special needs

Resources for Using the Small Catechism with Students with Special Needs

Lisa Krenz Reaching Every Child Leave a Comment

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Your student with special needs has reached confirmation age, a big milestone in one’s faith life. We make a big deal about confirmation in our congregations, and rightfully so. But it’s not just about the church service with the white robes and the big party afterward; that’s just the photo opportunity. As a teacher or parent, you are thinking about all that has to be taught and learned to get to that grand celebration.

Confirmation instruction can be a big challenge for typically developing kids. The concepts presented in confirmation are often very abstract. For students with special needs, confirmation and all that surrounds it can be even more daunting. To begin with, Luther’s Small Catechism has so many words. It’s called “small” but it sure doesn’t seem small. There is a lot packed into that so-called small book. Not only are there a lot of words, but many of those words are also strange sounding and confusing.

About now, dear reader, you’re thinking, “I give up; you’re right. What was I thinking?” Resist that urge. Instead, say, “So what if it’s hard? We can handle that. It’s worth it to help students confirm their faith in Jesus and grow in their faith development.” Yes, that’s the right attitude.

Having the right attitude is the first step, but now you’ve got to teach. What then? Start with all the strategies we use in content-area classes: using visual aids, reading to a student, breaking things down into smaller chunks, being a scribe for a student. Think about how to make it more visual for your student. Perhaps put the content on a PowerPoint slide, or two or three, with big font and plenty of white space. Add a visual cue, using photographs or line drawings, or have the student add a visual cue. Highlight new words in color. Highlight important concepts in a different color. Continually check for understanding. Have your student explain concepts in his or her own words. None of these are new strategies.

Perhaps your best resource is a person, someone who has a keen understanding of how to differentiate lessons to meet the needs of a variety of learners. This could be a special education teacher, a regular education teacher, or maybe a speech/language pathologist or parent. Sometimes having someone to brainstorm ideas with and bounce ideas back and forth with is your most valuable resource.

There are people in your own congregation who may be able to do just that. Your pastor or principal might know them. But there are also people throughout our Synod who specialize is sharing the love of Jesus with people with special needs. Thanks to technology, you don’t have to live close by them geographically to get their help. I’m sure any one of the organizations listed below have people who would be happy to share ideas and strategies from their vast treasure trove of knowledge and experience. Just visit their website to figure out the best way to contact them.

Resources for Students with Special Needs

Lutheran Special Education Ministries   https://luthsped.org/

Even though this ministry is based in Michigan, it serves congregations and schools in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.


Lutheran Association for Special Education  http://lutheranspecialed.org/

Based in St. Louis.


Lutheran Special School and Education Services   http://www.lsses.org/

Based in Milwaukee.


Bethesda Lutheran Communities   https://bethesdalutherancommunities.org/services/faith-supports/

Bethesda offers services all over the country.

You may also e-mail religiouslife@mailblc.org.


Mill Neck Family of Organizations

Lutheran Friends of the Deaf https://millneck.org/our-services/deaf-ministry/

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About the Author

Lisa Krenz

Lisa Krenz is an editor at Concordia Publishing House. She has almost thirty years of experience in Lutheran schools as a special education teacher, consultant, and parent. Even though it’s taken many forms, reaching every child with the Gospel has been her passion from the beginning. She lives with her husband, Stephen, and two teen-age children, Joel and Anna, in Hoffman, Illinois, where her husband is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School. You can read her latest posts here.

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