Category Archives: Guest Posts

Table of Duties Explained & Illustrated — Guest Post by Pr Philip Hoppe

Editor’s Note:

I saw Pastor Philip Hoppe’s graphic illustration of the Table of Duties on Facebook and asked him if he would write an explanation of it for publication here. He graciously went to work and has produced it for us. He is pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Finlayson, Minnesota and St Paul Lutheran Church, Bruno, Minnesota, an avid catechist, and great friend of LutheranCatechism.com. Thank you, Pastor Hoppe !!

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The Table of Duties Explained
by Pastor Philip Hoppe

The Table of Duties is perhaps the most overlooked of all the parts of the Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. In some catechisms, all that one will see in this section is a list of roles or vocations that one might play in life and then a reference list of Scriptures that one should look up. Others at least include the text of those Scriptures. In order to truly understand why these specific exhortations are given to each person based on their given role or vocation, we must understand that there is an overarching structure that ties all of these relationships together.

As the illustration provided suggests, each of these relationships dwells in one particular sphere or estate of life. Historically, the church has recognized that all our life plays out in three estates: the home, the state, and the church. In each of these estates God has ordered relationships for the good of all involved. (While it may seem strange for an American to see bosses and workers [master and slaves] listed within the home estate, we must remember that for most of the history of the world, people’s work has been done in the economy that exist within their home.

In each of the relationships listed (husband and wife, parents and children, bosses and workers (masters and slaves), government and citizens, pastor and people), God has given one person in that relationship authority over the other(s). Likewise, the other person in that relationship has been called to submit to the authority that God has established. The person that has been given authority is not given authority in order to craft the relationship for their good and comfort but rather has that authority in order to love and serve the other(s) in that relationship. The person who has been called to submit to that authority is not there because of some inherent disability or disadvantage they have in themselves, but submits because that is the role that God has given them to play in that order.  Almost all people (except perhaps children) will find themselves at any point in their life in one role or vocation granted authority and yet in another call to submit to authority.

It is critical though to understand the following: Each person must concern themselves only with the words of the Lord given to their role or vocation rather than becoming focused on the words given to the other(s) in the relationship they are considering. For instance, husbands are to concern themselves with sacrificially loving and cherishing their wives as Christ does the Church rather than worrying about trying to make their wives submit to them. Likewise, wives are to worry about honoring and respecting their husbands rather than seeking to make sure their husbands love and cherish them properly. When any one person becomes concerned with the other’s role, conflict and distress is sure to follow. When each person gives attention to their role, harmony is the result.

Most blessed of all, each of these relationships gives us a picture of the relationship between Christ and his Church. Paul explicitly reminds us of this truth in Ephesians 5 in regards to marriage, but it is equally true of all of these relationships. In each relationship, the one given authority is to carry out their role in the way that Christ carries out His role as the Head of the Church. They are again to sacrificially love, cherish and serve those placed under their authority just as Christ has done for His Church. Likewise, the one called to submit to that authority is to carry out that role in the way that the Church is to submit to Christ, with humility, obedience, and respect. When these roles and vocations are carried out in this way, each of these relationships gives us yet another way to teach people about the love that Christ has for His Church in the respect that the Church shows Him because of that love. Ideally, a mother can teach her children how Christ loves them by pointed out that Jesus loves them like her husband loves her, by listening to her, loving her, and cherishing her each day. Likewise, a father can teach his children how the church is to honor and respect Christ by pointing to how his wife’s gentle and quiet spirit brings blessings into the relationship.

Since these relationships are both created in order to bring good order and stability to the world and also meant to serve as a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church, they should not be taken lightly.  Rebellion against them should be confessed in order that it might be forgiven. Then the Christian should seek to walk in newness of life by ordering their life according to these Scriptures. May this illustration and explanation serve to that end.  Sola Deo Gloria.

Slow and Steady Wins the Catechetical Race — by Pastor Ryan Loeslie

Editor’s Note:  The following is a guest article by Rev. Ryan Loeslie, Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Merna, Nebraska.

 

Most of us are familiar with Aesop’s Fable of the tortoise and the hare.  The hare boasted of his speed repeatedly.  But tiring of the excessive boasting, the tortoise challenged the hare to a race.  They agreed.  Once the race was on, the hare predictably got out to a great lead.  Seeing the tortoise so far behind, the hare thought he had ample time to take a nice nap.  Of course, this was a bad idea.  By the time he woke again, the tortoise was just about finish the race.  The hare jolted for the finish line, but it was too late.  The tortoise was victorious.  Slow and steady won the race.

Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare can be applied to many facets of life.  One place where it applies is the catechesis of our children.  Catechesis is like a race.  For several generations now, by and large Lutheran congregations have employed the hare’s method of running the race and catechizing our children.  We consider the hare.  He was built for the race.  He had the skills and the lightning speed.  The tortoise shouldn’t stand a chance against him.  So also we have entrusted pastors with teaching our children the Small Catechism.  Pastors are like the hare.  They are educated and equipped especially for this job.  Certainly, we reason, the pastor should be able to do a better job at teaching the faith than the parents.  Just as the hare is better equipped for the race than the tortoise, the pastor is better equipped for catechesis than the parents.  And so what have we done?  We have placed our bets on the hare to win the race.

But we can extend this analogy even further.  We consider how the hare ran his race.  He got off to a big lead, and he saw the tortoise safely in the distance.  No worries, he thought, and so he thought he might take a nice break and settle in for a nap.  This is a shocking parallel to the way Lutherans have catechized their children for the past several decades.  Children meet with the pastor for an intense hour of instruction once a week, and then for the next week there is nothing – a nice break like the hare took.  I suppose conscientious families in the past have taken memory work seriously, but this is simply not enough over the long haul.  When school is out, catechesis breaks for an entire summer.  When children are confirmed, many never take up the Small Catechism again.  Like the hare, our congregations have been caught napping.  If they are even fortunate enough to wake up, they will see they have lost the race to those competitors in this world who have worked harder to indoctrinate their children – the media, the academy, secular culture, Hollywood, etc.  These are relentless every day.

I don’t have to cite technical statistics to claim that Missouri Synod congregations are losing.  Too many congregations bury more than they baptize.  Children often never show up in church again after confirmation.  If they do, chances are still high that they go to college and fall away from the faith.  Long-established congregations have been in decline for almost five full decades.  Why?  We have adopted the hare’s approach to running the race.  We have relied too much on the so-called “experts.”  We have become ignorant of our responsibility to teach the faith at home.  Like the hare, we have taken too many breaks, and we have relied on quick fixes and programs when these never last over the long haul.

Wouldn’t it be great if our congregations started winning again?  I believe they can.  They can, if they adopt the tortoise’s strategy.  Slow and steady wins the catechetical race.  This means a change of direction for most of our congregations.  Instead of the pastor being in charge of Small Catechism instruction, parents must take this responsibility themselves.  And this is not a once a week for two years type of thing.  This must be done over the long haul – every day for a child’s entire upbringing.  At least this is the goal we shoot for every day.

Perhaps this sounds overwhelming and unreasonable, but it’s not.  Remember, this is the tortoise we’re talking about here.  He doesn’t try and bite off the whole race in one step, but he takes just a small step every day.  And so families should spend just a little bit of time in the Small Catechism every day.  For the parent, this could mean reciting just one of the Commandments with your children every day at the dinner table or with bedtime prayers.  It could mean just reviewing Jesus’ words of institution for Baptism or the Lord’s Supper.  Perhaps it is reviewing one article of the Creed with Luther’s explanation.  Maybe go sequentially through the Catechism one question at a time.  Learn to enjoy this time conversing with your kids.  It’s quality time.  The point is, you’re not trying to accomplish everything at once.  Neither are you speeding through everything like the hare.  You’re doing like the tortoise does.  You take a slow step in the right direction every day. Slowly but surely, you will see results.  You will find yourself loving the Small Catechism and what it teaches you about Jesus.  You will find yourself loving your church and what your pastor preaches.  You will find your children loving it too.  After decades of losing with the hare, it’s time to try a different formula.  It’s time to go with the tortoise.

Running the catechetical race with the tortoise, you can be confident that you are also running in the way which Scripture commands.  I think of the words of Psalm 119.  “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:32).  For us as Christians, this race can be grueling.  Even going at the tortoise’s pace, there are many distractions and fears in this life which vie for our attention and push us off course.  And yet, we know that Jesus is always with us.  He forgives our weaknesses and failures.  And still God equips us with his perfect words that we may run the race set before us.

“Say It!” Says the Little Girl — by Pastor Ryan Loeslie

Editor’s Note:  The following is a guest article by Rev. Ryan Loeslie, Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Merna, Nebraska.

Most Lutherans who went through junior high confirmation class at one time in their lives are familiar with Luther’s famous question from his Small Catechism, “What does this mean?”  Sadly, this is all many remember.  But at the same time, this proves Luther’s genius.  He devised a simple, childlike question which all people can relate to as they are learning the basics of the faith.  Whatever failure the church has had in retaining its children after confirmation is its own fault, not that of the Small Catechism.

In the original German, Luther’s question was framed a bit differently than what we’ve come to know in English translation.  “Was ist das?,” the Small Catechism reads.  Literally we would translate this as “What is it?” or “What is that?”  As you can see, this is an even more basic question than “What does this mean?”  It is simpler.  It is more childlike.  We can picture a small child pointing to a colorful flower or a strange-looking insect and asking the same question: What is it?  What is that?

I never knew the genius of Luther’s question until having my own child and teaching her the Small Catechism.  We started teaching our daughter the Small Catechism even as she was starting to speak her first words.  She started learning by repeating after us the last word which was said.  So if we said the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” she would say “gods” when we were done.  It didn’t take long before she could say more and more, and even at two and a half years old now she can say the Lord’s Prayer, most of the creed, and most of the commandments.  And actually, her favorite thing to do is answer Luther’s question, “What is Baptism?”  On the one hand, this is very special.  We are glad such a small girl whom we love so much can pray and say the commandments.  On the other hand, it’s not so special.  I imagine this is within the capability of almost any child the same age.

What I find fascinating about this is how she grew into the routine.  We always do a bit of Catechism work after reading a Bible story at bedtime.  And our daughter came up with her own name for our little time of catechesis.  She says it’s time to “say it!”  What is fascinating about “saying it” is that my daughter with her words hearkened me back to Luther’s question, “Was ist das?” or “What is it?” I learned in the most profound way, through the lips of a child, that our simple home catechesis with our children was truly the vision that Luther had when writing the Small Catechism.  He didn’t have in mind 7th and 8th graders with the pastor on a late Wednesday afternoon.  He envisioned parents “saying it” with their children.

And this is a much more joyous way to pass down the faith, one which does not require cumbersome worksheets, tedious homework, and scheduling hassles. Children love to please their parents, and so also our daughter loves to “say it.” I have a funny story to illustrate this, too.  One evening we were visiting friends and came home much later than our children’s bedtime.  It was our intention to say the Lord’s Prayer with them quickly and put them to bed.  But what happened?  Our daughter broke down in tears because she wanted to “say it.”  She would not let it go.  So as I tucked her in we did “say it,” however little time we had.  The day wouldn’t be complete for her otherwise.

I mention this not because it’s cute, but because it demonstrates the joyous and powerful effect that the Small Catechism can have on our children.  When people remember the question “What does this mean?,” it is often in a nostalgic manner.  It’s a relic of their past when they went to confirmation class.  Perhaps it is something remembered fondly, but it doesn’t serve much use in the present, nor does it make them more faithful Christians.  But when we “say it” with our kids, this is something that is a part of them every day, something at the very fiber of their being.  When we “say it” with our kids, the Small Catechism becomes something which will actually form a worldview and serve us in our lives.  Children who can “say it” will be bright lights in this world because the very Word of God is actually written on their hearts.  And when they grow up, the Small Catechism will not be a relic of their past.  It will be a treasured possession, something they have always known, loved, and will never let go.

And so take this as a word of encouragement.  You can go to Lutherancatechism.com and find some easy schedules to use so you can “say it” together as a family.  These are very helpful if you’ve had good intentions about this but never had the support or resources to follow through.  It takes very little natural skill.  It does not even require much time or effort, only consistency.  And yet the rewards are enormous.  We learn our faith better.  We learn to love it more.  We learn a beautiful pattern of sound words which will serve us well in this world.  And we can raise up a new generation of children who love God and his Word, who love the Small Catechism and the Lutheran Church, and our lives will be better for it.

Guest Post – Bob Myers Intro to Video, Nestingen on “The Catechism as handbook for the Christian’s worship, prayer, and calling”

Editor’s Note:

When I saw Bob Myers sharing this video on Facebook, I wanted to provide an introduction and promo for it here but did not have the time. Bob graciously agreed to do this for me, and Got ‘Er Done  the same day. Thanks Bob!

