Before he started talking, Solomon Wilken was singing from his crib—and not children's hymns, either. Like the rest of Trinity Lutheran Church in Millstadt, Illinois, he learned "Glory to God in the Highest" from the church hymnal.

His father, Todd, an assistant pastor at Trinity Lutheran, bypassed children's church and took Solomon to the sanctuary with the adults. As churches look for innovative ways to teach their members about Christian doctrine, Todd Wilken urges leaders to start with baby steps.

"There are people who bring babies to football games, and it's not because they don't have a babysitter," said Wilken. "Why does a dad do that? It's so important to him that he wants to pass it to his baby as early as he can."

An education gap usually divides pastors, most of whom have years of formal theology training but are stretched thin addressing tangible needs, and their congregants, many of whom are not actively seeking to study complicated ideas.

Wilken knows that teaching theology doesn't happen magically. One of the first ways to teach doctrine is from the pulpit, and he uses the church calendar to provide structure.

"Many pastors have chucked the calendar, preaching whatever occurs to them, maybe a sermon on sex or something else. They do this to alleviate their own boredom," Wilken said. "Abandoning the disciplined way the church marks time reminds me of watching a guy who thinks he can dance."

Dispensing Doctrine

Pastors advocate different methods to reach the same goal: to bring doctrine to the pews. Many confessional churches, for example, emphasize their respective catechisms.

"Pastors learn about doctrine in seminary but have trouble formulating it in a way that's faithful to the Christian heritage," said Marva ...

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March 2010

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