12 More Things the Normal Orthodox Christian is Doing


As a follow-up to my previous post, 12 Things the Normal Orthodox Christian is Doing, I thought I might offer a few more “every day” kinds of things that I associate with being a “normal” Orthodox Christian—that is, one who is living according to the norms of Orthodox Christianity. (This will unfortunately differ from what the “average” Orthodox Christian is doing.) And thank you to those of you who commented on my previous post and on social media with your own ideas!

Again, this list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it meant to be a list of “requirements.” It’s also not ranked. This list is also more focused on community-oriented actions, while the previous list is perhaps more centered on the individual. The lists are meant to complement each other.

1. Love your fellow church members.

By this, I don’t mean feel good feelings about them, but look for practical, active ways that you can meet their needs, lighten their load, comfort them in sorrow, etc. Christ said that people would know that we were His disciples because we had love for each other (John 13:35). Unfortunately, many parishes don’t function that way at all. Let’s change that, beginning with ourselves.

2. Serve in your church.

Related to #1 above, we also should be finding ways to serve in our parishes. We are all ministers in the church, members of the royal priesthood. If we really are a chosen nation, a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), then there are no consumers or spectators or customers among Christians.

We seek out ministries in our parishes where we can assist, suited to our own abilities. If there isn’t something in your parish yet where you can serve, speak with your priest about what you would like to do. He almost certainly has been waiting for someone to come and offer some help.

3. Serve in your community.

One of the things that authenticates our faith to the world is that we love people outside of our churches, as well. We unfortunately live in a time when civic engagement is down—people volunteer less, vote less, come to church less, etc. Membership in nearly everything is down. But Christians have reasons to be engaged in our communities. We believe that Christ came to redeem the world. And our presence is part of how He’s doing it.

4. Support Orthodox organizations and institutions in addition to your parish.

Above and beyond your tithes and pledges to your parish, give occasional or regular financial support to monasteries, seminaries, charities, missionaries, etc. They all need help, and we depend on the work that they do to provide us with a full spiritual life. Support them not just with your money but also with your visits, your words, your sharing of their events, etc., on social media, and with encouraging other people to get involved with them.

5. Teach your children.

Sunday School is not enough. Even if it were enough, the trend is that parents are bringing their children inconsistently. But even the most fantastic curriculum in the Church is not going to be enough if the faith is not reinforced by practice and education at home. The primary responsibility of parents to their children is to teach them how to be Christians. (That means, of course, that they know how to do it themselves!)

6. Build spiritual brotherhood/sisterhood.

We often speak of how important it is to have a spiritual father—though I usually prefer the term father-confessor—but spiritual brotherhood (which includes sisterhood) is actually spoken of far more often in Scripture! Brothers dwelling together in unity (Psalm 132(133)) is the locus of blessing and salvation from God.

Ideally, our closest friendships should be with our fellow Orthodox Christians—sharing love, sorrow, joy, coffee, play dates, meals, ball games, theatre, pilgrimage, etc. Yes, we need a confessor to whom we can be obedient and who is a father to us, but we also need—perhaps more often!—spiritual brothers and sisters who stick close to us. Spiritual friendship is critical, and it is even an image of Christ, the Friend who “sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).

7. Be hospitable.

Offering meals and fellowship is one of the best ways of building community, especially spiritual brotherhood. Open your home, your wallet and your life to others. Pouring ourselves out nurtures love within us, and we create and strengthen the bonds of friendship that are characteristic of true Christianity.

8. Encourage young people to become clergy and monastics.

I was once told by a certain monk that most parents in his tradition would hate for their own kids to become priests. I asked him why. He said that the attitude could be summed up, “I know how I treat my priest, and no one will treat any son of mine that way!”

Clergy and monastics aren’t “better” than any of us, but they are nevertheless a great gift of God to the Church. If one of our children shows an interest in ordination or in monasticism, we should encourage them. And we should speak highly of the life that clergy and monastics have taken upon themselves. It is a great struggle, often painful, often full of rejection and disappointment. So it takes courage. Why should we want a son or daughter of ours to pursue such a life? Because it is needed, but also because with the struggle comes great joy. Even when I hate being a priest, I love being a priest.

