Encouragement for the Scared Father

Not long ago in a discussion in an online Lutheran group, one father did a manly thing. He admitted he was scared in his role as father. He said, “Nothing scares me quite like teaching my children.”

Hallelujah! I told him, “This is a fact true of many fathers. Usually we just keep ducking, but now, in saying this, you are standing up. The Lord is at work here.”

Let me give you a collection of encouragements to overcome what scares you.

1.  God is for your children, and God is for you as father.
2.  The Catechism is simple, and using it is simple.
3.  Your influence is built into nature.
4.  Repetition is effective.
5.  Children like to answer questions.
6.  Your own faith and confidence in Christ will grow.

1.  God is for your children, and God is for you as father.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

We wonder if God wants to give us what we need as fathers. He already gave his Only Begotten Son into death for your child. He will, with the death of his Son, give you what is needed to be the first evangelist of the Gospel to your child, so that the death of the Only Begotten can become precious to your child.

Through the Scriptures, the Church, and Dr. Luther, God has given you the simple little tool you need, the Small Catechism. “Prince George, of Anhalt, called it the layman’s little Bible, containing the substance of the teachings of all the Prophets and Apostles.”[1]

God wants your children to know the Catechism and be strong in simple faith, because this is to grasp onto Christ and his salvation. Realize that when you and your child are hearing the Catechism together, you are two or three gathered in Christ’s name, and there He is among you (Matthew 18:20), using his Word as a means of grace to deliver the gift of faith.

Fathering is what the Father in Heaven does, and he delights it giving you the vocation of father in his own likeness. See, He is for your imitation of him in fathering. He can be counted on for this.

Jesus corrected his disciples when they were preventing little children from coming to him. “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them.” (Matthew 19:14-15a)

2.  The Catechism is simple and using it is simple.

A child can learn the Catechism, and I mean a young child.

The Catechism that Dr. Luther wrote, without any of the bulky explanations that others added later, really is a very little pamphlet. Remember the story of Winston Churchill apologizing to his friend during the war for writing such a long letter. He explained its length, saying that with the press of war duties, he did not have time to write a short one. Shortening things down to the essentials and crystalizing them takes time. Luther invested a tremendous amount of time to be able to write a little Catechism that has everything your child needs, in the fewest, best, and most powerful words.

Merely reading the Catechism aloud to your child has effect. Its design and contents are powerful. Luther had many options and decisions to make in creating the Catechism. He gave much study and thought to it over a long time. His decisions are genius, and that genius is working for you.

Start while your child is very young. “Let it not be objected that the child cannot understand the prayer. The way of education is by practice to understanding, not by understanding to practice.”[2] Keep simply reading it to your child. This practicing of the words until your child starts to know them lays the foundation for the understanding that will come.

“By giving only a little time and attention to it each week, the parents could easily, in a few years, have all their children know it as perfectly as they know their multiplication table.”[3]

3.  Your influence is built into nature.

God at creation built it into nature that fathers have influence with their children. This includes all fathers. It happens automatically. All fathers influence their children. It is not a question of whether fathers have influence, but in which direction they will influence. Even an absolutely neglectful father is bearing an influence of neglect.

The mere fact that it is you reading the Catechism to your children bears effect.

Teachers and pastors have a helpful supporting role. But that is what their role is, helpful and supporting … to your primary role. Children will have many teachers and pastors, but they have only one father, you. No one else is “my Daddy.”

4.  Repetition is effective.

It is great that the Catechism is little. This means your reading can take advantage of repetition.

Repetition means that you don’t have to bite off more than can be chewed at any one time. Do a little today. Do a little tomorrow. Do a little the next day. Then repeat those same littles in the days that follow.

Read them the first table of the law today, the second table of the law tomorrow. On the third day, you can repeat the first table. On the fourth, you can repeat the second table. You can repeat this repetition as often as you like, and then go on to the next part of the Catechism.

If that is too much, just do one commandment today, one commandment tomorrow, and one commandment the next day. With the introduction and conclusion, it will take two weeks to get through them. No problem. There is nothing wrong with that. You are going to start over again in the third week. Repetition will get it.

By the time you reach the second chief part, the Creed, you will see what repetition does. This is what overcomes the squirmy childish behavior that you will see, the appearance that you are accomplishing nothing. Not to worry. You have repetition on your side. It does not all have to be accomplished at once.

What always is accomplished is that they hear the Word of God from their one and only earthly father. Remember, the Catechism is the layman’s little Bible. “The Word of God is living and powerful.” (Hebrews 4:12)

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

5.  Children like to answer questions.

After you have repeated one of the chief parts of the Catechism several times, you can start addressing the questions to your children.

Sure, they will stumble and fumble, but they will get pieces of it, and after a while, they will have pretty good chunks in memory. No sweat. No muss. No fuss. Bite sized pieces and patience will consume the whole thing.

Let them enjoy the fun of answering questions. The interaction with you — you questioning, them answering — is a great foundation of relationship, and relationship makes an impression. The Catechism gives you a ready-made conversation. It couldn’t be simpler.

Commend every effort and accomplishment they make. Tell them, “That’s right,” or “Good job,” or “You’re doing great.” Children want to please their parents. Children need to know their parents are pleased. Feed the hunger with good things, words of praise. Children like to answer questions because it is a good way to please their parents and receive approval.

6.  Your own faith and confidence in Christ will grow.

As you read what the Catechism is saying to your children, because of your love for them, you will be contemplating the value to them of its words. You will appreciate the importance of these little lambs hearing what the Catechism is saying. You will be seeing it through their eyes. Contemplated for its effect on your little lambs, you will be entering into the faith of a little child yourself, the kind Jesus loves to give you. “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:14)

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[1] Joseph Augustus Seiss, Ecclesia Lutherana: A Brief Survey of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 4th ed. (Philadelphia: Lutheran Book Concern, 1871), p. 80.

[2] G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, pp 49-50.

[3] G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, pp. 69-70.

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