faith-1

Faith in the Home

Did you know that Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism with the original intent that it be taught at home – by parents – to their children?! In fact, in the Lutheran church, when we baptize infants, we ask parents to make a baptismal promise that goes something like this,

to live with [their children] among God’s faithful people,
bring [their children] to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach [their children] the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in [their children's] hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture [their children] in faith and prayer,
so that [their children] may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.

In this baptismal promise, parents acknowledge that the home is the primary source of faith instruction. Those of us in the congregation give our promise to support the family and pray for the baptized child. We all acknowledge in these promises that the church, being God’s faithful people, is only one part of faith instruction. And yet, over the years, we have expected the church to fulfill this baptismal promise.

As little children, our parents bring us to Sunday school and Summer Bible School. Most of the time they drop us off in our age-appropriate classes while they go grab coffee, or maybe they go to the adult class. As we get older, they bring us to Confirmation, where the pastor – or maybe in some churches another staff member or faithful volunteers – teach us about the Bible and the Small Catechism. They again, drop us off, while they go run errands. We’re confirmed, and if we’ve made really good friends at our church, then our parents drop us off for high school youth group – until we can drive ourselves.

If in our baptism, our parents make this promise to us, then why do they drop us off instead of experience it with us? There has been some recent shift in children & youth ministry to “family ministry” – but it’s been a hard shift for some congregations to make. I recently discovered a congregation that is doing family-based confirmation, and I am intrigued. I want to push this even further – instead of just with confirmation – what if we did true family-based faith formation? How would our families, our churches, and the kingdom of God, be different if instead of offering programming for children & youth we offered opportunities for parents to learn how to fulfill their baptismal promise to their children?

What’s going on in your congregation? Are you doing family-based faith formation? How’s it going? What’s working? What’s not working?

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  • http://www.soulmunchies.com Crystal

    I LOVE this comment – I'm totally going to rack your brain about how we might be able to encourage parents to be more “hands on” about faith and Confirmation. You most definitely set a great example with your kids – maybe your experiences can help me figure out how to make it more common with families in our churches.

  • http://www.soulmunchies.com Crystal

    You know Aunt Paula, I don't really remember what I was taught in Confirmation either. And I think that's part of my point. I think Confirmation should be about helping youth with their faith journeys rather than helping to teach them something in particular. I think we as Lutherans haven't struggled honestly enough about what the point of Confirmation is. Or if some Lutherans have, I haven't been privy to the conversations.

  • http://www.soulmunchies.com Crystal

    So Kevin – what DO you teach in Confirmation? I'm looking for a new model for Confirmation…one that helps the Bible and Catechism be taught at home and allows the church to be a reinforcer rather than a primary teacher.

  • http://www.soulmunchies.com Crystal

    Sorry it's taken me a bit to get back to this thread! Hope we can keep this conversation going.

    I like your idea of having alternating classes! One of the things we're moving forward with in the fall is using the Lectionary for ALL Sunday school classes. So adults will be talking about the same Bible verses and themes as the 2 year olds … hopefully that will encourage some conversations around the dinner table!

  • Mom Rowe

    I am also intrigued by the idea of family-based confirmation. In the “old” days, my parents participated with my by talking about my weekly assignments and memorizations from the cathechism. As do most youths, I was not “into” confirmation classes, but with the support of my parents I realized the importance and meaningfulness of learning about our faith that we choose to profess in the family of the church. As a parent myself, I tried to include books and movies that provided opportunities for discussions regarding our Faith and our belief in God – granted these were informal discussions, but planting seeds is always a gentle, caring and precious activity :-)

  • Mom Rowe

    I am also intrigued by the idea of family-based confirmation. In the “old” days, my parents participated with my by talking about my weekly assignments and memorizations from the cathechism. As do most youths, I was not “into” confirmation classes, but with the support of my parents I realized the importance and meaningfulness of learning about our faith that we choose to profess in the family of the church. As a parent myself, I tried to include books and movies that provided opportunities for discussions regarding our Faith and our belief in God – granted these were informal discussions, but planting seeds is always a gentle, caring and precious activity :-)

  • Paula

    That's interesting Crystal, but I must tell you that I do not remember even one tiny bit of what I was taught in Confirmation classes. Small catechism, large catechism, whatever. So I hope that you manage to find a way to make it meaningful and important, if indeed it is. Mine was someone's afterthought, I think, and it was the beginning of the end of my involvement in organized religion.

  • http://www.celebrationlutheran.com Kevin

    So true. You should have seen the look on the faces of the adults when I mentioned awhile back that I don't really teach the Small Catechism in Confirmation. When they said “why not!” I feigned surprise and said, “because…that's your job.” A great discussion insued. (-:

    I think there is a difference between ministry and education, but unfortunately we tend to lump them together in our church structure. Adults do need to have “confirmation” themselves from time to time – but on a necessarily different (and thus separate) level – which is why Luther also wrote the Large Catechism. I could see doing something like the above poster suggests – having some combined and some separate classes. There is great value in kids seeing their parents learning just as they are.

  • Tambryn

    Is there value to having combined classes say twice a month but separate other weeks? For example, 4 year olds learn at a much different level than their parents. Sunday school for parents is often a time to relate to other parents, discuss issues in the home, and rejuvenate with some adult discussion of religion that just wouldn't sink in for young children. I think kids and parents would lose out if they were in classes too often together simply because the diversity gives parents a chance to ask “what did you learn” and open that door for discussion.

    Still, faith should be in the home. Would it be worth initiating themes for weeks when kids and parents are separate? That way they know what the other one learned and parents may be able to expand on the discussion their kids had in class when they're driving home together. I would imagine it could tie in with the sermon that week as well.