And don’t just encourage them to consider ordination or monasticism—bring them to visit seminaries and monasteries.

9. Find a mother of young children in your parish and help her.

This is related to #1 and #2 above, but I wanted to highlight it especially. The mother of young children in a parish is usually one of the most fervent believers in the parish, but she is also one of the most stressed. She likely feels that she cannot pray, that she cannot worship, that nothing ever gets done, that she and her children are a nuisance to others in the parish. And it is likely that some parishioner or other has told her so.

Find her, help her, encourage her, do little things for her. Help with her kids, help lighten her load, pray for her, bring her meals—anything you can think of to minister to her. I have become convinced that mothers of young children are one of the most critical demographics in our churches—not because they need Christ or live as Christians more or less than anyone else, but because they are at the center of the health of our parishes, because they are the nerve center of families.

Find a way to make her time at church easier, her life at home better, etc. Let her know that her presence and the presence of her children is a blessing and joy for you and for the parish.

10. Find an elderly person in your parish and help him or her.

Most parishes have several people who, because of age and infirmity, cannot come to worship often or even at all. Most parishes think that it is the clergy’s job to visit those people—and it is. But what a priest or deacon brings to that person’s home or hospital bed is not the same as what you bring. Visit them, offer them rides, send them cards, pray for them. They often feel abandoned and lonely. Be there for the elderly.

And be there for their faithful caregivers, too—especially family. Most elderly people who have a family member caring for them probably have only one person in the family who is really making the effort. That person likely feels overwhelmed, unappreciated, and burnt out. Lighten their load.

11. Sponsor a seminarian, especially a seminarian family.

When I was in seminary, the majority of the married families with children in the seminary were on some kind of welfare. They were literally impoverished and had to receive state assistance in order to eat and to keep a roof over their heads. Even aside from the financial problems with family life in seminary, most seminarians and their wives (especially their wives!) feel stressed out, fearful, pressured, etc.

Contact the seminary and ask if there is a family in need you can adopt. Send them money, cards, clothes for their kids, Christmas gifts, words of encouragement, and most especially prayer. These are among the neediest people in our Church! And we expect them to be strong in the Lord and ready to serve others. Help them.

12. Visit other parishes.

Go for their feast days, their educational events, their festivals, etc. Get to know other clergy and other traditions. We are one Church, and we cannot truly be that one Church in a real way if we do not know each other.

Visiting other parishes also helps your own parish. How? It gives you ideas for things you can do and it lowers anxiety about problems in your own parish by seeing either that others share the same burdens or that things don’t have to be that way and could be some other way. Bonus effect: You also widen the pool of possible spouses for your kids.

So those are some more of my ideas of what a normal Orthodox Christian should be doing. Do you have any more ideas? Leave them in the comments!

And just as an addendum: Even though I mention two groups of people in the parish—mothers of young children and the elderly—I am by no means suggesting that no one else is important or ought to be neglected. Of course, in keeping with everything else here said about loving one another, everyone who has a need should be loved. Don’t neglect anyone.


  1. I have to disagree with #12. I used to visit other parishes near where I live and all it did was make me more appreciative of the way our services are conducted at my parish. In fact, I actually hate pan-Orthodox services, whether for Triumph of Orthodoxy vespers or for any other shared service. If I wanted to go to those other Orthodox churches, I would, but I don’t. I am able to pray and concentrate more at my home parish than if I were to go elsewhere.

      1. I am not saying otherwise. Let me ask you something, then, from a pastoral point of view: Do you think it a good thing that a particular church’s parishioners go to church to church every now and then and tell the people there that they don’t particularly care for their services (maybe they have bad choirs, bad chanters or maybe their priest isn’t all that good at preaching or maybe that there is a lot of noise and commotion during the communion or at other parts of the Liturgy)? How would that be beneficial to either the people saying that or for the church they visit to hear that? If prayer is the great calling of an Orthodox Christian, why would you insist that a person abandon his rule of prayer, with what works for him, just for the sake of visiting a parish where his prayer is distracted? Let’s consider the converse. What if a parishioner of a particular church really likes some of the small “t” traditions of a neighboring Orthodox Church (same jurisdiction or not)? Would that parishioner be in the right to start suggesting that his home church start adopting those?

