The effect of TCN on LCMS Children and Youth (Part 2 of 2) By Johannes

“Johannes” is a retired layman who serves district and synodical organizations. He has also served as a delegate to district and synodical conventions, and is active in his local congregation. Because of policy considerations, he has chosen to remain anonymous at this time. Part 1 of this document can be found here.

I am Jesus’ little lamb, Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me ev’ry day the same, Even calls me by my name.
(Henrietta L. von Hayn, 1778, I am Jesus’ Little Lamb, LSB 740)

 

 

2. TC Damages the Office of the Holy Ministry:

  • With respect to the Office of the Ministry how well (or poorly) are we presently serving our children? If President Kuhn’s 2001 assertion that we are paying the price for forty years of poor catechesis is correct, then TC ought to offer us a ray of hope—after all, it promises transformation leading to revitalization. First, though, let us look at our current situations:

    • Does the pastor lead training sessions and Bible Study for our SS and VBS Teachers and other teachers?
    • Is regular Bible study offered, encouraged, and promoted? Does the pastor lead the class or classes?
    • In his children’s messages, does the pastor evangelize the children, rather than moralizing about pleasing God with their behavior?
    • What about catechism? What materials does he use? Does he teach all the classes, or does he turn catechism over to someone else, such as a DCE or some other commissioned minister, or even a layperson?
    • Are the catechumens taught a high view of the sacraments?
    • Does the congregation’s communion practice enhance a high view of Holy Communion?
    • Are the children invited to observe baptisms close-up, and do they accompany their parents up to the communion rail to receive a blessing?

    These questions, like those with reference to the Gospel, are basic to the pastor’s calling to preach God’s Word and administer the sacraments to the end that faith is awakened and strengthened. The answers are critical to the spiritual well-being of our children.

  • With respect to the Office of the Ministry what overt spiritual damage may TC do to our children?
    • In the LCMS’ sample bylaw revisions we read: “The role of the Senior Pastor is to lead the Church to accomplish its mission. The Pastor shall lead the Congregation by teaching biblical truth, casting vision, and advancing the mission.” We should expect that the pastor will teach biblical truth faithfully, rightly dividing Law and Gospel, properly administering the Sacraments, etc. TC’s philosophy, though, emphasizes growth in numbers and a non-sacramental focus, which calls into question just what is meant by “biblical truth.”
    • The above-references sermon series on the “missional” nature of the church, with its focus only on new members, hardly builds faith in either our children or adults.
    • The Accountable Leadership Model gives the pastor the power to hire and fire staff. One can hardly read the LCMS material on TC without getting the impression that the whole congregation is being driven by the pastor to “make NEW disciples, only.” What is the danger to our children in this philosophy? Here are a few possibilities:
      • Teaching the Gospel as Law—”Jesus saved you, so you must be a witness.”
      • Children hurt as their parent(s) are removed by the pastor for non-performance.
      • Pastor becomes so involved in administration so that catechesis, Bible study, and other faith-building activities are delegated to others.
      • Pastor delegates SS training to “staff”.
  • With respect to the Office of the Ministry, what is missing from TC that our children need spiritually? The answer here is the same as above: the Gospel is missing from TC. It hardly seems necessary to repeat all of the dangers listed above.
  • With respect to the Office of the Ministry, does TC have any potential to influence our children for good? Of and by itself, it is difficult to see how, as the pastor moves from shepherd to CEO, the children can be influenced for good.
    • At the risk of re-visiting old territory, unless the pastor sees through the shortcomings and errors of TC, he will tend to move further and further away from direct involvement with his people. Staff and members, faithful as they may be, cannot possibly bring pastoral care to the flock—wee ones included.
    • TC is Law; it is, in a sense, moralizing, which is a danger in children’s sermons, for instance.
    • Again, with its emphasis on numbers and new members, TC tends to obliterate the Gospel: there’s no reason to think that it will enhance giving our children the Good News without expecting something in return.

3. A few more thoughts:

  • One might well ask, “Does the TC program take children into account?” Here are three actual TC prescriptions:

    Relationship to _____ Lutheran School. The school principal will be invited to attend at least one church staff meeting per month in order to increase communication between the two institutions. Work will be done to identify unchurched school families that could be served by the congregation. Appropriate follow-up will be done with each of the families. Pastor _____ will spend at least one hour each week intentionally connecting with unchurched school children and their families.

