Over the last couple of years we have been adding smartboards to our church’s day school classrooms. Smartboards are computerized whiteboards. It took me a few weeks to transition from the traditional chalkboard to these new computerized boards but once I did I realized they are incredible teaching tools. For instance, I was able to capture the notes below that I wrote on the board and create a pdf so I could share it with our BJS readers. The captured notes tell the story of some smartly catechized catechumens.
We have three years of confirmation instruction. In sixth grade we require the public school students to take a year of Bible instruction so they can catch up with our day school students. In seventh grade we teach the first three chief parts of the catechism and then in eighth grade we teach the last three chief parts. A couple of weeks ago I was teaching the third article of the creed (second chief part) and realized the fruits of sixteen years of teaching and preaching at the same congregation.
We were just beginning our discussion of the church in the day school class. As a discussion starter I asked the students to tell me what the church is. Their off the cuff answers floored me and delighted me to no end. Here are their answers as I recorded them on the smartboard (you can see the actual printout from the screen below):
- Where you learn about God.
- A place where we our sins are forgiven and we have baptisms.
- God’s holy place because he is there.
- Where you receive communion.
I have been teaching confirmation for 25 years and have never had such a profound answers to this question. Keep in mind, this is before I started to teach them about the church. The pastors reading this post can testify that the answer to this question usually is along the lines of “a place where we worship,” “God’s house,” “a building” and the like.
These students practically recited Augsburg Confession Article VII even though they have never read it! Look at those answers. (These are the exact first 28 words that came out of their mouths. I simply wrote their words on the smart board.) The first answer is mildly protestant (emphasis on the sermon) but still better than most typical out-of-the-box answers. The second and fourth answers echo Augsburg VII perfectly. The church is not the people, it is not the institution, it is a place where God administers his sacraments. The third answer is also somewhat protestant (because it hints at an emphasis on the glory of God) but it is also quite Lutheran because it calls to mind the true work of the church – forgiving sins. God is holy and we are not, and so something needs to be done about it, i.e. forgive us.
I believe these responses have been born of patient plodding along in a long pastorate. I have been preaching and teaching in this parish for 16 years and it is good to know that after a certain amount of time confessional theology begins to sink in. We are also blessed to have a confessional Associate Pastor (9 years in the congregation) a confessional teaching staff (average tenure of 12 years) all of whom have contributed to this excellent catechesis. Most of all, I would credit the work of our Cantor (8 years tenure) who has taught the congregation how to sing, taught sight-singing in the day school, mentored our acolytes and has well catechized our children’s choirs. The authentic Lutheran singing causes the faith to become second nature for the congregation. This is a very subtle thing and I am not able to capture it very well in words but I know that it has made a huge difference. Our music and Sunday morning piety matches the theology taught in the classrooms.
Fellow pastors, keep preaching and teaching the faith even when it seems like it is not sinking in. Laymen, keep supporting your pastors as they promote traditional theology and piety in the congregation. The Brothers of John the Steadfast stand ready to encourage and equip such confessional work.
Adding April 6th:
After posting this, a reader submitted a WORDLE copy of the smartboard that Pastor Rossow presented above. Wordle is a web-based system that generates a pictoral version of a set of text — it is a good method of seeing visually what the focus of a sermon or reading is about. I’m not sure exactly how it does it, but it seems to increase the size of the word based on its frequency in the text. It doesn’t work as well for short text like the above, but it is still interesting to see: