“I, a poor, miserable sinner . . .”
“We are by nature sinful and unclean . . .”
What odd words to a preschooler. Without explanation, they could be highly confusing. I imagine my daughter has had these thoughts:
- I’m not miserable. I’m pretty happy!
- What is sinful?
- I took a bath last night. I’m not dirty.
How can we explain to our little ones what we are doing during Confession and Absolution? Might I suggest using the Small Catechism as a starting point?
What is Confession?
Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
So we teach our children that we confess when we have been wrong. We come to God with repentance and we receive His Holy Absolution. See below for some specific tips on how to teach your little ones this beautiful truth.
Read to your child from the catechism.
Surprise, surprise, I know, I’m telling you to read to your child from the catechism, again. I know that I sound like a broken record, but the brief section on Confession will give you what you need to teach your child about Confession and Absolution. Sure, you may have to explain some words.
Ava: Uhhhh, Daddy, what’s a guilty? (Don’t worry that she just turned an adjective into a noun. It’s completely normal, right?)
Me: Guilty means that we are admitting to doing something wrong.
Your answer may be different for your child, but I think you see the point. Read to them from the catechism, and explain tough words in kid-friendly language.
Forgive your child.
When your child comes to you and apologizes for doing something wrong, don’t just say it’s okay. Tell them that you forgive them. When your child shows you repentance, be an example to them of how they are to be to their neighbor. Get into the habit of saying “I forgive you” or “You are forgiven.”
We are to confess our sin against our neighbor. We are also to forgive our neighbor who sins against us. Parents model this with and for their children. Not only should children learn to say “I’m sorry” when they do something wrong, but parents should learn to respond with “You are forgiven.” To respond with a simple, “It’s okay,” misses the freedom that forgiveness brings.
“Forgiven” means two things. First, you are no longer guilty, which means, second, the wronged person no longer has anything to hold against you. A child who is consistently forgiven is all the more aware of the gifts of his Baptism, the washing & renewal.*
Draw connections to the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed.
When your child has erred, be sure to take the opportunity to reinforce these foundational pieces of our faith. Talk with your child about how they have done what is wrong according to the Ten Commandments. Show them how breaking any commandment is to ultimately break the First Commandment. Then, pray the Lord’s Prayer with your child. Look together at the Fifth Petition, where we see that even though we deserve nothing but punishment and death for our sin, the Father instead offers us forgiveness for our sins. Then, confess the Creed with your child. Look especially at the Second Article, where we confess what Christ has done to pay for our sins and win forgiveness and salvation. Finally, don’t neglect to speak the words of forgiveness to your child: “Your sins are forgiven.”
Consider using some helpful resources as you teach about confession.
There are a lot of great resources to help teach your young child the faith. Here are some that are specifically made to help you teach about confession.
- Follow and Do: Confession—The Follow and Do series teaches young children about the Six Chief Parts of the Christian faith, combining the teachings in the catechism with practical application for all aspects of daily life.
- Whisper, Whisper: Learning about Church—Rhyming text, in-sanctuary tips, and engaging, colorful illustrations help children up to age 4 understand the rituals and routine at church. Optional activities are provided to help children focus their attention and to remind them about their behavior. Parents can use this engaging book in the home on Saturday evening to prepare children for Sunday morning. It can also be used in the pew before service or included in children’s church “quiet” bags. Whisper, Whisper makes an ideal addition to new member/baptismal packets.
- My First Catechism: An Illustrated Version of Luther’s Small Catechism—Introduce children to the teachings of Martin Luther with My First Catechism: An Illustrated Version of Luther’s Small Catechism. This keepsake-quality book uses accounts of biblical characters joined with engaging artwork to help children relate the meaning of the Commandments, Creeds, Lord’s Prayer, and more to their lives.
- Sing the Faith CD—Words paired with music are more easily learned and remembered. With Sing the Faith, the words of the Small Catechism are set to original tunes in order to teach and aid memory of these important words.
This is not a comprehensive list, just some thoughts and ideas. What are your ideas? We’d love to hear from you below! God’s blessings as you teach your children the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).Click Here to Download Small Catechism Flash Cards
The catechism quotation is from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
*The quote from Follow and Do: Confession is copyright © 2005 Joni Walker. Used by permission. All rights reserved.