TATDS: The Preparation for the Divine Service

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This post is part of a series of posts focused on teaching your children about the Divine Service. For an introduction to this series, please click here.

How do we start?

Everything has a starting point. We start out a workout with a warm-up. We start many sporting events by singing the national anthem. The school day starts with prayer (in a Lutheran school) or the Pledge of Allegiance (in public schools). And so it is with the Divine Service.

We start the Divine Service with the Invocation:

In the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When we start our service with these words, it lets everyone who is there know what this is all about. More so, it lets everyone know who is bringing us His Means of Grace.

There are two important aspects to the Invocation. First, we declare who God is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We come to worship in His name. You could have a lesson on the first three commandments in the Invocation alone!

Second, the pastor makes the sign of the cross (on himself if he is facing the altar; or in the air, if he is facing the congregation). It is a good practice to, as Luther would say, make the sign of the Holy Cross at this point in time. In fact, anytime you hear the Trinity invoked, making the sign of the cross is appropriate. When we make this sign, we remember our Baptism—that we have already died, been buried with Christ, and are raised up again with Him.

Teaching the Invocation to your children

The word, invocation comes from the Latin noun invocatio, which refers to calling upon God’s name. When we talk to our kids about the words, we can explain it this way:

When we start the service, we want to make it clear that we are not looking to ourselves or to anyone else. We are calling on our Lord during this entire service as He delivers His gifts to us.

Pull out your catechism and go over the first three commandments with your child. Talk about the importance of not having any other gods as well as the importance of not lying about who God is. This lesson, which helps explain the Invocation to your child, will also reinforce the understanding that breaking the Second Commandment is not just about cursing with the Lord’s name; it’s also about stating the truth about God.

This discussion will also present an opportunity for you to teach your child about making the sign of the cross. I’m sure when they see this at church, they wonder why we do this. You can tell them this:

When we make the sign of the cross, we remember that we are baptized children of God. He has delivered His gift of salvation through the waters of Holy Baptism. You have been baptized! So we start the service, reminding ourselves of the new life God has given us.

To reinforce your child’s Baptism, consider celebrating their baptismal birthday every year. In doing so, you teach them at an early age that Baptism is something important, something worth celebrating.

I, a poor, miserable . . .

Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.


Our help is in the name of the Lord,


who made heaven and earth.


I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,


and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.



Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.


O almighty God, merciful Father,


I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.


Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Teaching Confession and Absolution to any child can be a daunting experience for a parent. Here are three thoughts children might have during Confession and Absolution that we should answer:

I, a poor, miserable sinner:

Whether your child says or hears

  • I, a poor miserable sinner (Setting 3/5)
  • We are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed…. (Setting 1/2)
  • God, be merciful to me, a sinner (Setting 4)

he or she may need you to teach them why we say these things. Luckily, for us, there are several Scripture passages we can go to:

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 ESV

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ESV

To drive home the point, we must show where sin came from. Depending on your child’s age, pull out The Story Bible and read “Sin Enters the World” on page 30. If your child is older, read through Genesis 3 with them from the Bible. To understand our sinful nature, we can start with the fall. Be sure to talk about the promise God gave to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15.

Why are we just standing here saying nothing?

Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.

In Divine Service Settings 1, 2, 3, and 5, we see the above text in the rubric. To a child or someone who hasn’t grown up in a liturgical environment, this can be a foreign time. He or she might think, “Why are we all just standing here, quietly? Is this time for the pastor to pray for us?”

This time is a time for us to go to the Lord with our sins, those we know, and those we don’t know. We name them in our heart and then confess them corporately.

The catechism has a wonderful explanation:

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer.

So take this opportunity to go through the Small Catechism to teach your children what to bring forward to God during this time of reflection.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

Did he just say, “I forgive you all your sins?”

I can hear my daughter now, “Daddy, why does pastor forgive us?”

This is the perfect time to talk to your child about the Office of the Keys; that your church has called this man, your pastor, to administer the holy things of God. Tell your child that when he (your pastor) forgives us, he is following Christ’s command:

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. John 20:23 ESV

Open up Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation and read question 226 to your child:

How should we regard the absolution (forgiveness) spoken by the pastor?

We should receive the pastor’s absolution as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

If your child is older, now would be a great time to go over Article XXV in the Augsburg Confession with them.

That was a lot!

And 1,300 words later . . .

Teaching these things to our children may seem daunting, but it is a worthwhile task to teach our kids about God’s gifts to us in the Divine Service. These ideas aren’t the only things that can be done to teach our children about the Divine Service. What are your ideas? How have you taught the Invocation and Confession and Absolution to your kids? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

God’s blessings as you teach your children the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3 ESV).

Selections from Divine Service Setting 3 come from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. Used by Permission.

Catechism references are from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation  © 1986, 1991 Concordia Publishing House. Used by Permission.

To learn more about the Divine Service, pick up a copy of Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service from Concordia Publishing House.


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About the Author

Joe Willmann


Joe Willmann is the Senior Instructional Designer for Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, MO. A former teacher and administrator, Joe has a passion for education and learning theory. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Ball State University and his Master's Degree from Concordia University - Ann Arbor. He lives with his wife, Nicole, his daughter Ava, and his son Carter. You can read his latest posts here.

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