Teaching by use of a catechism has fallen on hard times in the church today. I have known conservative evangelical Christians who think learning the catechism is a thing only the Roman Catholic Church does. Even many Presbyterians only contemplate catechism as a series of questions and answers in a little booklet that children memorize. To a whole swath of the Christian community, catechism isn’t even a word that is ever spoken.
But catechism is actually an ancient teaching method that has proven to be a very powerful way to teach sound doctrine to children, as well as youth and adults. It is a method that uses questions and answers the student not only memorizes but also can use to better understand the basics of biblical Christianity. The hope is these truths will become so embedded in hearts and minds that the right answers will become more than just rote memory—they will bring great knowledge and understanding of who God is and what He requires of His people.
Since it is a method of teaching, the content of a catechism can be developed to teach any biblical doctrine or theological truth. After our fathers in the faith, known as the Westminster Divines, produced The Westminster Confession of Faith to summarize what we believe as Christians (1643-1652), they wrote The Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms to teach that truth to Christians by the use of specific questions and answers. Today, many in the PCA use a shortened version called The Children’s Catechism to accomplish this task with younger children and The Shorter Catechism for older children and youth.
So, how can we effectively use The Children’s Catechism and/or The Shorter Catechism in Children’s Ministry? Here are three suggestions:
- Develop a memorization plan for children to do at home with their parents. It is a marvelous thing when parents catechize their own children by asking the questions and teaching the right answers! This can be done as a family around the dinner table or during family worship/devotions. Then, when a child is able to recite the entire catechism to an elder or pastor, the Children’s Ministry can offer a gift—a study Bible or devotional, for example. Make sure every family in your church has their own copy of The Children’s Catechism. It makes a great baby gift.
- Add a Children’s Catechism Teaching program to your Children’s Ministry schedule. The purpose of this time is not just to monitor catechism memorization, but to actually teach through the catechism. Explain what every question and related answer means. Use a Bible lesson to illustrate each doctrine. Connect the catechism to a Scripture memory verse. There are several good programs out there, including Kid’s Quest by Great Commission Publications and Building Blocks of the Faith by Children’s Ministry International. I have used the latter for almost thirty years, but both are very good. Our church does our catechism program for 4-year-olds through 6th graders on Wednesday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm.
- Add a catechism time to your Sunday School lessons. Some children’s Sunday School curriculum already has a time designated to go over a catechism question or two. Your teachers should be able to easily add a question into the schedule in the opening time each week.
Learning The Children’s Catechism and/or The Shorter Catechism gives our covenant children the solid foundation they need as they are learning to live in this difficult, fallen world. Starting with the very first catechism questions #1 and #2—”Who made you?” God! “What else did God make?” God made all things!—they will have the essential content the Holy Spirit can use to transform their young hearts. As much as we love being innovative and creative in Children’s Ministry, the traditional work of catechizing our children should never go out of style. I encourage you to make teaching the catechism central to your Children’s Ministry, as you challenge your families to make it a regular part of their training as well!
To watch a short training video on this subject visit our children’s ministry website.