A way for congregations to support families in raising Lutheran children.

In my present congregation I have developed a program to help our families which will begin this summer.  Fundamental to this is the belief that parental instruction of children in the Faith is the best possible thing for children.  This is not to say that Sunday School classes, midweek programs, and other teaching done by the pastor are not important, but parents teaching their kids is always best.  The pastor and church can help the parents in this task.  And when I say parents, I would strongly include a preference for fatherhood being the main teacher in the Faith for his children.

With regards to this I developed a way for congregations to support a family.  A congregation could provide resources (books and such) to families and also the pastor could provide instruction on how to use the resource in the home.  This instruction can be done with the whole family in their home or in an afternoon class at the church.  Here is what I developed:  In my congregation it is being called “Christ at Home – the other six days of your Christian life”

For each odd year (age 3-17) the child would receive a given resource, only after the instruction of how to use the resource was completed however.  The parents then could implement in their household the use of the resource for the good of the children.  As the child grows, he or she would find themselves with all sorts of solid resources to draw upon, and even more important for them and their future household, they would grow up with an expectation that religious instruction happens at home as well as church.

Age 3 – The Story Bible  (1 hour of family instruction)

Age 5 – My First Hymnal (1 hour of family instruction)

Age 7 – My First Catechism (1 hour of family instruction) also encouragement to use the workbook.

Age 9 – Faith Alive Student Bible (or ESV Children’s Bible) (1-2 hours of family instruction)

Age 11 – Lutheran Service Book (2 hours of family instruction)

Age 13 – Reading the Psalms with Luther (or Lutheran Book of Prayer) (1 hour of family instruction)

Age 15 – The Lutheran Study Bible (3 hours of instruction)

Age 17 – Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions – A readers edition of the Book of Concord (3 hours of instruction prior)

The cost of this program when I purchased packages of it this spring was around $175 per child (with some sale pricing).  This is a very minimal cost to be able to give these resources to your households in the parish so that parents can be helped in teaching their children the Faith.

Now I have kept my selections to things from Concordia Publishing House, but there are also many good resources out there from other Lutheran publishers.  There are also other titles which could really fit well into this plan.

Works which come to mind immediately are:

Law and Gospel – readers edition

Treasury of Daily Prayer

Single Volume Large Catechisms

I am sure there are many ideas which can run from this start and I would encourage comments on improvements to what I have laid out here or other resource suggestions.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


A way for congregations to support families in raising Lutheran children. — 22 Comments

  1. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “After supper, we’d always have devotions. And we tried a lot of devotion books and we finally discarded them all. I think the best, simple one that we ever had was A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories, which many of you know. That was a great one. But you can only go so far with that. It doesn’t have all the stories in it. It’s just a paraphrase. The first edition of Beck’s Bible came out, which was a New Testament edition of the four Gospels, a harmony of the Gospels. And so we started reading that. We read other versions of the Bible, but we finally settled on Beck because it was the easiest for the children. I didn’t ever like it esthetically, particularly. I’m way back in the King James. That’s the way I’d memorized the Bible. But we did that and it worked out, not just because it was Beck, but because it was the Bible. It worked out as something that a 20 year old could understand, appreciate, and be edified by, and at the same time the little ones understood it.”

    “Dr. & Mrs. Robert Preus Speaking On Life In the Parsonage”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

  2. We’ve been reading a chapter of the Bible with our boys (all under 3) every day. We have been doing the Gospels. We have a little routine we do – including Luther’s Morning Prayer, a Hymn, Bible Reading, Offering, Hymn & Apostles Creed. Sometimes I wonder if this is “too technical” for the kids, but I want them to learn straight out of the Bible. Would love to hear what people think of this schedule & if we should maybe “talk the Bible Chapter through” more after it is read. This lasts about 20 minutes and is about all the longer I can get them to sit at one time.

  3. Great idea!

    I would like to add that one can use something like My first hymnal earlier than 5. My parents gave us a copy for my 2 year old’s baptism birthday back in April. She loves this book, it’s become essential to our night time routine. In fact, when I got home today the wife informed me that the kiddo had been “singing” the hymns all day and even asked to sing “Holy Spirit, Light Divine” by name (I had no idea she remembered the name of the hymn after I told her what it was the other night). As a 2 year old she also loves the pictures and identifying who they are. Its amazing how much little ones can soak up and so soon, sooner than most parents expect they can I think.

  4. Also consider other media such as the Evening and Morning CD for daily prayer, Listening to Luther (Small Catechism set to music), and the like.

  5. @Jacob #3
    Absolutely, and the catechism can be introduced that early too. Kids are sponges, no matter how many folks want to think that they can’t do anything, they can memorize an amazing amount of core information (things that later they can process and understand more).

    @Rev. Michael Monterastelli #4
    Those are very good resources too. I am hoping that CPH produces a companion disc for “My First Hymnal”.

  6. @Marie #2
    Marie, I don’t think that is too much. Luther gave the advice of having kids put scriptures into a pocket marked Law and a pocket marked Gospel. That may be something you could add as they get older.

