Thursday, March 08, 2007

Educating Our Children pt. 2

Okay, I posted this as a comment to Emily in my previous post , but became embarrassed by how it was too long.

"Early communion seems to be a taboo among us Lutherans."

Early communion is not as taboo as you would think, Emily. The LSB Agenda has a rite in it for bringing children to first communion BEFORE confirmation classes. It says that it was included because 25% of congregations polled were doing so. There also are a lot more pastors discussing this amongst themselves, on the blogosphere, and thinking about it in their own heads, than you can imagine. From experience and discussion, most of these are not liberal pastors, they are the most confessional, who are looking at our children, their ability, what the confessions say about when they should go to communion, and what our tradition was before the Enlightenment. I wrote about this in my post "True and Worthy Communicants"...with lots of references from The Book of Concord.

"I often stumble in faith like a blithering idiot and so I would much better trust the pastor who is ordained by God to speak His words and consecrate His sacraments as the one to instruct my children (and myself)."

Me too. I also often don't express myself well when dealing with those professionals I talked about in the previous post. But I get the job done.

I am not saying that the pastor is one of those guys who seek to tell you what is best for you and tries to circumvent your knowledge and instinct. Generally, confessional pastors have a really healthy view of trying to feed their flock so that their faiths are strengthened and that they have a rich understanding of their theology and heritage so that they can pass this on to their children and learn to rely on God's grace in their daily lives.

I am not saying that we should isolate ourselves or our children from the teaching in the congregation, nor am I saying confirmation is bad. What I am saying is that the primary role in bringing up our children in the faith belongs to the parents, who are guided by Scripture and their church. The pastor and the congregation do have a role in educating ALL of us, but DAILY prayers, Bible Stories, and catechesis can be done from birth on (A very simple way to do this is through Martin Luther's Morning and Evening Prayers and for asking a blessing at start off with). When a child is taught whether something is right or wrong, Biblical teachings can be brought in (when I was discussing the Jesus Tomb thing last week with my son, my 4 year old said "sounds like they are bearing false witness), when they do something wrong, helping them ask each other for forgiveness, granting forgiveness, and emphasizing Christ's forgiveness for all of us can be done...discussing controversial issues or evils in the world and explaining God's command and even mocking the foolishness of the worldly perspective (as Chrysostom points out) - not in a sermonish way, but in a simple way. Giving thanks for God's gifts, etc. When this is done, children often are ready and desirous to receive Holy Communion well before the non-Bibical age of fourteen.

As Deuteronomy 6 says: "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down,and when you rise."

This is what is important, that our faith is woven through and guides our daily family life, because if it is a once a week activity, and if it is not shown to be of utmost importance to the parents, then you can have all the once a week classes that you want, but they are not being truly "raised in the faith" and you are fighting against messages that they get the other 6 days of the week.

Look at what the Small Catechism says at the very beginning "For the Head of the Household to teach his family." It is not Lutheran to leave this completely to the church. For a deeper explanation of this, see Luther's Short Introduction to the Large Catechism. Luther knew and wrote the Catechism in order that families would raise their children in the faith on a daily basis. He clearly expresses this. Confirmation should not be the first time your kids see the Small Catechism, and many pastors bemoan that the confirmation class becomes a time when they are teaching kids the very basics of the faith (the 6 chief parts and what they mean), rather than leading them through the Large Catechism and the Confessions so that they can deepen that faith.

This is done in the context of the church life, not as an exception to it. If you can't do this, pray that God guides you. Because the Bible is really very clear that teaching your children the basics of the faith is not your pastor's job, and at your children's baptisms, you pledged to raise them in the faith. It is the job of the parents. You are the one that interacts with your children on a daily basis. The pastor gets once a week, and often very little before 7th and 8th grade. You are the one who knows your children and knows what they need, the best way to teach them, etc. You love them more than the pastor does. God meant for you to have that role. It is repeated over and over again in the Scriptures.

Know that you have the Holy Spirit blessing it, too. When you are being fed with God's Word and partaking of the Sacraments, your faith is being fed and strengthened to perform the vocations God gave you. If God gave stumbling, stuttering Moses the ability to confront Pharoah and lead His people for 40 years, then He can surely help you raise your children in the the full context of being part of the Body of Christ. And very few pastors would tell you otherwise.


Emily said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reply!

I was merely concerned that you wrote that educating our children in the faith should not be left to pastors, but it seems that you meant it should not be left for only pastors - which I whole-heartedly agree with! Faith is something which must be taught and witnessed in the home if it is to be a true faith. You cannot attend church on a Sunday and forget about Christ for the next six days. However, neither can you have a "personal faith" where you never go to church and recieve Christ in His Word and Sacraments. I think that we are of the same accord that we must teach our children at home and also by bringing them to church.

