Ah . . . the good old days in Lutheran education. Our schools were full. Nearly every student came from a strong Lutheran family. The culture of faith understandings were consistent from one generation to the next. The interpretation of words such as grace, confirmation, catechism, and introit were well-known and established. “Being Lutheran” was a clear identity in Lutheran schools.
Now think about today. While some Lutheran schools still fit the description above, many do not. For example, in my current school only 18 percent of our students are from a Lutheran background. While many of the remaining students worship at community churches, a subset of our student body is largely unchurched. Other schools may not have Lutheran and Christian percentages this small, but Lutheran schools are clearly becoming populated by those with more diverse faith backgrounds.
But maybe the “good old days” are really this present age. Perhaps we are living in the good old days, where our schools and classrooms have been blessed with an even greater gateway to make a difference in the lives of students and families in an increasingly postmodern culture. Opportunities to share the Gospel abound!
With the ever-changing culture on their minds, the 2013 convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod directed the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to create an update to the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism. This resource promises to become an essential volume in teaching the Christian faith from a Lutheran perspective and in helping answer the burning questions of faith that are regularly raised by Lutheran and non-Lutheran students alike.
As I reviewed a draft of this new edition, there were several new features that caught my attention as a classroom teacher. Here is the new content that impressed me.
- God’s Word remains central to understanding faith. This element, so prevalent in the previous edition, has not been compromised in any way but has been expanded. Anyone who uses the new Explanation to the catechism will clearly see that the Bible continues to be the sole source for answers to questions of faith. Therefore, this traditional Lutheran value is maintained and enhanced.
- Many additional questions and answers. The Explanation has been expanded to include many more faith questions, which are answered using biblical references. What struck me is that so many of the added questions are ones that I hear repeatedly by my students. Clearly the CTCR has their pulse on the faith issues that are challenging students and families today.
- Reference tools, glossary, and index. With added content comes added difficulty in sorting through the content, especially if one is less familiar with the format for the Explanation. Therefore, an index has been added to help identify biblical references to topics that may emerge in classroom conversations and from questions from individual students. Additionally, as our classrooms become more diverse from a faith perspective, I have found a common vocabulary to be extremely important in truly understanding one another in a learning environment. CPH has produced a glossary in this new edition to faithfully share a clear Lutheran perspective on terminology for a diverse environment.
- The Central Thought. Each section begins with a central thought on which to focus. This is a particularly useful feature for leading students who have no faith background. At times, they find theological and religious instruction to be overwhelming, especially when mixed with other students who have had years of training. This feature will also be helpful in working with international students who enter our schools, providing them a single focal point for a lesson.
As an educator, I look forward to this upcoming release and am ready to embrace these features for the benefit of my students (and my own personal learning) as I seek to faithfully point them to Christ.