  7. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “We never had to teach our children the facts of life; maybe my wife did. Of course, I didn’t even know the facts of life. The point is that many issues that you might think you have to–like the movies, you know, “Let’s talk man-to-man”–you don’t have to do that if you have devotions all the way through. Also the devotions will prepare these people for marriage.”

    “Dr. & Mrs. Preus Speaking On Life In the Parsonage”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

  8. I think your plan of introducing resources is great. Some families do lots of education and family devotions (great!), and some do none (no excuse!). Resources such as what you have outlined above should be provided and it should be explained how to use them in a simple way, but I believe there is a basic but infinitely rich daily liturgy that should be shared by all of us: family and/or individual prayer, morning, night, and at least the evening meal. This is what Luther stresses in the Catechism. Therefore, I strongly suggest that the primary resource/liturgy that should be stressed to all Christian parents for keeping their families in the Word between Sundays is Luther’s prescribed morning and evening prayers as follows.

    Make the sign of the cross in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

    Recite the 10 Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, adding any personal prayers as needed.

    I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may be pleasing in Thy sight. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy Holy Angel be with me, that the Evil Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

    I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Evil Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

    In addition, there should be a regular family meal at which prayer is spoken. It is also the duty of parents (especially fathers) to examine their household weekly in regard to learning the Catechism’s explanations of the six chief parts. One way to help children learn them is to recite each of the explanations for a full week. This could be done at the end of the family meal. This generally gets through the entire small catechism in one year. And, of course, for older children and adults, the Large Catechism is a rich treasure that never gets old.

    I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t do more, but wouldn’t it be God-pleasing if ALL Christian families were at least doing this? Sometimes I fear we load way too much on families such that even this basic daily liturgy is left undone because it all just becomes too much for some families to deal with. We do great for a while with extra resources, and then we fall away because of busy times in our lives. We are so overloaded with information and resources in today’s culture that we desperately need something basic and well-grounded to frame our day and keep us grounded in God’s Word. We have no better resource than the Small Catechism. Sometimes in this crazy overstimulating world we live in it’s important to “get back to basics”.

    I could go on, but instead here is a link to something I wrote that goes into more detail: Raising Children in the Paideia of the Lord.

  9. We are doing something similar to the OP.
    Baptism – Teach the parents basic devotional habits and get them thinking ahead on how to have a Christ Centered household. We encourage parents to use Treasury of Daily Prayer, Luther’s Small Catechism, etc.
    Age 2 – The Story Bible – teach the parents how to read it to their kids
    Age 4 – Worship – Teach parents how to teach their kids to worship – they get a little kit with a cross and candle to set up during devotions, some of our families have added bits of cloth to reflect liturgical calendar.
    Age 6 – Stewardship – Teach parents how to teach their kids how to serve.
    Age 8 – Faith Alive Bible – Teach parents how to use the study bible with their kids.
    Age 10 – We do a retreat that covers how to be a man and how to be a lady. So yes, we help parents deal with the birds and the bees talk using the videos from CPH.
    Age 12 – Conflict resolution – Confession and Absolution
    High School we have a couple of evening seminars to prep for life after high school.

  10. My children are 0, 1.6, and 2.7. At breakfast time we hear a Bible story, recite a chief part, sing the liturgy (pg 15) and sing 3-5 good hymns. We repeat 3 hymns each week for a while and sing 2 good hymns included in the following Sunday’s Divine Service. The oldest is doing pretty well at “We All Believe in One True God” (the “hard” tune). The next oldest is now singing parts of the liturgy.

    The small children are able to do so much more than we think they can.

  11. It is great to hear what other people are doing. Encouraging that we are not “crazy” for not using a traditional devotion book with our young children.

  12. Thanks, Pr. Scheer.

    I do want to make it clear that I am not against additional resources. As evidence, look in the back of the Treasury of Daily Prayer and you will see my name as one of the contributors to the effort of putting it together.

    I simply think it is very important to make the distinction that these extra resources are icing on the cake for those so inclined to use them, whereas the basic but infinitely rich daily home liturgy of the small catechism should be stressed constantly as the meat and potatoes above all else that we simply do not ever do without (between Sundays) no matter how old or “wise” we get.

    How many of those extra resources, educational efforts, and daily devotions will be exactly replicated in the next generation? Every family and every child is different. Some families and children can’t get enough of these types of things. However, sometimes there are families or even individual children who don’t particularly warm up to some of these devotional materials and methods.

    What a blessing if would be if all children were to leave home to start their own families with this habitus of the basic daily liturgy of the Catechism — having it ingrained in them that this is the standard daily practice that we just do, and never do without, just like the fact that we attend church EVERY Sunday with very rare exceptions.

    For more on the importance of this “back-to-basics” approach, just read what Luther wrote in his preface to the the Large Catechism:

    7] But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and ever morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, 8] but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain. And yet these delicate, fastidious fellows would with one reading promptly be doctors above all doctors, know everything and be in need of nothing. Well, this, too, is indeed a sure sign that they despise both their office and the souls of the people, yea, even God and His Word. They do not have to fall, they are already fallen all too horribly; they would need to become children, and begin to learn their alphabet, which they imagine that they have long since outgrown.