You love them more than the pastor does.
I don't know about that! My pastor is also my husband and he loves our children as much as I do!

We are very intent on raising our children in the faith in our home. It is not a responsiblity I would ever give up on pain of death. In fact, I find that more times I am the one to teach my children about the ways of the church and to uphold our daily spiritual life as my husband is usually busy on Sundays and various weekdays. And still I find it a beautiful gift to be able to bring to God that which He first gave me, which brings me to the topic of early communion.

Unfortunately our churches out here do not use LSB. I would be curious to know how many churches in our present time practice early communion. I would be all in favor of a revival of this practice!

As a side note, I have been to few churches that speak at all about the catechism or even that it should be used in the home. On the other hand, I have been to churches where the catechism was discussed often and was a requirement to get into confirmation. In those churches the parents complied and taught their children the catechism in their homes so that they could come to confirmation. Perhaps it is only a matter of suggestion in getting parents to teach the catechism?

Thanks again for the discussion! It is nice to have another pasor's wife to hash things out with!

Paul T. McCain said...

And we should be aware that there are actually two different conversations going on "out there."

There is conversation about the practice of waiting until a child is in 7th or 8th grade to offer them the Sacrament, after they have been confirmed. More and more are advocating an earlier age for first communion. This is what the LSB rite anticipates and is for.

Then there is the conversation going on "out there" about giving communion to infants and babes in arms.

Two different issues. One being, in my opinion, worthy of being a practice we need to move toward, the second however being simply incompatible with Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions.


Kelly Klages said...


Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


Thanks for your reply also. It is good to have your input. I'm sorry if I was not clear before (and I should've checked your link to find out your were a pastor's wife, but I found when I was typing, I wasn't talking to JUST you.)

Pastor McCain is right, there is more than one communion issue out there. Whether children should be communed when they can confess their faith, or whether they receive faith and are confessing it through their baptism.

Marie N. said...

Well written, Lora.

Raising children in the faith is quite different from visiting the faith once a week.

Our children began emorizing the chief parts before they could read. We review them a bit at a time with our bedtime routine.

When they are 10 and 12 they can engage in serious discussions with us about why this, that or the other thing is wrong; or how do we know this or that is Truth.

By the time they are in confirmation class and have catechism memory work assinged it will be automatic for them. They can spend extra time on math and English homework in 7th and 8th grades!

Emily said...

I invite you to discuss this topic a little more as I have a post concering this on my blog. I would love your input!

Gunfighter said...

Well said. All of it.

As an aside, may I add another conversation that is going on?

The conversation about Confirmation. In my reading of the small catechism and other resources, I have yet to find anything that has a three year requirement for confirmation programs.

We live in an area that has a large military and government presence (we live 25 miles south of Washington, DC) and many people are only in our area for a fairly short time (three years or less). With a three year confirmation process, kids will frequently start, but never finish the process.

Why can't we do a two year program instead?

I enjoy your blog!


Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Hi Bill,

Most LCMS churches that I know of do a 2 year (7th and 8th grade) confirmation process. A 3 year program is often started by pastors who don't feel like the kids coming to them know enough of the Bible to get into the catechism (even basic stories like Adam and Eve, Joseph in Egypt, or about Jesus).

You should bring that concern up to your pastor. Hopefully, these kids are credited with the amount of time they spent in confirmation before they came, or the churches that they go to will credit them with the time they spent at your church.

Thanks for the compliment!

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

P.S. Some churches do go to a 5th and 6th grade program.

From what I'm told about our congregation, we used to have a 4 year process...5th and 6th grades were learning the Bible with the pastor's wife...and 7th and 8th grades were catechism.

Each pastor really does it differently, especially now that there are a ton of catechism curriculi out there.

A very popular and confessional program..Concordia Catechetical Academy...even suggests as one format (they have several) a 24 week confirmation process for both kids and adults together. This suggestion also incorporates parents attending with the kids and family devotional study during the week using "Congregation At Prayer"

It really is a great resource. We use both their catechetical notebook and Congregation at Prayer in our daily devotions (takes about 15 minutes).

the button that says "Congregation at Prayer" is the devotional, and the CCA store lists their catalog with resources. They are great.

Gunfighter said...

Thanks for the input!

I have been searching high and low for new curricula, mainly because we just got a new (young) pastor, and the old guard are DEMANDING (yes, demanding) that we keep a three year program. Sheesh!

We belong to an ELCA church... but I'm not about labels, to tell you the truth.