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On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly PDF version of this article here: Dealing With Criticism

How do we live as “Holy Families” when we get criticized?

Dealing with criticism is something we have to learn to do from a very early age. The trouble is, it never becomes easy. It can be tough to hear criticism from others, even when it may be warranted. It’s important to distinguish between corrective criticism and just plain old hurtful remarks. As parents, this is where we can offer some assistance.

It is helpful to keep in mind that even Jesus was criticized by others in his life. Even though he was the perfect Son of God, people found fault with his words and actions. Jesus’ words were not unkind or unhelpful, but because he challenged others to see their own shortcomings and disobedience toward the Father, people rejected Jesus and his words. They neglected to live lives of grace and mercy and instead looked out for themselves in fear and selfishness. While we cannot expect to  align ourselves with the perfection of Christ, we can take solace in the knowledge that we are in good company when it comes to being blamed, chastised, or even bashed by others.

In faith, we teach our children to speak kindly and respectfully to adults and those in authority over them, encouraging them to attend to the full meaning of the fourth commandment, “We should fear and love God so that we do not show contempt for our parents and others in authority, nor provoke them to anger, but respect, obey, serve, love, and honor them.” (Small Catechism) But how do we encourage them to handle criticism when it comes their way? It can and will come from family members, bosses, teachers, coaches, and others with whom we have relationships, but it is not always meant to help us improve ourselves. When it is corrective we need to help young people hear the truth of what is being said so that they might learn from the experience; but when criticism comes in the form of disdain, jealousy, or hatred, learn how to shake it off and recognize the intention of the words that are hurled at us.

Keep in mind in the face of criticism:

1) Another’s hurtful words are often a reflection of their own pain and frustration.

2) In the face of criticism it can be helpful to ask for clarification or instructions on how to improve or do things differently.

3) Our self worth comes from the way that God sees us. He loves us, wants the best for us, and will help us to improve, overcome our shortcomings, and grant us forgiveness.

4) We are called to let our love be genuine, even in the face of conflict or criticism. The Holy Spirit will help us respond faithfully.

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a) How do you discern between helpful criticism and unhelpful disparagement? 

b) How might we encourage our children to be gracious in the face of helpful criticism so that they might learn something about themselves?

c) What feelings arise in the face of criticism? How did Jesus handle those very real human feelings?

d) How do we live lives of love, even in the face of those who would reject us?

Asking for God’s Blessing: 

Holy and Loving God, your Son Jesus was treated with contempt and criticism in his life. We know that he understands our pain when we face it because he experienced it too. Give us the courage to love and forgive, even in the face of those who are unkind. Help us to see their pain and not take things too personally. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2017 (www. Permission granted to copy for local use.

How many of the adults in your congregation know the names of all or most of the children who are a part of the parish?

All too often there is a disconnect between adults and children in churches, unless the adult is actively involved in some aspect of youth ministry. It is vital for children's faith formation that adults besides their parents and grandparents get involved in their faith lives. Statistics show that of the youth who are actively involved in church in Middle and High School, 50% will walk away from the faith while in college. How can the Body of Christ nurture young people in the faith AND maintain an active relationship with youth when they go off to college, the military or even begin working in the community?

Here are some ideas to get congregations thinking about how to connect adults of all ages to the children in their midst:

  • Take a photo of each child and put the pictures on a bulletin board that is in a prominent place in the church where all can see. Label each picture with the child's name, age, and any other information you want to include. (How about, "What's your favorite color?" or "Who's your favorite Bible character?" or "Who were you named after?")
  • Connect an adult with a child and ask them to be "prayer partners" for a year. Make sure to create opportunities within the community for prayer partners to sit and talk together so they can foster a lasting relationship.
  • Have Sunday School kids gather together and go visit people from the congregation who are shut-ins or who are living in a nursing home. They can make cards and drawings to take along. While you're there, take a photo of the kids with the person they are visiting. Be sure to send a copy to that person - they will love it!
  • Start a "Secret Friend" exchange by putting names of adults and kids who want to participate in separate boxes. Make sure to ask a few questions on the sign up sheet so the secret friend knows what the other person likes. (Parents of children will have to get involved so the kids remember to keep the friendship going.) Ask questions on the sign up sheet such as: What's your favorite candy? What is your favorite food? When is your birthday? Create a space in the church where secret friends can drop off cards and gifts for each other during the year. At the end of the year, have a get together to reveal to one another who's secret friend each person is.
  • Invite older members of the congregation to visit catechism classes and to be mentors to confirmands.

In the evening, before you go to bed, make the sign of the cross and say: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (Luther's Small Catechism)

Built into the design of the Holy Families daily devotional resource, we will be using the sign of the cross and the name of the Triune God as the invocation for daily family prayer.  Broken down into three distinct motions, this sign will also serve as the structure for these family prayers, giving children a repeatable memory device for each day's devotions.

Motion 1: From God to Us
The first motion in the cross represents the vertical dimension of faith, from God to us. Our Lord is a God who takes the initiative by coming into our lives through his Word. Lutherans affirm that in faith and worship, the primary direction of action is from God to us. The down-stroke of the cross is where our prayers begin, as God opens our hearts and minds to his Word, as the Spirit himself intercedes for us in prayer (Romans 8:26-27).

Motion 2: From Death to Life
Between the vertical and horizontal dimensions of our faith is the center in Jesus Christ, and his death and resurrection for our sake. This is the "tentatio" that Luther often spoke of (Latin for "struggle"), where our sinful self is put to death and we are daily raised to new life. Notice that you cannot make the sign of the cross without the connecting "J" that holds the vertical and horizontal dimension together.  By centering our prayer in this motion from death to life, we live out calling of Jesus, that "repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name..." (Luke 24:47).

Motion 3: From Me to You
The horizontal dimension of the cross reminds us of how the fruit of our faith expresses itself in love for the neighbor. "What you have done for the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it for me," Jesus says (Matthew 25:40). Crossing the center once again, we get to proclaim the grace and mercy of Christ to our own family members, as we commend them into the love and care of God.

As part of the Holy Families initiative Daily Encounter with the Word, this three-motion cross will serve as the structure for the daily prayer resources that will be provided on this page, helping families to make time in Scripture and Prayer a part of their daily routine.

Note: We are still some time away from the official introduction of the Holy Families devotional and study resources, to be released in the Spring of 2017. But we will continue to use this test site as a place to give you a peek into things to come!


Something New is Coming!

We are in the process of designing an online family prayer resource to be released as part of the 2017 "Holy Families!" Initiative of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The format will reflect Martin Luther's approach to study and prayer in the Word (oratio, meditatio, and tentatio), presented in accessible and down-to-earth language, for families to use in the home. Look for this "test" website to develop over the next several months!