Category Archives: materialism

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 8

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here:

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here:

Chapter 8: Raising Good Stewards

The eighth chapter of “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” focuses on stewardship. The Church teaches us that fasting, prayers, and giving alms are key elements in our growth in holiness. So often we focus more on the fasting and the prayers, and almsgiving is almost an aside. In this materialistic day and age, it is imperative that we intentionally give alms, not just throwing a few quarters in the offering basket, but truly giving alms in a way that is selfless.

The chapter encourages its readers to focus on where (from Whom) all of our gifts and resources have come. It goes on to challenge each reader to re-order their values by choosing to value their Faith and other people around them over their possessions (perhaps better called “the worldy goods that will otherwise possess them”). It encourages readers to give of themselves and their gifts as well as giving their money and possessions. The authors offer practical suggestions of how to do each, sharing other families’ experiences with stewardship along the way.

Both this chapter and its message fly in the face of the prevailing culture around us. But giving generously is a key building block of the little church which we must not omit. May we learn to give more generously, and with great joy. For, “through the cheap price of doing good to men, we can acquire the priceless Kingdom of God.” ~ Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow.

Do you have a family stewardship question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors? Connect with Elissa here: and email Caleb at

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 8:


“Everywhere we turn, we see proclamations that our lives would be in a sorry state indeed without expensive clothes, gadgets, and skin care projects. No matter where we go to escape the siren song of stuff, we are met with greater and greater temptation to embrace discontent; we don’t gratefully embrace the blessings we have, but instead we yearn for more, more, more.” (p. 146, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)


“With greed apparently hardwired into our psyche, how can the little church hope to stand against the rising tide? …Just a quick glance over the Fathers and Holy Scripture will make it clear to even a casual reader that the way we use our resources is essential to a healthy spiritual life.” (pp. 146-147, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)


“Throughout Sacred Tradition, the faithful have always turned from themselves to God when they struggle with the temptation to greed and avarice. The first step toward building a strong little church is placing Christ as the cornerstone.” (p. 149, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)


“We cannot be free of our possessions so long as they continue to hold preeminence in our minds. As St. Thalassios said, ‘It is not difficult to get rid of material things if you so desire; but only with great effort will you be able to get rid of thoughts about them.’”(p. 151, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)


“The question to ask yourself and your family is not how much you can afford, but in what ways you can give to God’s work of your time, treasure, and talents.” (p. 154, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)


“The act of almsgiving is as important as how you fast or how long you say your prayers. These three are interconnected in a mystical way that vivifies the rest of the building project.” (p. 158, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)


“The only limit to almsgiving is your imagination. The important part is realizing that we are giving back to God out of our love what He has so graciously given to us out of His own love for us.” (p. 158, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)




This week’s note is an article written by Judy Pappoff, and was originally published in “Faith and Family,” Dec. 2001, p. 18. Its suggestions are still very current and applicable. May God help us to lead our children in godliness in all seasons, especially during the holidays!


What Does Your Family Call December 25th?

The day has been called: “Christmas,” “The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” “The Day Santa Comes,” “Baby Jesus’ Birthday,” “The Day We Give/Get Presents.” As parents, we have the responsibility of “naming” the day for our families.  Orthodox Christians celebrate the nativity, or birth, of Jesus Christ.

Most of us also participate in traditions of our society: food, decorations, socializing, presents.  What understanding do we want our children to have?  Holiday or Holy Day?  How do we tame the monster of materialism so that our children focus on the spiritual truth of the feast?

First, let’s examine our purchasing practices.  If the family has a video game system that works, does it need to be replaced?  We must set the example, and explain our actions.  Children will not see what is wasteful unless we bring it to their attention.  Then challenge them with “How might the money be better spent?”

Second, keep the focus on giving.  Let’s look at why gifts are part of this holy day.  It is because God gave us His Son – the greatest gift of all.  Then teach your children how to give, and think outside the “box” – even the Grinch realized that Christmas doesn’t come in a box!  Spend time as a family, giving homemade gifts to one another, and gifts of love to those in need.  Lavishly praise your children for these valuable gifts they give you and others.

Finally, let’s make sure our children know how to receive, with the gift of God’s Son as our example.  We accept and are thankful for Jesus Christ.  When your children light a candle at the Nativity service, remind them to say “thank you” to God for His Son.  Thankfulness is the response to all gifts, large or small.  Seasonal movies such as “The Little Drummer Boy” teach this.  Know when these will be on.  Stop your busy-ness, watch these together, discuss what is good; and in that quiet moment, remember also to say “thank you” to God for the children He has placed in your care.

by Judy Pappoff,  Faith and Family (Dec 2001 pg 18), found online at

Here’s another article in the same vein:

Below are links to articles and ideas of ways to help our children combat materialism and consumerism during the holidays.


“Lavishing our children with gifts deprives them of something far more valuable: shared time and experiences. In our overscheduled lives, we are often too busy or tired to do a family art project, play a board game or bake cookies. I can’t remember ever roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but it’s always sounded like a lovely idea. Most families say that what they need more of is time – not stuff. And getting in and out of shopping centers steals your time.