Bob is retired from the U. S. Navy and the U. S. Navy Blue Angels. He describes himself on Facebook as a “Son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, beggar at the Lord’s table.” When my wife and I were heading to vacation at Navarre Beach this past March, he hospitably invited us to his church, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Pensacola, Florida. We were blessed by two services there during the week, and Bob presented me with a set of his Small Catechism memory cards and Yshnog. Bob is alway doing stuff to spread and strengthen the faith.

Here’s Bob’s intro and promo …

Luther’s Small Catechism is a confession of faith that I have come to love in the years since becoming a Lutheran as an adult.

These basics of Christian doctrine, what some have called “the Layman’s Bible,” teach us in a condensed version what we are to do and what we are not to do in the first chief part, and then in the subsequent parts are shown who God is and what God has done for us.

God’s gift of the internet gives the modern parent or grandparent precious resources for our use in teaching the faith. We can search for papers and articles, videos and presentations that help us “hand over the goods.” I’ve been able to use a series from the Higher Things organization called “Video Catechism” to prepare lessons and to teach 6th-8th grade students the basics of the faith.

While searching YouTube for resources and presentations I came across this gem posted by Lutherske Fordypningsdager. My computer translates Lutherske Fordypningsdager as “Lutheran Specialization Days.” It is an annual forum in Norway to promote the central and life-giving truths of the classical Lutheran confession of faith. Their focus is on the proclamation of the Word of God in law and gospel. They have attendees from a variety of denominations and confessions of faith. This lecture was from the 2015 forum.

The video, “The Catechism as handbook for the Christian’s worship, prayer, and calling” by Dr. James A. Nestingen, takes a look inside the first three parts of the catechism. He reminds us that we are creatures of God, and who we are as creatures of God, and who we are in Christ Jesus. To watch and listen to Dr. Nestingen is to witness a man clearly and lovingly confess the faith. His skillful weaving of story into what he teaches helps the listener remember what he has been taught. It also models for us what it looks like, what it sounds like, to teach the faith. Built on the framework that is the confession that we learn by heart, we’re given examples to help us pass on that faith.

Guest Post — We Love What We Know, by Haleigh Morgan

I had an occasion to use this maxim today: “We love what we know.” Thinking myself somewhat original, I had forgotten that Aldous Huxley had once said almost the same thing. Or maybe Huxley and I just had the same idea. His complete quote was: “We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge…” He includes this quote (without attribution) in the book “Perennial Philosophy.”

This little saying has helped to guide the way I homeschool my children. I noticed years ago that students seem most frustrated, most ambivalent, or most negative about a new subject when they still don’t know anything about it. We teachers are taught that success breeds success and that if a student is to stick with something and learn it (and especially if he is to develop a fondness for it), he must have a taste of success with the thing. For example, we are taught that we target struggling students with questions we know they can answer and then gently work with the student to push them toward more complexity or more difficult aspects of the lessons. We whet their appetite with a taste of success and inspire them to want more.

But, as true as it is that success breeds success, it is even more true that we come to love what we know. If I had asked my younger son early last year what his favorite school subject was, he would probably tell me math or his bird study. He had no love for nor interest in human anatomy because he had not studied that yet. If you had asked him again at the end of the year, he would have enthusiastically included anatomy in his list of his most loved subjects. Why? Well, now, he had begun to know it. So, he had also begun to love it.  This principle has played out over and over again both in my public school classroom and in my home schoolroom.

How is it that I had occasion to revisit this idea? This morning (Palm Sunday) after church, a friend commented, “So, you have been Lutheran from the cradle on, I assume?”  I answered that, in fact, our family were relatively new to the Lutheran Church. This Easter will be our sixth one in the Church. My husband and I were raised more-or-less Methodist and staunchly Southern Baptist, respectively.

“Oh. Is that so? How is it, then, that you seem to know all the hymns then? I noticed you were singing at the rail this morning.”

I thought for a moment, and said, “Well, I love that particular hymn. But, I also suppose I study a lot. Like…a lot. It is one of my favorite thing to do. To study the hymnal.”

