Here are a few of my thoughts on parental participation.
- Freedom to Question - Students will not feel free to respond as often or as honestly when their parents are in class. Pastors have told me that they do but I'm telling you that they won't. How do I know this? Because more often than not, the minute their parents are out of earshot they ask me questions. There are just some things they won't say in front of their parents.
- Discipline Issues - Some pastors have problems with discipline and think having parents involved will help. That may be but it sends a message that the pastor can't handle the situation and there's no reason pastors can't learn to handle a few headstrong kids when necessary.
- Who is this class for? - Pastors have told me that they find that parents respond more openly and quickly than kids which helps get the discussion going. They also said they often end up talking more to the parents than the kids... but confirmation is primarily intended as a learning opportunity for the kids, not the parents.
- Relearning Opportunity for Parents - I understand that many parents like the opportunity to relearn the material and that pastors want parents to have an understanding of what their kids are learning but having a class for the parents at the same time and giving them family discussion questions as homework would be a better idea.
- Developmental Issues - Parents are at a completely different developmental level than are middle school students and the discussions need to be focused differently because of that. It's similar to teaching a 1st grader and a 5th grader in the same class.
- Lack of Parent Involvement - Pastors are getting parents involved because they see a lack of involvement but the answer to that does not have to be that parents become the only teachers of the faith that kids have.
Martin Luther wrote what he did in the 16th century because he lived in the 16th century and that was the state of things at that time. We do not live in the 16th century and who's to say that had he lived now that his thoughts would not be different? I've searched the Bible for a verse that says parents should be the only teachers of the faith for their children and found nothing. Why then, are a few phrases in Luther's Small Catechism that were written in 1529 what pastors cling too as if this is the final word? For more on Luther's thoughts see a previous post.