to practice patience: http://aplaceofourown.org/activity.php?id=500

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Consider an activity such as this color-mixing activity to demonstrate the value of patience. If you do this, you may want to start it at the beginning of a Sunday Church School on patience, and then go on with other parts of your lesson. You can observe the results (hopefully!) by the end of class! http://www.jojoebi-designs.com/2012/09/how-colouring-mixing-can-teach-patience.html
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Another craft that could help to teach patience is something like this http://onelittleproject.com/galaxy-in-a-bottle/2/. (We’d recommend smaller bottles for your Sunday Church School students, so that you can save a little on baby oil. Also, you will want to hot glue or superglue the lids onto the bottles after all the ingredients are inside!) The students will need to be patient with themselves, you, and each other while they create their galaxy in a bottle. Once it is made and shaken, students can experience the beautiful patience of watching it slowly return to its unshaken state!
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This video can spark a discussion on patience with elementary-aged students. The speaker demonstrates the difference between having a short fuse and having patience by using (what else?) burning fuses! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycFCnnnrubo&feature=share
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This article is aimed at parents (Christian, but not necessarily Orthodox) but offers leveled activities/discussion starters that Sunday Church School teachers may be able to adapt for use in a lesson on patience: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual-growth-for-kids/fruit-of-the-spirit/practicing-patience
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Use padlocks to help you teach patience to pre-teens as suggested in this lesson: http://preteenministry.net/youth-group-lesson-on-patience/
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Here are a few printable pages of quotes that can help older children learn more about patience. The quotes come from the scriptures and from the Church Fathers, and could be used in a lesson on patience, in conjunction with some of the other suggested activities we have mentioned.
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This “seven-minute sermon” video discusses patience, and could be a great start to a class on this virtue with older children or teens. The video is not necessarily Orthodox, but could be very useful in an Orthodox classroom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOaaBqlluLY&feature=share
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Patience and diligence work well together. If you missed it before, be sure to catch this post on helping your students learn the virtue of diligence from our first round of blogs about virtues:
https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/on-pursuing-virtue-diligence/

On Pursuing Virtue: Hope

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko’s chapter about hope begins by pairing the virtue of hope with the power of faith. He reminds his readers that Abraham “in hope believed against hope that he should be the father of many nations” (Rom 4:18). He reminds his readers that hope and faith both rest in the unseen.

Hope is knowing that good will result in our life if we are living in faith, according to Fr. Hopko. Hope can help us to be sure that even in the midst of darkness and sin, God’s light and forgiveness is with us and will do for us what we are not able to do. Hope extends to us the reassurance that we need.

Fr. Hopko speaks of the opposite of hope, as well, so that we can be on guard. Despondency and despair are the opposites of hope. He calls these “the most grievous and horrible condition that a person can be in.” These two conditions work together to create the most terrible and damaging situation for our soul. Why? Because when we have no hope, we can’t do anything else. We especially can not have faith.

Fr. Hopko continues, “If a person is faithless, he can be chastised and convinced. If a person is proud, he can be humbled; impure, he can be cleansed; weak, he can be strengthened; wicked, he can be made righteous. But if a person is despondent and despairing, the very condition of his sickness is such that his heart and soul are dead and unresponsive to the grace of God and the support of his brothers.”

But if we fall into despair, it is possible for us to repair the state of our souls with humility and patience. Fr. Hopko tells his readers that when we fall into these states, we must hold steadfastly to the life of Faith, even if we don’t “feel” it anymore. He says when we are experiencing despair, we need to continue to go through each day, living our life of Faith. Even if we are just “going through the motions” of reading scriptures, participating in liturgical worship, keeping the fasts, praying, and working, we must not stop doing these things. He reminds us of St. Benedict’s advice that those in despondency/despair continue to do what they are doing as well as they can, and as attentively as possible. He suggests that we follow St. Seraphim’s encouragement to visit with strong friends who are spiritual, full of hope, merciful, and full of joy.

Staying steadfast through the dry times until we once again experience the light of hope and comfort is what we need to do. It is not an easy way to go (Fr. Hopko reminds us, “those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:14)). St. Evagrius assures us that when one “fights and conquers against despondency and despair, this struggle is followed by a peaceful state and the soul becomes filled with ineffable joy”.

Fr. Hopko addresses those who proclaim that it is virtuous to be without hope, thinking that declaring “all is lost” pleases God as these people sorrow over their sins and the sins of the world. He says it is not virtuous to feel helpless around the wicked or to think we’re at the mercy of evil. Rather, it is a virtue to be “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer”(Rom 12.12). When we do so, we are able to really know and believe that God has the final victory in our life.

