A Review of “Teach These Things”

luther2[1]“Another catechism book!? Why can’t we just teach the Small Catechism?”

This common — and legitimate — question arises with the publication of each new catechetical book. Many such books add lots of extra material apart from the Small Catechism, which has the effect (even if unintended) of diminishing the role of the catechism, and subtly teaches catechumens that the Small Catechism is insufficient on its own. Catechists like me understand that Luther’s Small Catechism is a resource so rich and beneficial that one could hardly improve upon it. And this is why “Teach These Things,” a catechesis recently self-published by the Rev. Lincoln Winter of Wheatland, Wyoming, is an outstanding and beneficial resource for the catechist who wants to teach from the Small Catechism.

As any catechist or teacher in general knows, one certainly can pull out a source book like the Small Catechism and start with Page One. However, having a plan in place for each lesson and for the whole year will make teaching much simpler and help ensure that the whole Catechism gets covered in the year. “Teach These Things” includes a plan for each week, including a hymn to sing, a short bit of the Small Catechism to memorize, Bible readings from both the Old Testament and New Testament, a psalm, and a lecture outline based on Luther’s Large Catechism.

I have used these materials for the past two years in my own parish. This is how I used them: Catechesis was held in the nave, with catechumens seated in the pews. This had the advantage of subtly reminding them (the educational term is “schema activation”) that we are doing churchly things and churchly attention and behavior are expected. We then used the Service of Prayer and Preaching from Lutheran Service Book p.260. This had the advantage of having catechumens recite the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer each week. Instruction took place at the point in the service marked for catechetical instruction and we closed with the prayers. Using the hymnal gave the catechumens more familiarity with this book which is so important to the Christian’s devotional and worship life. Also, we read the catechism from p.321 in the hymnal, which eliminated the cost of purchasing the standalone book and also eliminated the so-common confusion that the questions in the back of the book are properly part of Luther’s Small Catechism.

There is a great deal of wisdom in simply teaching from the catechism. After all, Luther’s Small Catechism was designed for the very purpose, and has served the Church well for 485 years. Also, every Lutheran pastor and every Lutheran congregation must subscribe to the Small Catechism (plus the rest of the Book of Concord) in order to be Lutheran pastors and congregations. In the Rite of Confirmation, confirmands vow to remain faithful to the Christian faith as they have learned it from the Bible and the Small Catechism. The advantage of “Teach These Things” was that one could do just that — teach from the Small Catechism — while using outlines from the Large Catechism to follow Luther’s thinking and to make sure each topic is covered thoroughly.

The Scripture readings assigned for each week are long. In many cases, an entire chapter is read. This allowed me as a catechist to help the catechumens learn to read Scripture in its own context, rather than teaching them to quote small portions of prooftexts from all over Scripture. It certainly aids them in Biblical literacy, a skill which is lacking in pretty well every part of the Church.

The sermon notes in the appendix change as the year goes on. At the beginning of the year, catechumens are observing the colors and images that accompany the texts. By the midpoint of the year catechumens are trying to identify Law and Gospel in each sermon, and this becomes their task for the rest of the year.

One of the gems for me was the hymn selected to accompany each lesson. I can’t play piano or organ or guitar or accordion or even bagpipes to accompany the hymns, so we sang them a capella. Our youth are immersed in a culture where the only time that singing is done socially is when it is accompanied by music so loud that no one can hear the singing (think rock concerts and clubs). If we Lutherans are to continue to be “The Singing Church,” we would do well to teach good hymns to our children and also be found singing them often. The hymn list for “Teach These Things” comes from the best of our heritage — no Methodist clunkers in the bunch!

If you’d like to learn more about the ideas behind these catechetical materials, Rev. Winter was recently a guest on Issues, Etc. and gave a brilliant interview about catechesis, which is a worthy listen for any Christian. There are also sample materials available on the Order page of the “Teach These Things” website, and the materials are available either as a PDF file or as a printed and bound book. Either way, the catechist only need buy one copy for himself and use it from year to year without any additional spending. I highly recommend these materials for use in parish catechesis and hope that many more find them to be as helpful as I have these past two years.

About Pastor Daniel Hinton

Pastor Hinton is associate pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, having majored in poultry science, and of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was ordained on Holy Trinity 2011. He has been married to Amanda for ten years, and has three daughters (Elizabeth, Anastasia, and Isabella). He grew up in the ELCA, and left in 2004 over issues of scriptural authority. It was because of a faithful Lutheran campus ministry that he was exposed to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. Much of his ministry at Trinity involves the instruction of the 117 students at Trinity Lutheran School, which has been open since 1892 and now uses a classical model of instruction. He will be writing on situations around “Steadfast in School” and “Steadfast among Others”.

Comments

A Review of “Teach These Things” — 15 Comments

  1. Pastor Hinton, have you used this catechetical material with confirmation students only, or also with younger children and adults? If so, do you teach, or recommend to teach the catechism in groups mixed with children and adults?

