A-B-C-D-E-F-G. . . .
Anyone with toddlers or preschoolers in their lives probably hears this song frequently. In our house, we’ve sung it so often my oldest son has even started augmenting the tune with his own claps and beats and alternate rhythms.
The ABCs are part of the foundational knowledge that helps young children learn and grow in their understanding of language. Knowing the alphabet sets them on the road toward reading, and reading sets them on the road toward lifelong, self-directed learning.
There is some foundational knowledge of the Christian faith that helps immature Christians—whether children, youth, or adults—learn and grow in their understanding of the faith, as well.
I’ve started thinking about these basics as an alphabet of sorts. The ABCs of the Christian faith. As a mom and as a Christian educator, I want to help my own children grow in faith and maturity, and to help the congregations with which I work do the same for their members. But bringing the faith to life in our homes and in our families can be a challenge.
What follows is just the start of my ABCs of faith. Perhaps you can think of other pieces that fit.
A—Advent, Lent, and Other Special Seasons
If personal or family devotions, time spent reading the Bible, or prayer are not already part of your daily routine, perhaps an easier time to begin this new habit is during one of the special seasons of the Church Year, such as Advent or Lent. As I write this, we’re about 25 days into Lent, and my family's "Jesus Tree" is slowly growing full of messianic symbols and green leaves. We're spending 10 minutes each day, reading a story about Jesus from CPH’s The Story Bible, praying (I have the kids repeat the prayer line-by-line as I read it from the book), and adding a picture ornament (clip art gleaned from free image sources) to a large tree trunk drawn on butcher paper and hung on the wall in our dining room.
It’s fast and easy. And, while my five-year-old doesn’t fully understand the Bible stories, and can be quite squirmy at times—don’t even get me started on the two-year-old!—I know he's learning the importance of spending time with God's Word. He's excited to see our tree growing. And, he's actively engaged in the countdown toward Holy Week and Easter. It's 10 minutes of our day, very well spent. (And, when we miss a day or two, it's easy to catch up!)
Congregations can help their members make daily time with God’s Word a little less intimidating by providing simple devotional resources—and making sure everyone knows how to use them! Take a few minutes during Sunday morning announcements or adult Bible study, and have everyone walk through a simple home devotion together. Practice it together, so it doesn’t feel so strange when trying to do it on their own.
"God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!" (LSB 594). If I want anything for my children, and others who grow up in the church, it's for them to be able to say this with absolute confidence. On good days and bad days. When they feel strong in their faith and when they are plagued by doubt. Whether they have tons of friends or struggle with loneliness. No matter what, I want them to lean into the promise of God given in Holy Baptism, that they are forgiven and loved.
Strength and courage to face the challenges of life come from our baptismal identity. I love Martin Luther's encouragement, in his Small Catechism, to begin and end the day by making the sign of the cross and invoking the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Start the day and end the day with a reminder of who and whose we are.
I hope our children are reminded of that clearly and firmly every time they come to church, in worship and in Christian education programs. I hope they are reminded of that by their parents and grandparents and siblings, too, at home. How, you might ask, can we do that? Let's continue down the line to. . . .
C—Confession & Absolution
A bit of transparency, here: I have a strong temper. Always have. My parents could tell you some stories, let me assure you. At this point in our marriage, my husband could, too!
So, take my strong temper and a couple of similarly strong-willed children, and you can imagine the storms that rage in our household some days.
What gets us through those challenging times? Confession and absolution. The power of forgiveness.
We speak words of confession on Sunday mornings, in worship, and are assured of God's forgiveness by our pastor. We can speak those same words of confession and absolution at home, practicing with our family, with friends, with our spouse; teaching them to our children, and helping them confess to and forgive their siblings and friends.
Don’t let your kids—or your spouse, or yourself!—respond to someone's confession with, "It's okay." It’s not okay. Sin hurts. And sin needs to be forgiven, not brushed aside like it's nothing.
"I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?" "I forgive you, and I still love you."
We say these words so many times, any given day in our house. And I hope, each day, they are sinking deeper and deeper into my children's hearts and minds, and helping shape their identity as forgiven children of God.
A-B-C-D-E-F-G. . . . . Won't you sing along with me?
I hope my ABCs have sparked some ideas for how you might live out your Christian faith at home. What other basics of the Christian faith would be included in your alphabet?