A few months ago, a friend of mine posed a question on facebook asking “What do kids need to know before they leave their parents home?” Here are some of the things that immediately came to my mind:

How to change the oil on a car.

How to make an egg.

That they are loved beyond measure.

How to apply for a job.

What a budget looks like.

How to foster healthy relationships.

The list could go on and on.

As my oldest gets closer to high school age, I find myself asking this question more often. I’ve seen how fast the past 13 years have gone, and I’m certain the next six will not slow down.

If I were to make a list of the things I would want to make sure my kids could do and regurgitate before they leave our house it would fill notebook after notebook. But before I could even begin compiling a complete list, I would need to find an algorithm for every possible circumstance the future may hold.

Unfortunately, that knowledge is not something I am privy to. Experts and regular people may have theories about what the future holds, but we can’t know every situation our children will find themselves in. We don’t know what the culture will be like when they are entering retirement. We don’t know what the job market will look like when they are compiling their resumes to search for their first jobs. We have no idea if vehicles will still need an oil change. There is no guarantee that our financial structure will be the same as we know it now. My husband and I have knowledge of how to purchase a house in the markets we have lived through, but what will that look like in 2055?

But even with all the unknowns it's still an important question to ask ourselves, and while we can’t answer for every situation, I think there is one answer that grounds and aides them no matter what life will throw at them:

Our kids need to know they are forgiven and free because of the work of Christ.

As my children grow, I want them to process everything through the knowledge that they are forgiven and free because of the work of Christ. This truth is useful for them in conjunction with a long list of other questions they will surely face that includes questions like:

How should I respond when I’m pushed around?

How do I pray?

What should my relationship look like with my parents?

What can I be certain of?

What are my responsibilities to those around me?

How should I view work?

But this simple answer still leaves us with the questions, “How do I teach this?” and, “What does this mean for their lives and mine?”

Martin Luther put together the Small Catechism so that parents would have an easy to use tool to teach their children “everything they need to know,” especially concerning the forgiveness and freedom found in Christ.

While I won’t attempt to explain everything Luther’s Small Catechism holds here, I want to highlight some of the key tenants that flow from his teaching on the 10 commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, confession and absolution, and the sacraments. Having a resource that has stood the test of close to 500 years will hopefully alleviate some of the stress that comes with teaching our kids “everything they need to know.”

The 10 commandments help us answer the question: “What does it mean for our relationships that we are forgiven and free?”

The first three commandments tell us about our relationship with God and the other seven tell us about our relationship with those around us. Reading through these 10 things to do, we quickly come to an understanding of our failings. Each explanation of each commandment reminds us we can not love and serve our neighbor apart from Christ. Yet because of the forgiveness we have on account of Christ we get to love and serve our neighbor.

The Apostles’ Creed helps us answer, “What work did Christ do to give us forgiveness and freedom?”

The contents of the Apostles’ Creed show us both the lengths Christ went to redeem us and what God does throughout our lives. As Luther states, God has called us, enlightened us, sanctified us, and keeps us in the true faith just as he does for all who believe. The Apostles’ Creed points us and our children back to the work of Christ, something we all need to be reminded of over and over again.

The Lord's Prayer answers, “What does it mean that we are forgiven and free in the way we approach God?”

We get to address God as our Father, who loves us. When we don’t know what to pray for we ask that “his kingdom come and his will be done.” We ask that we have all we need to support our bodies and life. We ask for the forgiveness that sustains us day to day, and that we would not be tempted to hurt our neighbor.

The explanation of the sacrament of Holy Baptism answers the “how” behind our forgiveness and freedom.

Teaching our kids they hold a certainty that their sins are forgiven, that they have been rescued from death and the devil, and that salvation is theirs all because of something Christ has done will serve them their whole lives. Knowing that their forgiveness and freedom is founded in something done for them rather than in something will bring them comfort on the days they have doubts.

The explanation of confession and absolution answers, “In light of our forgiveness and freedom, what should we do when we hurt or harm our neighbor?”

Our children need to know that the Christian life is not one of perfection, it is one filled with sin and therefore filled with both confession and the words, “You are forgiven.” Our children need to know how to confess their sins and what they should hear after they confess. The implications of confessing sins to one another and being reminded of that forgiveness will reach far and wide in our lives and our children's lives and relationships.

The explanation of The Lord’s Supper answers, “Where can we go to receive forgiveness of sins?”

When our children move through life, mature, and confess to those around them they may or may not receive forgiveness. But this doesn’t limit the forgiveness Christ offers them, and so knowing they can receive forgiveness through Christ’s shed body and blood given in bread and wine, gives them a place to rest in the work of Christ.

The list of things our kids need to know when they leave the house is much simpler than we might believe. The knowledge that they are forgiven and free on account of Christ will have an impact on every part of their lives regardless of what happens on the roads they walk.