I went on to explain that when we first converted, I was already familiar-ish with the catechism because that was what I was looking for in the first place. I wanted a communion with really strong catechesis and had sought that out. But, what I had been unprepared for was exactly how different the hymnody was. None of the songs were familiar – not the tunes, not the words, and certainly not the doctrine. It was disorienting; and, to be honest, ruffled my feathers a bit at first. Ok, it really bothered me a lot. It was uncomfortable never to hear any of the songs that I grew up having such a fondness for. I often felt lost in the service in those first several weeks. But, I also knew that in this context familiarity does not breed contempt. Quite the opposite, in fact. It breeds love.

I knew that if I ever wanted to love this hymnody, I had to know it. So, I set out to learn. In singing and memorizing, in committing the tunes and words to heart, a deep and abiding friendship developed. I was greeted on every single page and in every single line by the doctrine I was learning. I began to understand why we sing the way we do, and I grew to love it. We love what we know. So, if we desire to love something, we must first get to know it.

If we want to love the faith we confess, we must first know it. We must spend time with it as with a dear friend. We cannot love what we do not know. If we want our children to have a lifelong love for what we believe, teach, and confess, they must first know it. They must also learn to walk hand in hand with this teaching as close friends.

We pray in the first petition, “Hallowed be Thy name.” This is a kind of short hand for praying that God’s word to be taught rightly among us, that we would hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it (i.e. that we would love it), and that we would then live holy lives in accordance with this Word we have learned and love. We pray that the Lord would “grant, while worlds endure, we keep its teachings pure, throughout all generations” (LSB 582 / God’s Word is Our Great Heritage).

Addressing the IUCN, Senegalese forestry engineer Baba Dioum warned, “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” (1968). Although this was originally applied within the context of addressing problems in agriculture and natural resource management, it is applicable to so many contexts – most especially in catechesis. We sing, “Lord, helps us ever to retain the catechism’s doctrine plain” (LSB 865 / Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain). We conserve what we love. We love what we know. If this hymn is actually our earnest prayer, we must ever remain students of the catechism. “And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, 8] but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain” (LC, Introduction)

Guest Post — Metacatechesis: As the head of the household should teach them to teach, by Haleigh Morgan

If the reader will forgive my use of a somewhat cliché prefix, I would like to talk about an idea for which I know no word. Therefore, for the purpose of this post, I will use the term “metacatechesis.” I would like to define this word to refer to teaching our children to teach the Lutheran catechism to each successive generation.

One concept we study as we are training to become teachers is “metacognition.” This refers to the process of thinking about thinking. It is a reflective process we encourage in our students so that they can first know a thing and then develop an awareness of the fact *that* they know it, why they know it, and how they know it. This reflection deepens the knowledge acquired and creates greater ownership of that information or skill in the student. As I ponder the topic of catechesis, this idea returns to me but with a slight twist. I ask myself, how does metacognition play out in catechesis?

When our family found its way to the Lutheran faith, one issue of great concern to us was to teach this newly found faith to our children, to root them firmly and raise them up in it. A second issue, one which followed closely after the first, was how to do our utmost to develop a generational perspective in our family with regard to catechesis. We wanted to know what we believe and why we believe it for ourselves. We also wanted to know how to teach our children this faith and to ensure that they would do the same in turn when they were heads of their own households.

To do this, I believe we parents need to practice metacatechesis. We must teach our children to love and value the catechism. Without a doubt, we must know what we believe, teach, and confess and why we believe, teach and confess it. But then what? We must teach them how important catechesis is to the life of a Christian (Matthew 28:19-20). We must teach them the value of metacatechesis. That is, if we want our great-grandchildren to also receive this “faith once delivered to the saints,” we must teach our children to teach their children to teach their children.

Guest Post – Green Light Pre-Confirmation Curriculum, by Kim Halvorson

Editor’s Note:

Facebook group member Leif Halvorson uploaded to the files area of the group the Green Light pre-confirmation curriculum that he and his wife, Kim Halvorson, developed for their congregation. The curriculum now has been uploaded to this site also, and you can access it here.

Greenlight wall 3Leif and Kim both are certified teaches and it is obvious that they brought their knowledge of elementary education to the task of creating this curriculum.

LutheranCatechism.com invited Leif and Kim to provide our readers with an explanation of how they use this curriculum. By putting the following explanation together with the curriculum download, you’ll have a ready-made plan to prepare elementary children for confirmation instruction.

