Category Archives: Pastoral Struggles

“Many pastors would rather have a boil lanced than teach seventh and eighth graders the catechism”

Pastors, do you relate to these statements by Rev. Terry Cripe, president of the LCMS Ohio District? What are your thoughts when you read this?

If parents have found themselves inadequate, pastors have not been the best equipped teachers either. When I was in seminary, I had one course in parish education. I did not learn how to teach anything from that one course, except why the then new Mission: Life curriculum was deeply flawed. From the number of conversations I have had over the years, I have learned that many pastors would rather have a boil lanced than teach seventh and eighth graders the catechism. We have rationalized that it must be the age; we should teach them when they are in 10th or 11th grade instead. We have said it must be because the children are distracted by a plethora of after-school activities, Saturday sporting events or the onrush of hormones. Or else it is that they are raised by uncommitted parents. We have convinced ourselves that divorced families are the culprit. We have tried Concordia Publishing House (CPH) materials, Australian curricula, Don Ginkle or Abdon workbooks and who knows who else. Perhaps we have tried to write suitable materials ourselves when, like the fabled princess and the pea, we couldn’t get comfortable with anyone else’s materials.

Finally, in a fit of desperation, we have even tried to rationalize the children’s boredom by comforting ourselves with the theology of the cross. If the children find learning the catechism challenging or exciting, the pastor must be doing something wrong. The children are supposed to suffer through it, an attitude often reinforced by parental remembrances of their own catechism experiences.

The Rev. Terry Cripe is president of the LCMS Ohio District, “Challenges to Teaching the Faith as a Component of Mission Strategy,” Journal of Lutheran Mission, March 19, 2014.