Category Archives: Young Children

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.

Oil Pipeline Protests, a First Grader, and the Small Catechism

You might have heard about the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is a pipeline to transport oil through the Dakotas. There are major protests against it. One of the complaints is about danger to water quality. The protests have gotten out of hand. Consequently it is in the news every day in the Dakotas.

My son, Cedric Halvorson, lives in Bowbells, North Dakota. He was scrolling past a NoDAPL story with a picture of protesters holding signs that said, “Water equals life.”

His first grade son, Jayden, saw it. This conversation ensued.

Jayden:  “Dad, don’t they know they’re wrong?”

Cedric (not wanting to get into the muddy details of this story with a 6 year old): “How’s that Jay?”

Jayden:  “It’s not the water that that equals life, Dad. It’s the water WITH the Word … duh!”

The catechized life!

Video — The Lord’s Prayer in a Cardboard Box,

Garrick Matthew Miller Halvorson, aka Gunny, decided he was going to sleep in a cardboard box that night.

Dad still comes in to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him. In the midst of the informality of bedding down in a cardboard box, Gunny still knows what reverence is, and his father shows him that prayer fits in everywhere.

 

Holy Week Illustrated in Lego and Duplo

Facebook group member Hildegunn Sofie Fjellnes Johansson kindly provides the following photographs that show how she and her children use Legos and Duplos to illustrate Holy Week.

She writes, “With Lego we can tell the whole story without all the blood (compared to many YouTube videos).”

She and Pastor KM Andreas Johansson live in Stockholm and have four children ages 6, 5, 3-1/2 years old,  and the baby 11 months.

She writes, “We built Palm Sunday in half an hour, in Lego. Last supper and Gethsemane we did in Lego Duplo, also in 30 min I think. Good Friday took a couple of hours as the baby was awake and would like to help. We played the story and changed the scenes according to the different days of Holy Week.”

This activity teaches young children basic Bible stories that prepare them to understand the Second Article of the Creed.

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Video — Dad and Mom Praying the Lord’s Prayer with Children at Bedtime

Here is a video of Leif and Kim Halvorson praying the Lord’s Prayer with their three children at bedtime.

Dads, as you can see, this takes hardly any time. To be exact, 39 seconds! Yet it has a tremendous impact. It has impact because:

A. The Lord’s Prayer is God’s Word, and God’s Word does stuff. It is quick and powerful. It does not return to the Lord void, but it accomplishes the purpose for which He has sent it.

B. The influence of fathers and mothers is built into nature, and thereafter happens all by itself, simply by your act of doing.

Video – High Chair Catechization of 2.5 Year Old

Facebook group member Pastor Matt Lorfeld his wife Heidi Lorfeld provide this video showing catechization of their 2-1/2 year old son while eating in the high chair.

He is learning the 1st and 4th Commandments.

This illustrates a father catechizing in the home, catechizing a young child, and fitting catechization into ordinary activities.

Video — Lord’s Prayer Puzzle Idea Catching On, Nicole Schulert

Facebook group member Nicole Schulert posted in the group:

Thanks for the Lord’s Prayer idea! We did it with a stopwatch for fun. Since we only have one strong reader so far, it took 3m40s to put it in order, but they can’t wait to try again tomorrow.

She was referring to a post by another Facebook group member, Melissa Sutton. Melissa has a creative method for teaching her young son the Lord’s Prayer. She printed the prayer and sliced it into a little more than a dozen ribbons of paper. Each ribbon has a portion of the prayer. Then she asks her son to find the ribbon that begins the prayer, When he finds it, he moves that ribbon into a second column, and she has him read what is printed on it,

Then she asks him, “What’s next?” He sifts through the remaining ribbons to find the one that has the next part of the prayer. He moves that ribbon into the second column, and she has him read what is on that ribbon. You can see her video and the blog post about it here.

There can be variations in how this is done, and it is also nice to see how it works out with children in a group and children of different ages. So we asked Nichole to video her use of the Lord’s Prayer puzzle. She generously did that for us, and shares it with you below.

Video – Mom leads young children in closing of daily devotions – Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Reading, and Morning Prayer

This is a third video of home devotions by our Facebook group member, Melissa Sutton.

The three videos together illustrate a complete home devotion in the morning The first video showed the opening of daily devotions. The second video showed memory work, with mom helping two young children memorize the Third Article of the Creed, its meaning, the Introduction of the Lord’s Prayer, its meaning, and the First Petition.

Now this video shows the closing of the daily devotion with confessing the Creed, praying the Lord’s prayer, a brief reading for the day, and Dr. Martin Luther’s Morning Prayer from the Small Catechism.

In all, the three videos last only about 16 ½ minutes. From the aspect of time, this is a very doable approach to a daily devotion, and yet in that short amount of time, many things are being learned.

 

Video – Mom helps young children memorize Third Article, Lord’s Prayer Introduction & 1st Petition

This is another encouraging video of home catechization provided to us by our Facebook group member, Melissa Sutton.

In this video, we see that young children can learn to memorize the Catechism. A very young boy recites the Third Article and its meaning. He and his older sister recite the Introduction of the Lord’s Prayer, its meaning, and the Second Petition.

All young children need prompts when learning to recite the Catechism from memory. It is interesting in this video how mom uses both verbal and sign prompts.

Melissa is taking advantage of a pedagogical truth that was expressed by G. H. Gerberding in these words:

The child must be instructed. Begin early. Let it learn to pray as soon as it can speak. … We quote again from Luthardt: ‘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.

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

Even quite young children have some understanding of the words when they first begin to memorize them. After they have the words well fixed in their minds by repeated practice, more and more meaning comes to them.