  2. I am curious how you see this new material in comparison with other series currently out there, especially Pastor Bender’s catechetical material or Didache by Prof. Pless.

  3. Thanks for the great article! I reviewed the materials and purchased them and am very pleased. A quick note to Windows 8.1 users. Windows 8.1 comes with its own document reader that will not be able to open the .pdf files (they will either all be blank or you will get an error message). You will have to download and use Adobe to do so. Once I specified to my computer that I wanted to use Adobe to open the .pdf’s everything went fine.

  4. @Rev. McCall #3
    Once I specified to my computer that I wanted to use Adobe to open the .pdf’s everything went fine.
    The young genius who set up my computer missed that one. (I’ll consult the older geeks and nerds with my problems.)
    Did you find Adobe free, or is it one of the things to buy or rent? (I’m a newbie on 8.1.)

    TIA!

  5. I have discovered that when we use the Catechism (and Bible, of course) alone, the kids really resonate with the cadence and rhythm of Luther’s brilliant ‘mini sermons” that make up the Small Catechism. Using a workbook along side the Catechism seems to create extra “noise”. I am not against Catechetical workbooks; I simply feel that the Small Catechism does well standing alone. My two cents.

  6. The work book I used in confirmation (1984-1986) was the CPH workbook. I thought it was great , in that is went right through the Catechism. All the answers were right there. Kinda made you open the Catechism. Oh, and my pastor had us do memory work, all parts AND their meanings, and Bible verses. For the weekly quizzes, we were given a blank piece of paper. No prompts. And my pastor assigned us out confirmation verses. I doubt he even consulted the parents. Probably went on what he observed in us, either what fit or what we needed to hear.

    http://www.cph.org/p-1592-exploring-luthers-small-catechism-workbook.aspx?REName=Education&plk=148&Lk=0&rlk=0

  7. @Jason #8
    And my pastor assigned us out confirmation verses.

    I have been interested to hear numerous people who can remember their “confirmation verses”.

    It was our theory, at 13 or so, that our Pastor took a pile of confirmation certificates and worked top down with the list of our names. IOW, the verses seemed to have no connection to the individual; they were never mentioned beforehand or after.

    It must be nice to think that your Pastor seriously considered who you were, as a person, at confirmation. [I suppose with 8 of his own confirmed, (one in my class) and another one or two to come, mine didn’t have much time to get to know other people’s kids.]

  8. helen :@Jason #8 And my pastor assigned us out confirmation verses.
    I have been interested to hear numerous people who can remember their “confirmation verses”.
    It was our theory, at 13 or so, that our Pastor took a pile of confirmation certificates and worked top down with the list of our names. IOW, the verses seemed to have no connection to the individual; they were never mentioned beforehand or after.
    It must be nice to think that your Pastor seriously considered who you were, as a person, at confirmation. [I suppose with 8 of his own confirmed, (one in my class) and another one or two to come, mine didn’t have much time to get to know other people’s kids.]

    Mine was Eph. 2:8-9 on May 16, 1982 (and I’ve been told by a later pastor that I should add vs. 10, although I don’t know if that was directed at me, or in general).

    I can remember my great-grandma and her sister quoting theirs when they were in their nineties.

    CPH’s old confirmation certificates were pre-printed with twenty or so recommended Confirmation Bible verses. They tended to stick to those for years — I have the same kind of certificate as my Mom and Uncles, but newer pastors often chose different ones.

  9. @helen #9
    Hi Helen,
    I would like to think that my pastor chose my confirmation verse:

    Psalm 27-“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid”?

    because he knew it would be a comfort to me in my life and it has been. I have been surprised to learn that quite a few people have forgotten their verse and lost their certificate. I can’t imagine that. My confirmation certificate has always been alongside my birth certificate, marriage certificate and social security card!

    In Christ,
    Diane

  10. Psalm 46:1 God is my Refuge and Strength. (had that on a banner) (one of the very few classes that got banners, still have it) April 27, 1986. I thought it fit me well, and I do take it to heart. I try to be strong and a leader for others, and I always remember God, who is my strength. And I have needed to rely on His strength a number of times.

    CPH now has LSB customizable certificates, with a 12 page section of over 200 verses. A stock set of ten has ten popular verses (including mine). I’m sure one could find other resources for certificates. Confirmands don’t have to be severely limited (if at all) in having a verse.

    http://www.cph.org/p-11438-lsb-confirmation-with-scripture-certificates-pack-of-10.aspx?SearchTerm=confirmation%20certificate

    http://www.cph.org/p-13872-lsb-confirmation-certificate-customizable.aspx?SearchTerm=confirmation%20certificate

  11. They have banners now at my congregation each year. I think our Altar Guild makes them, but we didn’t have them when I was a kid.

  12. Diane :
    My confirmation certificate has always been alongside my birth certificate, marriage certificate and social security card!

    … and baptism certificate, couple of letters of transfer, as well as membership certificates… (my hunter safety certificate…) :)

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