The longer I work with kids, the more I’m a fan of catechisms.
For the uninitiated, a catechism is set of theology questions with answers designed to systematically teach biblical truth to children or new believers.
A sample question might be, “How many Persons are there in the Trinity?” To which the child would hopefully quickly respond, “THREE!”
Why am I becoming a fan of catechisms? Well, every other month I do this thing called “Ask the Pastor.” Kids have the opportunity to write down questions about the Bible, and I do my best to point them to the Bible’s answers. Every month, some of the same fundamental questions pop up.
“Who made God?”
“How old is He?”
“Why did God allow Satan and sin into the world?”
Years ago, kids would have memorized the answers to some of these questions as their family and church taught them a catechism, which was nothing more than the foundation for an understanding about God.
A Surprising Success
But my concern has been that it seems a little boring. Recently, however, I came across this article on the Gospel Coalition’s blog, by Kathy Keller. Her story is fascinating:
My first encounter with teaching a catechism to children was even more counter-intuitive. As a seminary student I spent one summer working for a church in a gang-infested part of Philadelphia. There I heard of a young pastor in an even more troubled area of the city who had developed a very successful ministry to children. It met on Saturdays and attracted hundreds of elementary and middle school kids. I decided to go see the program in action.
I’m not sure what I expected—warm-hearted volunteers dispensing Kool-Aid, hugs, and Jesus stories—but what I found, to my slack-jawed amazement, was a building with more than 200 kids in it, divided by age group, learning the catechism! I must admit that very few things have surprised me more. I had never given a thought to the catechism as a modern-day teaching tool, and even if I had, it would not have occurred to me to use it in these circumstances.
The pastor was used to the shocked disbelief and surprised questions—“Why on earth are you having them memorize a catechism? Don’t they need the basic gospel message? When do you get to that?” I have still not forgotten his answer:
‘These kids know nothing whatsoever about God, or Jesus, or sin. They’ve never even heard the words, except as curse words. We’re building a framework in their minds of words and ideas and concepts, so that when we DO tell them about sin and the Savior who came to die for it, there is a way for them to understand what we are saying.’
Pretty incredible! I’d love to have seen how this pastor did this creatively, but the point is, it can be done!
Doing Catechism at Home
If you’ve got children, and you’re interested in helping them get started working on a catechism, I recommend some of the following resources:
The Catechism for Young Children: This website offers a simplified version of the Westminster Catechism.
Songs for Saplings: This website offers CDs with catchy songs to help kids remember questions and answers from the catechism.
Coloring Books: These booklets include coloring pages with the questions to keep even the littlest learners engaged.
If you’ve used some similar tools or if you have some other ideas of ways to systematically build a theology framework for kids, join the conversation below!