When we think about teaching our children about our Lord and what He has done for us, we probably don’t think of grabbing the nearest copy of Lutheran Service Book (LSB) to teach from. Depending on our kids’ ages, we might grab The Story Bible, Faith Alive Bible, The Lutheran Study Bible, My First Catechism, Luther’s Small Catechism, or any of the numerous Arch Books we have grown to love. But did you know that we can teach our children about Christ and how our worship points to Him by using the hymnal?
Liturgy is defined as a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted. It is repeatable. It is there for the good order of the church. What is great about the Lutheran liturgy, especially those settings found in Lutheran Service Book, is that the words we proclaim as we worship our Lord come from Holy Scripture. And since they come from Holy Scripture, we can use the Divine Service as a twofold tool in our instruction. First, we can use it to teach our children the words we proclaim during the service. Doing so will allow your prereaders to participate with your family well before they can read. Second, it will help teach them about why we say the things we say and where those things come from in Scripture.
Before we start
Before I share some concrete ways to teach the faith with the hymnal, I want to highly recommend that you take a look at the book Worshiping with Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service. Author Scot Kinnaman does a masterful job of teaching you about the Divine Service and what is happening during every point. If you don’t know about everything in the Divine Service, don’t worry, you are not alone! Worshiping with Angels and Archangels has you covered. And even if you feel that you know everything there is to know about our worship, this is still a great book to have on the shelf as a reminder and reference.
Getting to know your hymnal
If you haven’t used a hymnal in worship outside of singing hymns before, it will be important to familiarize yourself with the Divine Service layouts. In LSB, we have five different settings for the Divine Service. The services can be found between pages 151 and 218.
Since LSB came out in 2006, it’s more than likely you did not grow up with it as your church’s hymnal. You probably grew up with The Lutheran Hymnal or Lutheran Worship. Or maybe your church uses printed bulletins or projects the service on a screen. Whatever the case may be, here is some background information on each of the settings. (Use this information to find the service your church uses now or the one you remember from your youth.)
Settings One and Two come from Lutheran Worship. Setting Three comes from The Lutheran Hymnal. Setting Four comes from Hymnal Supplement ’98. Setting Five is based on Luther’s German Mass of 1526.
Now that you have your setting, let’s take a look at the way the liturgy is laid out in the hymnal. You probably notice the red letters first. These are called the rubric. They are instructions that tell us what to do at specific points in time during the Divine Service. You’ll also see indications of who is to speak and what is said, divided in both bolded and roman text. Another important feature, the one we’re going to focus on in this post, is the references. Notice the small italicized biblical references next to parts of the liturgy. Those references point you to the Scripture that formed the basis for that part of the liturgy.
Tips for teaching the faith through the liturgy
Using the liturgy as a teaching aid doesn’t have to be scary or hard. Here are some practical tips for using your preferred Divine Service setting to teach your family.
Use the Scriptural references in the liturgy to help teach the biblical narrative.
When you sit down with your family, pull out the hymnal and chose one part of the liturgy a week to study. Go through the text we speak or sing during the service and compare it to the biblical references. Don’t just read the verse that is cited in the reference, read the surrounding verses as well to make sure your family understands the context of the narrative! Ask your family, what are we professing at this point in time during the service? Why are we professing this? What led to this profession in Scripture?
Use the biblical narrative to support the liturgy.
Okay, this may seem like the same thing as above, but the suggestion above was talking about intentionally going through the liturgy. Once you have done that, and you gain a firmer understanding of the relationship between Scripture and the liturgy, you will be able to go from the narrative back to the liturgy. Let me give you an example:
I use The Story Bible at night with my daughter. During Advent last year, we read “The Birth of Jesus” on page 283. The second part of the story talks about Simeon. As we read what Simeon said when he first saw Christ, it was the perfect chance to ask Ava, “Have you heard these words before?”
“I think so,” she responds.
“Where at?” I asked her.
“At church, at church!” she yells back.
This was the perfect opportunity to pull out our copy of LSB, turn to the Nunc Dimittis, and talk about why we sing these words right after receiving the Lord’s Supper. It was a perfect time to draw the correlation about Simeon’s prayer of thanksgiving for being able to see the Lord and our prayer of thanksgiving for being able to receive Him in the Sacrament.
Sing the liturgy with your family!
I know this sounds a little odd—singing what we sing at church, at home? It may be something new to you, and something you may feel a little awkward doing in the beginning, but it is a great experience. There are a lot of different reasons that this is great practice:
- Kids learn so much through song. Because our liturgy comes from Scripture, singing it teaches them the biblical narrative it comes from with a deeper understanding.
- Prereading students will learn the words of the liturgy and be able to participate with you during Divine Service.
- The liturgy is full of prayers. Prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of praise, and prayers of supplication. These are all things we ask for and say daily in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s okay to sing them as well!
- If you or your children know how to play the piano, or are learning, this is the perfect time to gather the family around the piano and sing together. Feel free to throw some hymns in the mix as well!
These are just a few ideas about using the liturgy to teach your children and your family. What do you think? What are things that you do at home with your family around the liturgy? Let us know in the comment section below.
God’s blessings as you teach your children the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3 ESV).
References to and the image of the Divine Service come from Lutheran Service Book, copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. Used with permission.