        One of the many things I have learned over the years as a chanter is that I do not bring my own parish’s chanting with me to other churches. And other chanters should not bring it to my mine. That’s not only common courtesy, but also does not interrupt the flow of things which benefit the parishioners.

        1. No, I don’t think it’s a good thing. But if you will re-read what I wrote, you’ll see that I wasn’t talking about going somewhere to make a nuisance of yourself. I was speaking about connecting with other parishes and being part of their lives.

          One’s rule of prayer is not a monotonous thing that should never change—if it were, we wouldn’t have the liturgical calendar that we do. And the idea that we belong only to one parish and have nothing to do with other parishes is not something written into the tradition of the Church, nor is it even the norm for most Orthodox Christians today. That people from all over a community should flock to one church for its feast day is actually the norm. And in most places in Russia or Greece or the Middle East, for instance, especially in the cities, the idea of “parish membership” is actually almost absent. People flow often from one parish to another without any thought that they are going to some “other” church than their own.

          That said, what I am suggesting is visiting, not “abandoning” a “rule of prayer.” If celebrating Pascha or Christmas is not an abandonment of the rule of prayer (both are, after all, big changes from the usual), then neither is the occasional visit to another parish.

          Further, if it really is the case that the prayer at another parish is inferior to the one at one’s own, does it make sense just to abandon those people and not pray with them? Undistracted prayer is nice, but if that means “everything is the way I prefer it,” then we have difficulty. And what about all the parents of small children? Is their prayer less for being “distracted”?

          Orthodoxy is alive. We should be willing to accept “interruptions” for the sake of love. If my desire to pray undistracted means that I am not willing to be with those who are my brothers and sisters, then I have a problem.

          1. Fr., disagreeing with you is absolutely useless for you see no other point of view than your own. You write as if I am too accept everything that you say as right, but you’re not infallible. I know too many priests like you who think that just because you are a priest, whatever I says go, no matter how in left field you are. I’m glad you are not my priest.

          2. It’s okay to disagree! And no, there is nothing compelling you to agree. This is something I’ve thought a lot about, though, so that’s why I see things as I do. I’m sure you’ve thought through your own views, as well.

          3. Dying to ourselves, and allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced for others should be the norm when we are following Christ as a part of His body (which includes being one with each other as Jesus and the Father are one -John 17:21.)
            Thank you for standing up for that Father Damick. You handled this conversation more graciously than I would have at this point 🙂 Lord have mercy.

    1. It’s important to see the church as larger than our own parish. If we never visit another parish, we are in danger of seeing our parish as ‘better’ and our own piety as well. The truth is, God loves variety and more than anything else, UNITY. If our parishes lack things (and every parish is imperfect) , the first thing we should be doing is loving them by reaching out and visiting. My parish and another parish might then start sharing ways to make Orthodoxy more beautifully expressed with that kind of love and exchange. I love the Sunday of Orthodoxy and its Evening Vespers of pan orthodoxy almost as much as Pascha for this reason.

      1. I attend a small parish in Philadelphia. There are many things about our little community that are lacking, many. But one thing we do not lack is care and love for each other. We recently lost our priest. This unfortunate turn of events allowed us to draw on our faith through Gods grace in the mist of uncertainty. What a blessing it would been if on occasion we had visitors from other more thriving parishes visiting, befriending and showing their support. We need more of this not less.

    2. I see Fr. Andrew’s suggestions as a way to live out the Gospel in our lives, and in doing so it brings us closer to being Christ-like. Loving our brothers and sisters, Orthodox, non-orthodox, and most importantly our enemies. As a Deacon, I have traveled to many different churches to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, and at each parish I have prayed with different priests, choirs, no-choirs, one chanter, two chanters, and the differences continue, but at the core of each parish is the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, as an entire body.