    9] Therefore I beg such lazy paunches or presumptuous saints to be persuaded and believe for God’s sake that they are verily, verily! not so learned or such great doctors as they imagine; and never to presume that they have finished learning this [the parts of the Catechism], or know it well enough in all points, even though they think that they know it ever so well. For though they should know and understand it perfectly (which, however, is impossible in this life), yet there are manifold benefits and fruits still to be obtained, if it be daily read and practised in thought and speech; namely, that the Holy Ghost is present in such reading and repetition and meditation, and bestows ever new and more light and devoutness, so that it is daily relished and appreciated better, as Christ promises, Matt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. . . .

    14] And if this were not sufficient to admonish us to read the Catechism daily, yet we should feel sufficiently constrained by the command of God alone, who solemnly enjoins in Deut. 6:6ff that we should always meditate upon His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising, and have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant mark and sign. Doubtless He did not so solemnly require and enjoin this without a purpose; but because He knows our danger and need, as well as the constant and furious assaults and temptations of devils, He wishes to warn, equip, and preserve us against them, as with a good armor against their fiery darts and with good medicine against their evil infection and suggestion.

    15] Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we that, while we must ever live and dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils are, we nevertheless despise our weapons and defense, and are too lazy to look at or think of them!

  13. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “I’m telling you, God will bless you when you have these devotions. These devotions are centered not around this or that or the other clever thing that somebody has written . I’m sorry, but I never read Portals of Prayer. I mean it’s fine for people that don’t know any theology. There’s nothing in these devotion books that could possibly equal the Bible. And the Bible is in such simple versions now that the kids at the earliest ages–the simplest book in the world for children to read. In New England the first readers were from the Proverbs, teaching little children how to read. So don’t think the Bible is difficult. Explain it to them if it’s difficult. But it will be a great blessing.”

    “Dr. & Mrs. Robert Preus Speaking On Life In the Parsonage”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

  14. @Steven Goodrich #7
    Bender is an excellent pastor and produces great material.

    @R.D. #12

    @Erich Heidenreich DDS #14
    Luther was a genius, I wish we would listen to him more. The congregation I serve prints up cardstock copies of the catechism rites and the pastors teach from them and hand them out on our every member visitations. It has been a blessing to many households.

    @“LC-MS Quotes” #15
    Dr. Robert Preus was a genius, I wish we would listen to him more.

  15. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “I want to emphasize again the more children you have the easier it is to communicate the Gospel–at least to children. I had to get that in somewhere .”

    “The Mission Emphasis at C.T.S.”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
    September 10, 1986

  16. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    I like to use the illustration–you people don’t like opera and you probably think I’m a kind of nut if I do–but I kind of like opera. In fact, I like all music except hard rock. I hope you young people don’t mind. It’s just too loud. It’s too penetrating. I like opera. And I have a lot of records of Maria Callas. And I don’t know if any of you have heard of her. She was quite a outstanding Greek American–oh, she was…was she married to Onassis or was it just engaged or something like that? Anyway, if you came into my living room and the Hi-Fi was on and you hear this beautiful voice–she used to say, modestly, that she had the voice of an angel–if you heard that, and you said, “Preus, what is that?” what would I say? Would I say that that’s a phonograph that you’re hearing? Of course not. I would say, “That is Maria Callas singing,” right?

    That’s exactly what we say of Scripture. That is God speaking. Obviously, it’s a book; it’s been written by men. But what you are getting out of that message is a message from God Himself.

    “What the Bible Says About the Bible”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
    December 1979

  17. Thanks for this great post and all the terrific comments. Sadly, I wasn’t raised in a household that had daily devotions or regular family bible study. It never even occured to me to do it in my own home until I joined the confessional congregation that I currently belong to, so I failed to establish the habit while my kids were little. We’ve tried to make up for lost time, anf our kids have turned out pretty well, but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to help them establish the practice with their kids.

    I’d like to humbly suggest one addition to the list. I think each child should be presented with a copy of the Small Catechism at their baptism and their parents shpuld be instructed how to raise them up with it.

  18. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    I made the mistake with my first seven. I didn’t teach them to pray ex corde prayers. You know what an ex corde prayer is? That’s a prayer that you just–it’s from the heart. And I never taught the kids how to pray that kind of a prayer–always, you know, the Lord’s Prayer or the Evening Prayer or something like that. But with the last three, I said, “I’m going pray an ex corde prayer and I want you to do it–your own.” And they started praying ex corde prayers. And one of my most troublesome girls–child–was Karen; she’s number eight. And she said, “Dad, I want to pray and ex corde prayer.” And she prayed that ex corde prayer. And I’m telling you, it would last ten minutes. Beautiful. It was beautiful. I think she learned prayer habits that the older ones didn’t. And I was so sorry that I hadn’t started that earlier.

    “Dr. & Mrs. Robert Preus Speaking On Life In the Parsonage”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

    Karen Naomi, b. June 23, 1961, at St. Louis, MO.

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