    Develop a Young Family Ministry Team that fosters relationships between nursery school, church, and young community families by [date certain]. District staff is a resource for this team.

    Children’s Ministry: The Pastor will appoint a Director of Children’s Ministry (volunteer, part-time paid or full-time paid combined with Pre-School Director position) to lead the congregation in engaging the unchurched and non-believing children in the community, and their parents, through outreach.

    Our day schools, preschools, and daycare centers have at their core a deep concern for all children. It is almost axiomatic that their programs have outreach as a primary function. TC is to be commended for this vital focus. Yet, the emphasis in the above prescriptions is only on the unchurched children. There are no prescriptions instructing the pastor and teachers to evangelize the children, teaching them a high view of the sacraments, and emphasizing what Jesus has done for them, rather than a works-righteousness moralizing agenda.

  • Can a TC program exist side-by-side with genuine Word and Sacrament Ministry? This question may seem unrelated to the subject of this paper. However, it overshadows the whole question of TC’s influence on the congregation, children included. No doubt, many pastors (and their congregations) believe that they can invest their time and resources in TC while remaining faithful to their ordination vows and their specific call document, and continuing in their vocation. Some mission executives, and TCN coaches and trainers seem to believe this, as they treat the Gospel as a “given” while pushing TC’s law-driven prescriptions. A few thoughts:
    • If the pastor and congregation dive headlong into TC, making the prescribed changes in structure, focus, and ministry, then it is not unreasonable to assume that Word and Sacrament ministry could be left in the dust. As the pastor attempts to serve two masters, he could find himself frustrated and discouraged. In the meantime, the congregation and its children will suffer, along with the pastor.
    • Perhaps both pastor and congregation will abandon TC after trying it for some period of time. Perhaps it will not be too late to repair the damage. Let us hope that the congregation will again hear the pure Gospel, and the children will be taught and evangelized, as the undershepherd, who knows their need will supply it.

Conclusion: Any effort at congregational revitalization must take into account all the members, and the children cannot be ignored. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” (Prov. 22:6 NIV). Our children should receive the very best we can give them: carefully chosen, well-informed teachers, who are thoroughly versed in Law and Gospel; pastors who regularly evangelize them, and faithfully catechize them, imparting a high view of the Means of Grace, teaching them to be “in the Word,” to treasure their baptisms into Christ, and encouraging them to look forward to receiving the Lord’s Supper. After all, it is through the God-given Means of Grace that we all receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation: that our faith is built up. If this does not promise true, genuine revitalization—new life—among our children (our “wee ones”) as well as adults, then the TCN program, however well-intentioned, is doomed to spiritual failure. It has been shown elsewhere that TC is spiritually harmful for people of all ages. As presented and sold to our synod’s congregations, seminaries, and districts, Transforming Churches is no less dangerous to our children’s spiritual health.

Who so happy as I am, Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast, There within his arms to rest.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

The effect of TCN on LCMS Children and Youth (Part 2 of 2) By Johannes — 4 Comments

  1. Johannes,
    You dear sweet man. Thank you for this, many of “mine” have read it & now have a perspective on this. Children, should never be an afterthought, or a part time once a week effort. They are the future Pastors, Elders, Staff, & leaders for His Church. The deserve the best we have, not what we have left over.

  2. Thanks for the article Johannes. It’s a sobering reality that many of our little lambs are being led out of the sheep pen by TCN. I hope your article will be read far and wide.

  3. This is indeed eye-opening, as it casts light on the true scope of the problem. I have personally experienced bits of it here and there within our own congregation, but the wide-angle is a sobering reminder that all of the programs and packaged-solutions that continue to ooze down the pipeline are never a substitute for Law & Gospel, Word & Sacrament.

    Thanks for posting this!

  4. Thank you,
    We are being asked by our pastor to use the TCN program. There was no mention of doing away with our present, normal LCMS structure, system. Because of you and Scott Diekmann we are learning the truth about TCN. We will try to vote it down. Pray for us

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