This is a little background on why we created the Green Light program, and notes on how we use it at our church as a Wednesday Night grade school curriculum.

The Green Light program for our church was born out of the desire for a Wednesday Night program for the elementary children of our congregation, a lack of teachers, and the realization that the confirmation age kids were coming into confirmation as 6th graders with remedial knowledge of our church beliefs. Our church elders requested a program for our elementary age kids and as the Sunday School Superintendent; I wanted to make sure the teaching was solid.

At the same time, while talking to the Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor, it became clear that our confirmation students were coming to confirmation with virtually no knowledge of the catechism or even basic Bible knowledge.

Leif and I were tasked with putting something together. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and combining good resources seemed like the best way to go, so Pre-Confirmation was born out of existing CPH materials.

After compiling our plan, it was suggested that the name “Pre-Confirmation” sounded a little boring. I didn’t want to come up with a meaningless name, so I searched for synonyms of “confirmation” and found the phrase “green light” as in, go ahead. We ran with it and created green pennants out of felt to collect the pins each student earned, and larger versions of each pin out of felt for reference. We also picked up large format Small Catechism posters from CPH to adorn the room.

The Green Light program was put together as a Wednesday Night Church program for elementary students. The program is designed as a type of confirmation preparation course using My First Catechism and the study materials that go with it, as well as the The Story Bible for the core curriculum.

The curriculum was split up into a 3 year plan to fit with our Wednesday Night church schedule. It is designed to have coordinating memory work for grades 1-5, with Confirmation beginning in 6th grade. Any student starting in 1st grade would have to repeat two years at the end and would have harder memory work as they got older, building on what was taught before.

The teacher binder includes all three years of scope and sequence, the order of service, and the My First Catechism Activity Book Answer Key.

Each student has a study guide binder. Each binder has a title page with the student’s name and the first page inside is the Student Schedule for the year we are on. We use this to have the teacher initial each completed study guide page and keep track of the progress.

In order to get all the lessons in the three year rotation, we had to pull the sections out of order. To help with this, we took the My First Catechism Activity Book to the local print shop to have the binding removed and all the pages three-hole punched. The books were then reassembled into a binder in the order of the curriculum. I then inserted the Earned Pin Pages to the end of each section in the binder, and split up the years with construction paper. The kids can keep a single binder through the entire program. Each student also has a My First Catechism book that stays at the church to follow along. Our intent is to let each student keep the book when they move on to Confirmation.

We begin each class by reciting/reading Luther’s Evening Prayer. This is usually followed by singing a hymn. We usually pick one from My First Hymnal, because they are shortened for the children and have accompaniment CDs. We usually choose one specific hymn for several weeks and like to coordinate the hymn to the church season.

After we sing the hymn, we take attendance with stickers and a chart I create for the church with our specific Wednesday schedule.

Attendance is followed by our motto, “God’s Word Does Stuff.”  We have the kids say it several different ways (shout, whisper, like a monster, …)  to make it more fun. As Lutherans, we want our kids to understand the power of God’s Word and to cling to His promises. God spoke the universe into existence because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (Genesis 1). We believe that God’s Word creates faith because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (Romans 10:17). We believe that God saves us in the waters of baptism and we can cling to His work baptism for assurance because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (1 Peter 3:21)  We believe that through communion God works forgiveness of sins because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (Matthew 26:26-28). We believe that in Confession, whether public or private, God works forgiveness of sins because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (1 John 1:9). The motto is so simplistic yet speaks volumes.

After the motto, we practice the memory work that the kids are working on or test them on the memory work that is due for the day. We give more than one week to memorize most of the memory work. Then, we move to the Bible story of the day. All the Bible story page numbers listed are from The Story Bible, listed in the resources section. All the Bible stories were chosen to coordinate with the catechism lesson. In some instances, no Bible story from the book was appropriate, so we inserted the coordinating Bible verses or left it blank.

When reading from The Story Bible, I like to read the vocabulary words listed at the beginning and have the kids listen for them while I read and end with the “Ask” and “Pray” sections.

Next, we read the catechism lesson to the class and complete the workbook pages. In our current configuration, half of our class is lower elementary (just beginning to read) and half of our class is in 3-4th grades, so at this point we have the older kids go into another room to complete the workbook page and check it when they are done. The younger kids stay in the room and we complete the workbook page together adjusting to their learning levels.

