Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Communion Instruction

As we are beginning a first communion program here, I am curious as to what material other Lutheran congregations use for first communion instruction.  We have talked about it for a while and it represented a big shift for this parish so we have moved rather slowly.  First communion instruction will coincide with the start of catechism and constitutes about 8-10 added hours of instruction, including both the youth and the parents.  After looking over some of the published material and being somewhat disappointed as to the actual content offered, I put together my own material based upon Luther's Christian Questions and Answers from the Catechism.  Since this is in the hymnal, I am teaching them to use this each we as they come to the Lord's Table following this period of instruction.  At the end of the instruction, we will not have a mass first communion but each child and parent will discuss if both feel ready and prepared for this step, the youth will come to me privately for examination and confession, and then they will begin participating individually following completion of the aforementioned items.

Please let me know what you use for curriculum and how you handle it, if, indeed, you and your parish has a first communion program...


Paul said...

I have practiced this for almost 25 years in two parishes, and made use of Rich Melheim's material, but primarily the Scriptures and the hymnal. Very well received. Also a personal observation: everyone who communes "early" continues faithfully attending the Divine Service throughout high school and beyond. We could cut "back door" losses substantially if this were practiced Synod-wide.

John said...

Rev Peters,

I am a layman who partook of my First Communion with my Confirmation class the Sunday after our confirmation over 54 years ago.

We were taught that our Confirmation was not an end, such as a graduation, but that it was rather a beginning amd that our First Communion was but our first step in that beginning.

I, as a fossil wonder why it is so important that we want those not yet fully instructed in Luther's Small Catechism to partake of His Body and Blood.

How is this any different than allowing a 9 year old to vote in the 2012 elections simply because he's taken a class in voting?

I realize that Confirmation is not a Sacrament. I, at the same time trust that Confirmation is the proof that one has received proper instruction in the Christian faith and is truly ready to receive the Lord's body and blood in the Sacrament.

My response may not be a direct answer to your question, Rev Peters, I believe that it is relevant to the issue of First Communion prior to Confirmation.

Pastor Peters said...

John, if you will email me, I will pass on to you the information that fleshes out the what and why of first communion as we looked at it... this was not a casual decision.

Sue said...

I don't know what materials my church uses (and we have 1st communion in 5th grade), but wanted to pass on something we do. At some point close to the end of the class, a member of the altar guild takes the communion ware to the class and explains it all - all the formal names, what the guild does, emphasizing the reverence, etc. (Sometimes the parents have more questions than the kids.) Sometimes it's done right in the sanctuary during Sunday School hour.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, I compliment you on your grand step. I moved a congregation to Divine Service every Sunday, but I've never been able to get past the whole Confirmation mystique.

I'd be interested to know the course y'all pursued and how long it took you to get there.

I realize you've been at Grace for a good while, and I've been at Mt. Olive for about a fourth of that time.

God bless!
Pastor Kevin Jennings

Anonymous said...

After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the pastor may ask, or Christians may ask themselves these questions:

There should be no difference in instruction between first communion and confirmation instruction. I don't see the difference if the whole catechism is taught prior to receiving communion. Why not just practice early confirmation? Is there such a thing as early communion for adults?

John said...


Are you stating that every single child that you communed 'early' in the past 25 years remains active in the faith to this day?

That would be amazing!

Every Lutheran congregation with which I've had contact has a huge problem in retaining its confirmands.

I, as a layman am interested in exactly how you accomplished this.


Jonathan said...

Our church has early communion. We just recently went through the instruction and First Communion with our fifth-grade son. The course of early communion instruction was based on a program called "Faith Inkubators (FINK)," developed by an ELCA pastor. (We are LCMS, but as you know, LCMS doesn't have early communion materials.) The instruction was about 8-10 hours of class instruction with parents and candidate, and also home study and instruction with parents and candidate. I'd have to say, I think the FINK materials were just OK at best, but the best part of the instruction was the supplemental catechesis with pastor and also the home instruction where we chose to emphasize the Small Catechism. In my opinion, the FINK's so-called "only your Bible is needed and nothing else" instruction tended to emphasize the "in remembrance of me" aspect of the Supper while it down-played the "for you" means of grace. So the catechisis with pastor and the S.C. were very important. Therefore, I think your approach to instruction is a better way to go.

I wasn't sure about the idea of early communion before starting the instruction. But since we went through it together with our son and were a part of his instruction, my opinion has changed. It became a great comfort to know that my son "gets it" and it is such a joy that he now knows he has available and he will use this means of grace.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

The Pastoral Care Companion also has a section entitled; "Guidelines For Pastoral Examination of Catechumens." (Before the Rite of First Communion or Before the Rite of Confirmation). pages 664-671.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rev. Peters-

I'm curious how this might play out with a family that transfers to a congregation that does not practice First Communion. If the receiving congregation does not communion before full confirmation, let's say at the end of 8th grade, should that congregation be expected to communion an unconfirmed 6th grade child because he had instruction and was allowed to communion at his previous congregation?

It seems with highly transient congregation, this practice may create unintended difficulties for sister congregations in the future.

Just asking.


John said...

Rev Peters,

I responded to your post to me by emailing you at the email address given for you on both the LCMS website and the website of your congregation. You have yet to respond to me.

John (Jack)

Pastor Peters said...

Apparently John was anxious... I did sent him the stuff today...

I believe that where someone has been admitted to the Lord's Table at a sister congregation and then transfers into mine, I am duty and honor about to continue communing that person -- unless I have a pretty good reason for not doing so. I do not think it is wise to say to a youth that he or she must stop communing because others in the parish do not commune at this age. It is relatively common for me to have this happen since in the past we did not commune until the beginning of the freshman year of high school -- when they were confirmed -- and this is on the late side of things in Synod. I did not have any problems explaining this to the people in my parish and they understood that things are different. BTW, what I am expecting for First Communion instruction is about what some parishes expect from youth catechesis. I guess I expect much more there than most.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

I simply don't get it. Early Communion, First Communion, these words don't make sense. By using the word "early" the founders of this movement are obviously admitting to something out of the normal. To me, this is tantamount to "open" communion. If an adult is taking confirmation classes, are they allowed to commune if they simply can recite the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and the creeds? If a non-Lutheran visitor (either Adult or Child) comes to a Lutheran Church and wishes to partake of communion, why is the first question asked, "are you a confirmed Lutheran in LCMS?" If the child or adult is able to "pass" the test, why not confirm them?

Carl Vehse said...

The notion of the so-called “early communion” (and here the euphemistic “early” implies any postbaptism, preconfirmation age ) is simply incompatible with the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion.

The Lutheran confessional doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper does not set a specific age at which catechesis and confirmation occur. However, for the edification of the Church, and specifically within the churches belonging to the Missouri Synod, some typical common age may be established. Communing catechumens, either children or adults, before they have given, in their confirmation, public witness to their confession is contrary to the Lutheran doctrine of closed communion.

Closed communion involves a profession of confessional unity in faith. Those who have publicly professed a different (or no) confession are not to be communed. According to the guidelines for the constitution of any Missouri Synod congregation, all communicant members of the congregation are required to confess their unconditional acceptance of the doctrine of the Lutheran Church (i.e., taken from Holy Scripture and exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580) to be faithful and true.

Bluntly speaking early communion is a Lufauxran practice.