A catechism is a method of teaching Biblical doctrine in which the tutor asks the student a series of questions and the pupil gives a specific, memorized answer to each question. The idea behind teaching with catechisms is that, especially for younger children, the memorization of catechisms will instill Biblical truth within that child for the rest of their lives.
What will be memorized in doctrine and theology as a child, will with discipleship and training, become knowledge and wisdom as the child grows older about the Person of God and the Truth of His Word.
Catechism type handbooks, according to the Encyclopedia Britanica online, were written as early in Church history by Augustine and Cyril. However, the term catechism for these manuals was not used until the 16th century during the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church and Protestants both issued their own catechisms after printing was invented in order to teach their version of Biblical Truth to their children and even adults.
These manuals of questions and answers detailed Biblical truth concerning God and His Persons, Scripture and its purpose, Biblical history, the Gospel message, and much more. Some of the most commonly used catechisms used by Protestants today are the Westminster Shorter, Heidelberg, and the Baptist catechisms. These catechisms have been adapted into sometimes shorter, or even more easily read versions or even put to music.
Modern churches have shed traditional methodology in favor of more entertaining tactics in order to engage children. Many children are no longer being discipled by their own families, but by the Church. Often churches play the part of a glorified babysitter making events fun and yet the purpose of Church – the Gospel – somehow is drowned out in the midst of the overwhelming flood of games and fellowship.
True discipleship is not happening in many churches and parents think their children are “okay” just because they are attending church at the appointed times. This is both the fault of the churches and the parents.
Parents are at fault because they have forgotten their God-given responsibility to disciple their children and train them up in the Lord (Deuteronomy 6), and churches have failed to fulfill their number one priority, to facilitate the spread of the Gospel by equipping families and training up the next generation of church leaders and lay members.
A Command, Not a Suggestion
We as Christian parents and the Church leadership have failed to realize that the mind of a child is capable of more than we often give credit. Children can learn more than we teach them. If we challenge them, pray for them, disciple them, work with them, they can learn by the grace of God.
Techniques such as memorization, like catechisms, have been used for thousands of years. It may sound too traditional for some. In a world where we do not like to be tied to obligation and responsibility. Rigorous learning, particularly for children, is frowned upon especially when it is in the effort of indoctrination.
Yes, I am indoctrinating my children. I admit it. I am indoctrinating them with the fruit of the Word of God with prayer that I might plant a seed in which the Holy Spirit will grow to faith in Christ and the making of more disciples.
You should indoctrinate your children. Yet, what are you indoctrinating them with?
The majority of children spend a large portion of their day in the school system. The school system has its own set of philosophical and moral set of doctrines which are being funneled into their young, impressionable minds. As parents we are commanded to combat this worldly influence. Some parents choose to homeschool, others a private school, and yet others choose to stand ground in the public school system itself. Your choice is between you and God how you go about it. Whatever you choose, Deuteronomy 6 is not a suggestion. We are commanded:
The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Not only are we to teach our children rigorously the Word of God but we are to be in the Word ourselves – “These words … shall be on your heart.”
In My Home
We started using an adapted version of the Baptist Catechism with our kids about 2 years ago. We have been so impressed by their memorization skills. They have learned quite a bit of the catechism along with Scripture references to reinforce their answers. They may not understand everything they are saying but I have no doubt that God works in little hearts to instill His Word, that one day He might use His Holy Spirit to ignite a love and passion for Christ in those same hearts.
I also have no doubt that these truths that we instill in our children now will ensure that when our children come of age, the ground work will already be constructed to begin building upon. Theology, doctrine will not be foreign to them, but will be like breathing. They will know it, they will have heard words like sanctification and justification. Through continual and thorough discipleship our children through the grace of God will be saved and will be prepared to meet the world head on with Gospel truth to make more disciples for Christ.
The Importance of a Right Theology and Doctrine
Many times I believe we as parents forget God’s mandate to us, our children are not ours but His. Why wouldn’t we teach them about their Creator? Shouldn’t we also know who our Master is?
Theology is the study of God. Doctrine is His Law. These are not things to be ignored or even worse viewed as silly endeavors. Whether we think we do or not we all have a very strong theology and a very strong doctrine – even if you are an atheist. You believe something about God and His Laws.
The question is not do you believe, but is your set of beliefs Biblical?
Our learning is never done, and by that we should be humbled and diligent in leading our children to Christ. No life is worth living without Him. We want our children to be happy, but no happiness in this world is worth destruction in the next.
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Do not let your children become a statistic, pray they choose Christ above all else and look to our Fathers in the Faith how they trained their families in the Scriptures. Using Catechisms are not always the most popular but it is a great resource when you use it as a guide to help develop a base knowledge in which you can heap more knowledge and life application upon.
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Lindsey is a stay at home, work from home mom to six children eight years and younger. She homeschools and enjoys large family living. When Lindsey is not changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking meals in her awesome Instant Pot, she is DIY-ing her way around the house. Where she loves learning new skills, her heart is in sharing with other women the message of the Gospel and showing them how to instill those truths in the hearts of their children.
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