If we have any time left, we close in prayer, clean up the room, and let the kids play. The Sing the Faith CD from CPH would be a great way to help the kids with the memory work. We use it at home and our kids love it.

As a final note:  Ideally, this program curriculum is designed for grades 3-5, but we have had great success with a slightly modified version with children as young as 4. Our major change has been to go through the Activity Book pages orally. When we started this in 2014, three of our five students were ages 4-5 and couldn’t read. I have been constantly amazed at what they pick up and remember through this by just working a little more one on one. The Activity Book has worked very well for our older students ages 7-9 on a more independent level.

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Guest Post — As You Walk Along the Way: Daily informal catechesis as a way of life, by Haleigh Morgan

In various places in Deuteronomy, parents are commanded to carefully instruct their children. For example, Deut. 6:7 tells us: “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” (ESV).

Does this mean that we become single-minded school masters, incessantly drilling our children on the 6 chief parts, their meanings, and the supporting scriptures? Surely not. This verse indicates, rather, that these words of God are to be so central to our daily lives that they fit naturally into any part of the day. Not only will we have intentional, direct instruction (“[teaching] them diligently”), but we will also have occasion to consider them as we sit together at the table or around the living room. We will consider them as we drive in our cars, heading to and fro, taking care of the normal business of life. Morning, noon, evening, and night, these most important and holy things are to play a central part of our family conversations.

Teachers call this taking advantage of teachable moments. Although we plan our lessons as carefully and thoroughly as possible, and although we try to time these lessons optimally for students, sometimes a lesson is just not learned completely in that allotted time. For whatever reason, the pupil was not ready or did not fully grasp it. So, we wait and watch for opportunities to revisit a skill or concept. When the student is ready, we are primed to take advantage of that moment to teach and re-teach as the opportunity naturally arises.

As part of a formal, stand-alone lesson, we might teach our children that the Fifth Petition is “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We teach them these words and what they mean so that they may recite them back to us when asked. But, then we also watch for teachable moments in which we can see this forgiveness in action and experience it in deed as well as in word. James is upset with his younger brother for breaking a favorite toy. Perhaps this was done on accident. Perhaps it was even done maliciously. In this moment, we can easily return to this petition. “James, your brother has broken your toy. You have every right to be hurt and upset. What did we learn from Jesus about how we treat each other when we are wronged? Do you remember how we were taught to pray? Let’s talk about what it means to be sinned against and still forgive freely … to readily do good even to those who sin against us.” To the younger child, this moment is teachable in multiple ways. What does the 7th commandment have to say to us about negligent treatment of others’ property? What do we learn about making confession and seeking absolution when we do wrong? What do we learn about baptism, a daily life of repentance, and putting to death that Old Adam against which we constantly struggle?

This kind of catechesis – the “as you walk along the way” catechesis – is just as vital as regular, formal instruction. What teachable moments have you recently had in your family? This week, we would love to hear from you about your along-the-way catechesis.

Guest Post — Catechism Lapbooks, Haleigh Morgan

 Editor’s Introduction:

Thanks to Haleigh Morgan, administrator of the Facebook group, Catechumens for Life, for this Guest Post. By request, she shares with us this wonderful way of learning the Catechism, using lapbooks. After explaining lapbooks and how they can be used to teach the Small Catechism, we are treated to a photo gallery of some Catechism lapbooks.

Catechism Lapbooks

Luther’s Small Catechism is a great treasure of the Church, without doubt. It is an invaluable inheritance to all Christians and to all Lutherans in particular. As soon as our children are able to receive it, we pass this inheritance on to them as well. While the catechism is beautifully written in a simple way that even the youngest can grasp, and while we can (and should) teach directly from the Small Catechism, we often look for ways to engage, enrich, and expand upon the basic text. We want ways to help our children engage with the text and its teaching so that it becomes important to them. We want to expand in ever-widening circles and wade more deeply as the child’s understanding and maturity grows. For elementary-aged children, catechism lapbooks may help in this process.

For those who are unfamiliar, a lapbook is a file folder filled with mini-books or other kinds of summaries, developed around one central theme or topic. Each mini-book retells something about the central theme. Many times, the mini-books are shaped or decorated to related thematically to the central topic of the whole folder or to the content of the mini-book. For example, our mini-book for the 7th petition was a life-preserver to help us quickly remember that in this petition we ask our Father to protect and deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor. Inside this preserver mini-book we summarized just that.