May we all grow in the virtue of hope, and help our Sunday Church School students to do the same!

Read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussion of hope here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/hope

Here are some ideas of ways that we can help to teach our Sunday Church School students about the virtue of hope:
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Tell your students the story of Abraham. How can we learn hope from his story?
(If you don’t want to tell it on your own, you may consider reading these to your class: http://www.essex1.com/people/paul/bible15.html (You’ll want to share his story at least to the one marked 18, where Sarah gives birth to Isaac.)
Find ideas for crafts and printable pages about Abraham here: http://www.dltk-bible.com/genesis/chapter15-index.htm
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Share a story (or more!) from the life of the prophet Daniel with your class. Talk about how he hoped in God, and it saved him. Find a story and activity ideas here: http://www.dltk-bible.com/old_testament/daniel-index.htm
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The story of Hannah’s hope in God – and the results of her hope – is a beautiful one to share with Sunday Church School children. Find a 3-minute video version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiYumdP4C6k
Find ideas for related activities here: http://www.dltk-bible.com/old_testament/hannah-index.htmn
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The story of Job offers us a wonderful model of how to face trials and hope in the Lord. Share the story with your class. (Here’s a 6-minute video version, if you have younger students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bInc7sSe9KI) After learning about Job’s story together, talk about how he could (should?) have lost hope so many times. Yet, Job truly trusted God, and God watched over him throughout his trials. What can we learn from Job about the hard things we experience?

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Use two identical balloons filled with different things (to demonstrate the difference between being filled with despair and being filled with hope) as an attention-getter at the start of a lesson about hope! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZFNBXGrXl0

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Here’s a “Be the Bee” episode about holding onto hope, which could be a great discussion starter for a lesson on hope: https://www.goarch.org/-/hold-on-to-hope?inheritRedirect=true
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This secular plan for teaching hope offers some excellent questions that we can ask our Sunday Church School students, as well as some age-leveled ideas that we can glean from as we help our students learn about this virtue in the context of the Faith. http://schools.cms.k12.nc.us/dilworthES/Documents/Character%20Education/Hope.pdf
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Teachers of elementary-aged or older students may want to print off this printable with 31 questions about hope. Each question has a suggested scripture to check for its answer. https://ministry-to-children.com/kids-can-devotion-1/ (It is not Orthodox, but will be helpful to teachers planning a lesson on hope.)
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After a discussion on hope with middle-years or older students, talk about ideas of ways to share hope with others. You may want to include these “4 Ways to Sow Hope”:

1. Write down the wonderful promises in God’s Word (Matthew 28:20, John 14:26-29, 1 Corinthians 1:7-9).
2. Regularly remind yourself of the reality of heaven (Matthew 28:28-30, John 14:1-4, Revelation 21-22).
3. When describing your circumstances, choose hopeful words. Share hardship authentically, but always affirm God’s ultimate game plan (Psalm 27:13-14).
4. Avoid complaining. Grumbling is a magnet for more complaints; avoid passing negative perspectives on to others (Philippians 2:13-16).
(This idea comes from http://www.discipleblog.com/2017/11/teaching-kids-about-true-harvest-faith-hope-and-love/, which is not Orthodox, but has some very helpful suggestions/ideas.)
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With older Sunday Church School students, discuss the difference between trust and hope. This homily would be a great discussion starter: http://stgeorgegoc.org/pastors-corner/fr-ricks-sermons/in-god-we-trusthope
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Share this Orthodox prayer for comfort, inviting students to keep it in mind the next time they feel hopeless and need God’s comfort:
“Almighty God, the Father of mercies and God of
all comfort, come to my help and deliver me from
this difficulty that besets me. I believe Lord, that
all trials of life are under Your care and that all
things work for the good of those who love You.
Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress.
Help me to face and endure my difficulty with
faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial
may bring me closer to You for You are my rock
and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and
joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Blessed is
Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and
forever. Amen.” (from http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/prayer/2009/12/prayers-for-hope-and-comfort.aspx?p=5)
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Share this prayer to the Holy Trinity with your class.
“The Father is my hope; the Son is my refuge; the Holy Spirit is my protector. O All-holy Trinity, glory to You.”
Invite them to tell what “The Father is my hope” means to them. Encourage each member of the class to remember this lesson about hope every time they pray this prayer.
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With older students, talk about this statement: “It’s easy, after all, to tell a kid to be hopeful. It’s entirely more powerful to give them a reason to hope.” Share this (secular) article with them (http://time.com/3395822/teaching-hope/) and launch a discussion on how each class member has received hope over the years. Follow that by a brainstorming session of how each person can give others a reason to hope. What can each class member do, right now, to bring hope to others? Make a plan to help them carry it out.
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