      Glory be to God that because you went to another parish, it made you appreciate what you have, however when you go to another church take a moment to see the beauty in which that “Body of Christ” has taken to Celebrate the Divine Liturgy. God’s calls us to worship with our mind, body, and all our senses, keep them open to see the beauty in others.

  2. Father Andrew, thank you for these. It’s also, well, interesting to see the disagreeing comments regarding things that should be obvious and unassailable.

    Would you give permission for us to reprint these in our parish bulletin? With attribution, of course.

    yours in Christ,

    Dn Nicholas

  3. Fr. Stephen,
    Thank you for these 2 blog posts of practical things that go a long way in making us more “normative” Orthodox. I know you already mentioned that moms of young kids and elderly are not the only groups to focus upon in terms of care and outreach, but I wanted to take you up on your offer to post comments. Those of us with special needs children DESPERATELY need (I would even say) an extra dose of care, love, acceptance and outreach. Oftentimes, it can be the other way around. We feel isolated, rejected, and left out. Sometimes it’s subtle. Unless you have journeyed the path of special needs and medically fragile children, you can’t even begin to understand the stress on the home life, the marriage, the spiritual life. It’s a lonely life. And some of us are living this life completely alone with no family around.

    Thank you again, Father. You’ve given me much to ponder.

  4. Excellent lists, Fr. Andrew! For those of us who are perfectionists and who need to know exactly what is expected of us, I thank you! I know Orthodoxy isn’t simply a list of rules to follow but I appreciate your taking time to write out some practical ways to live out our Orthodoxy. I never even thought about the one regarding adopting a seminarian family, that’s ingenious! Thank you!

  5. For many years, ours was the only Orthodox parish for hundreds of miles in any direction. Another jurisdiction opened up more parishes, and we encouraged and accepted them. Now, we are many. Our late bishop used to say that we suffered from “miserable isolation” and encouraged us to get out and see the Orthodox world! He was right. We now gather as one family on Holy Wednesday for unction, and we celebrate kneeling vespers of Pentecost together. Visiting and worshipping together is the way to go.

  6. Thank you Father for this post! And the previous one as well. I especially loved #8. When Metropolitan JOSEPH came to visit our parish in September he expressed how we are not producing enough clergymen and monastics and I believe it’s because no one is encouraging the young generation to pursue those vocations. Sadly, even if they felt the calling, they would not be able to discern them correctly because they may not be exposed to seminaries or monasteries or even taught about them. (This is why it’s not only important to encourage them but also to take them for a visit).

    I pray that many people get the chance to read these posts and start doing what Normal Orthodox Christians do 🙂

  7. As far as #8 is concerned, I look forward to a day when my daughters can be priests. I hope this gender thing will be on the discussion table at next year’s council. I don’t expect miricles , but a discussion would be a great start.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing these! As new HS Sunday school teachers, these lists will come in very handy in our discussions with the kids. Just last week, we had them work on compiling their description of the characteristics of the “ideal” Orthodox Christian teen, along with the challenges faced and the helps toward obtaining those characteristics. These will fit right in to the on-going discussion as they replicate what the kids came up with as well as offering some additional ideas.
    Marjorie, God bless you and all of the parents of special needs children. “Special needs” come in all manner of varieties, and grace and kindness are needed by all.
    (With regards to women priests, with all due respect, IMHO, may it never be. Historically, when one looks at the denominations which started allowing women clergy, then it was a “slippery slope” to start making other changes to match the sensibilities of the times. May God strengthen our leadership to hold fast the traditions which have been handed down to us.)
    Thank you again, Fr. Andrew.

  9. I have stood before the miraculous Weeping Icon of the Mother of God and seen mryhh pouring from her eyes, while the person standing next to me struggling to see anything at all commented “I think I see something. Maybe a tear?”

    I have seen grown men fall to their knees in worship during Pan Orthodox vespers on Orthodoxy Sunday.

    I wish that ALL could witness something so magnificent and as Deacon Nicholas so perfectly described as “Unassailable”.

    Glory to God in All Things!

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