Parents or teachers can assist students by providing templates for these mini-books. But, any aspect of the lapbook creation that the child can do, (s)he should do. This type of effort is much more effective for moving the information from the outside to the inside – from the ears, eyes, and hands to the mind and heart.

Children often love these little lapbooks and may ask to read them with you more than once. This is a great way to reinforce learning. Lapbooks make a helpful narration tool as well. For example, after we made and studied our Creed lapbook, I asked my son to “tell me all about it.” He walked me slowly through each mini-book he had made. He read each article of the creed, used his mini-books to remind me what each meant, and pointed out the other notable tidbits he added. One such example of an idea not included in a mini-book was the fact that the explanations use the words “daily and richly” in both the explanation to the 1st and the 3rd articles and how much he liked the fact that God provides “richly and daily” both our 1st article gifts and our 3rd article gifts.

To be sure, methods and programs and elaborate activities are not necessary to teach the catechism. This is one of my great comforts. I have enough to worry about without creating curriculum from scratch where there is no need. But, if you also find you have a need to add appeal to younger children and show that learning the catechism can be engaging and even entertaining, lapbooking may be a worthwhile tool to add to your toolbox.

    

   

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Guest Post – On My Heart, a Lutheran memory work program, Amanda Moldstad

Editor’s Introduction:

Dr. Martin Luther said, “Let every one know therefore, that it is his duty … to bring up his children above all things in the fear and knowledge of God.”

A beautiful tool to help parents with this is  On My Heart, a Lutheran memory work program. This is nifty. What’s more, it is free.

LutheranCatechism.com had to spread the word about this jewel, so we invited Amanda Moldstad to contribute the following Guest Post. Thank you, Amanda, for this outstanding gift to the Church and home, and for this Guest Post.

On My Heart

As Christian parents, we are given the task of training up our children in the truths of God’s word. One tool we use to accomplish this in our home is a memory work program we developed several years ago called On My Heart. We have made On My Heart available for free download at on-my-heart.com, and we hope it can be a blessing to many other families and congregations.

On My Heart is organized as a two-year cycle, broken into four 15-week semesters. Each week, children memorize content in four areas: the books of the Bible, Luther’s Small Catechism, Bible verses, and the Old and New Testament timelines.

The books of the Bible are taught in their entirety each semester and are the easiest area to memorize; children as young as two or three years of age can begin to recite their Bible books. Luther’s Small Catechism, with explanations, is covered over four semesters: the Ten Commandments; the Creed; the Sacraments, Keys, and Confession; and the Lord’s Prayer. We consider this to be the centerpiece of On My Heart, and the main reason why we created the program. Unless deliberate action is taken, children often are not thoroughly exposed to the areas of the Catechism until they reach confirmation class. We want our children to grow up knowing the doctrines of their faith! Sixty Bible verses are taught over the course of the program, roughly matched to the Catechism section each week. Finally, On My Heart covers the main events of the Old Testament timeline in semesters 1 and 3, and the New Testament timeline in semesters 2 and 4. We have found great value in giving our children a chronological view of Bible events—something that often fails to be communicated in standard Sunday school lessons. We also use motions with our timelines to make them more memorable and fun; a list of suggested motions can be found in the brief teacher’s guide included in the download.

We currently use On My Heart as a teaching tool for our own children at home. In the past we have also used it as a Sunday school opener at church. Presenting the new memory work and giving a brief summary of the timeline events for the week can be done in about 15 minutes. Children can recite the past week’s memory work before or after Sunday school if their families work on it at home during the week. Even for those families that don’t choose to review the content with their children at home, there is still great benefit in being exposed to the doctrines of their faith, hearing the Bible verses and stories, and reciting the books of the Bible each week. It has been our experience that at the very least, everyone regularly in attendance will learn the Bible books.

We have laid out the content of the On My Heart program on cards that can be printed, cut, and assembled on binder rings. The .pdf files are available for free download at on-my-heart.com, and you can find more thorough instructions for use there. The rings can be prepared and handed out to families at the beginning of the semester. If you are making a large batch for Sunday school use, be sure to allow plenty of time for assembly. Included in your download is a curriculum guide that also contains the full content of the program; it can be used on its own if you prefer not to make the rings.

We hope that On My Heart can be a blessing to your family or congregation!