Overabundance of holiday gifts offers a short-term payoff, but the long-term consequences are high. Mary Bellis Waller, author of “Crack-Affected Children,” likens materialism to cocaine addiction. Buying stuff stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, which creates a temporary high, but ultimately leaves one unsatisfied. The bottom line is that substance abuse is substance abuse.

Not surprisingly kids who are overindulged materially tend to have the worst relationships with their parents. Money can’t buy love, but it sure seems to finance some serious familial discord.” ~ from


“The primary message of commercial culture is that the things we buy will make us happy. In fact, that’s not true. Research tells us that our sense of wellbeing depends on relationships, a sense of community, spiritual nourishment, and/or job satisfaction, not on acquiring “things.” Children who are more materialistic are less happy, more depressed, more anxious and have lower self-esteem.” Read about researchers’ findings here:


“‘The gimmes’ are all around us during the holiday season. It can be hard for kids — and parents — to look beyond all of the product-driven hoopla and remember what the holidays are really about.” So begins an article titled “Making the Holidays Less Materialistic for Kids”, found at


In the brief article “Minimalizing the Materialism of the Holidays,” found at, Dr. Deanna Conklin-Danao offers suggestions of how to scale back on giving our children stuff; including suggestions for different age levels, as well as a reminder that grandparents/relatives need to also be informed of a family’s decision to minimalize on material gifts.


Find 10 suggestions of ways to help your teen let go of holiday consumerism at


Find reader-suggested ideas for hands-on ways to help children combat materialism at the holidays at


“Very few childhood memories actually include the gifts I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?” Read more, including a list of 35 non-material gifts that your children will never forget, at

On Materialism

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;” (Mt. 6:19)


In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of “stuff” is what society embraces as the goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, in particular, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or our children need?


Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos) said, “I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.”


As Orthodox Christian parents, we do not want to see our children forget God forever. Nor do we want them to miss out on experiencing God’s presence and appreciating His benevolence. Therefore it is imperative that we be aware of the amount of material goods we are amassing as well as how much stuff our children have been/are being given.


There are many articles available to parents to help them combat materialism in their home and with their families. Here are suggestions gleaned from a few:
Begin by focusing any comparisons on those less fortunate than you. Because, as Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it, “comparison is the thief of joy,” let us be careful not to compare ourselves and our stuff to others. If we must compare, then  let us compare ourselves to those who have less than we do. Then we will be amazed at all that we have, and hopefully find it in ourselves to do what we can to share from our abundance with those who have less. (Idea found at

Give time, money, and/or things away to someone else in need together with your child. “The real opposite of materialism is spirituality… Try to do something with your child that’s focused on giving to others in a way that she can see,” says Paul Coleman, a family therapist and author of How to Say It to Your Kids. The article at goes on to encourage parents to include their children in a project like making a meal together and taking it to an elderly neighbor.


Foster your children’s creativity. Rather than buying them all the latest gadgets and toy sets, provide materials and allow them to make or build their own. Once they’ve built them, encourage them to play with these toys. Better yet, play along with them! The memories you will make together are far better than any purchased gift, even if you are “just” cooking in a cardboard “kitchen” or driving toy cars all over a butcher paper neighborhood. (Ideas found at


Use the plethora of advertisements appealing to our greed as an opportunity to talk with your children about how the companies paying for the advertisements are trying to make you feel discontent with what you have, and convince you that you need to buy their product. Talk with your children about the product being advertised. Do your children really think it’s as amazing as it is advertised to be? What makes you think so/not? (Idea from


Consider challenging another family to join you in the Minimalism Game (see for details). On day 1 of the game, each participant (or participating family) gets rid of (gives away, recycles, or otherwise shares) one item before midnight. On day 2, two items; day 3, three; etc. The participant who keeps at it the longest is the winner! (Actually, everyone who participates wins because of eliminating excess in their home while helping others!)


‘Tis the season… Let us prepare to face materialism head on, and find ways to combat its influence in our lives and in the lives of our children. As we successfully turn away from our greed and toward Christ and His people, we will, indeed, be storing up “treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21)

Below are additional ideas for combating materialism:

Work on improving your gratitude. Not just at Thanksgiving. Not just when you have all that you need. Even when you do not have everything that you need. “Begin focusing more on your blessings than your troubles.” ~ from

“The surest path to contentment is generosity,” so look for ways to give. Generous people generally feel more fulfilled and grateful. “Giving forces us to recognize all we possess and all we have to offer. It allows us to find fulfillment and purpose in helping others.” ~ from

Spend time on your kids instead of money. If their parents are always busy, children may likely retreat back to their toys and electronics: materialistic stuff! A real family life, full of doing fun activities together as a family, is an excellent replacement for the materialistic alternative. ~ from


Talk with your teens about the pull of materialism and how to balance it by printing and reading this pdf:

It will be Christmas before we know it. There is an excellent article about handling materialism as Orthodox Christians, especially at Christmastime. Find the article at