How to Catechize Your Children

Last week, I presented several reasons why you, as a parent, should teach your child the truths of the Christian faith using a catechism. This week I will discuss the more practical side of teaching your child a catechism.meme-catechism-evil-toddler

Anyone who has ever worked with children, especially small children, knows that you have two seconds to get done what you need to get done. After two seconds, the imperceptible-to-the-adult-eye details of the room begin to distract the children, like that one little, thin pencil line in on the top of the door frame, as well as their own little minds (“Why wouldn’t I be thinking about Darth Vader? Duh.”). These things are good, because you want your children to be curious. These things are also frustrating, because you just want them to pay attention. And it seems that with spiritual things the combination of hypersensitivity to obnoxious decor-related details and attention deficiency increases. Or at least when you are trying to teach them spiritual things. So what is a Dad and Mom to do to get the little darlings to sit down long enough to learn about Jesus?

  1. It is a marathon, not a sprint. One question a week. That is all it takes. More and you will burn yourself and your kids out.
  2. Pick a time to introduce your children to this week’s question. My wife uses part of her homeschool time to introduce and review the questions. And by introduce I mean that she and the girls memorize the new question and answer. She asks the girls seven times the question and answer and the girls recite it and memorize it. The girls learn the question and answer by heart.  It is not hard and children are fantastic memorizers. (Also, my wife somehow uses puppets to help with the memorization, but you would have to ask her about that.)
  3. Memorization requires review. The key to memorization is not the initial memorization but review the information frequently. That way it becomes internalized.
  4. Review does not need to be painful. Ask your kids the questions at the dinner table. Ask them in the car. Ask them at random times during the day. If you have a family devotion after a meal, that would be a good time to throw in the catechism question. You do not have to sit the kids down on the couch to review. It can happen anywhere.
  5. Modernize the language where needed. The catechism we use was written in 1798 so the language, at times, is a bit archaic. So modernize it. Use should instead of ought. Change thou to you, thine to your and so on.

But how do you know if your children are really learning the questions? The answer is, as weird as it seems, when they intentionally give you the wrong answer. Our youngest daughter thinks it is hilarious to give us the wrong answer to the questions. As discouraging and obnoxious as this is, it does mean something: she knew the right answer enough to put it to the side and make up a wrong answer. And also indicates something else: there is a spiritual battle going on in her soul. Her sinful nature, by making a joke of God’s truth, is waging war against the truth. And this leads me to the final bit of advice:

  • Pray that your child’s heart would be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, my teaching my children the catechism will not change their soul. It will not bring them from darkness to light. Only God can do that. But God has called us to be faithful to teach our children His truth, as it says in Deut. 6:7: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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.” By teaching our children these truths, we are preparing the soul so that the Holy Spirit can plant, water and raise up the plant of salvation. And we must commit ourselves to pray that the Holy Spirit would bring about this change in their lives.

To end, which catechism should you use? That is up to you, but I would suggest that you use one which accords with your theological beliefs. We use a Baptist catechism because are committed Baptists. Below I will list some options for different groups

  • Baptists – This website has numerous Baptist catechisms. The Catechism for Boys and Girls was designed for elementary age children, though the first few questions are easy enough a four year old can learn them. The Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins is one which accords with the 1689 Confession.
  • Evangelical – The New City Catechism is a catechism for a broadly evangelical audience produced by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas. The website is nifty (that’s right, nifty) and there is also an app for the iPad. It’s advantage is in its broadness; most evangelical denominations (Baptist, Presbyterians, Assemblies of God) could agree with most parts of this catechism.
  • Presbyterian – The First Catechism is introductory catechism for the Westminster Standards.
  • New Covenant Theology Baptists- For those who want a distinctly NCT perspective regarding the law and the Sabbath, there is the Catechism for Little Ones.

And as a special treat and only after four takes (because someone was rolling around on the ground in the other three), my wife recorded my daughters answering some of the questions. *Disclaimer* The questions are not asked in the order in the catechism and also I do not know why Gwenny felt compelled to say “Hammer, Hammer” after every question.

 

 

 

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Around the Web (2/13/17 to 2/17/17)

These are some articles and other helpful information that I have found in my weekly journey through the Internet.

  • Some helpful insight to help you connect with your church’s visitors.
  • Tim Challies gives a excellent reason NOT to see film adaptation of The Shack: the second commandment.
  • Douglas Wilson outlines the differences in approaches between conservatives and progressive in how to treat a person’s conscience.
  • If you are a Verizon user, here are the “catches” on their new unlimited plan.

 

Ask Your Kids Good Questions

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Just another day at the Schaub house, catechizing the children.

One of the things that I love and am frustrated by with my oldest daughter is that she has an unlimited supply of questions at her disposal. I love it because she really wants to know about the world around her. It is frustrating because as a teacher, I get asked questions for a living and sometimes I reach question overload. But I want her to keep asking questions, because at the heart of learning and at the heart of Christianity are important and valuable questions. For centuries, Christians have agreed that questions and answers from and for children are good. But in the past decades, a tried and true method of discipling children in Christian homes  has fallen into disuse (though it is making a comeback in some areas). This method is not VBS, or church camp or youth group; this method is called catechesis.

Catechesis means “instruction or teaching” and in Christianity catechesis has been done in the form of questions and answers and through this method, children are imbued with and formed by biblical and doctrinal truth. In the early church, this method was also done for adults who were converted and were seeking to be baptized.

This leads us to ask two questions about catechesis: why should I catechize? and how should I catechize? I will answer the first of these questions today and the second in a following blog post.

You should catechize your children because:

You are creating a peg board of truth in their mind. My family and I are strong believers in the classical method of education. (You can find our more about this method here and here.) At the heart of the classical method of education is teaching your young children facts and truths through them memorizing these facts and truths. For example, my daughters can say many of the prepositions in the English language and they can give you a definition of a preposition though they are not old enough to understand the function of preposition. However, when they are old enough and they begin to study formal grammar, they will not have to waste time wondering what a preposition is and which words are prepositions because they have already committed to memory the information which they need.

This same principle works in catechesis. For example, question 4 of the catechism we use to teach the girls says this: “Why did God make you and all things? Answer: For his own glory.” Do my daughters understand what the word glory means? No, but they have committed this question and answer to heart. The use of this information comes apparent when in the future if someone were to say God created mankind because he needed someone to love or because God was lonely, my girls will know: “Hey, that is not right, because God created everything for his own glory.” By teaching your children these questions and answers, you are giving them a peg board of truth (as my wife calls it). What she means by this is that you giving your child reference points from which they can understand God, themselves and the world around them. They might not be confronted with alternative views of the world yet, but when they do, they will be prepared with the peg board of truth by which they filter truth and falsehood. By teaching your child the truths of our glorious
God through a catechism, you will be creating a peg board of truth in their mind by which they can navigate our ever-changing world.

Catechisms contain quick and easy to understand doctrinal truths. A possible objection to catechesis is that if you are going to expend the effort to have your child memorize something, they should be memorizing Scripture. I am not against Scripture memory even for children, but the language of Scripture can easily be lost on a child. The metaphors, idioms and figurative language, which are easy for us as adults to understand, can easily fly over the head of small child. Also, a child would have to memorize an incredible amount of Scripture to learn all of the doctrinal truths that a child would learn memorizing a catechism.

For example, question 1o of the catechism we use says: “Where is God? Answer: God is everywhere.” The proof texts listed for this catechism answer are Ps. 139:7-12; Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28. This would be quite a bit of memorization for a small child and it would be much easier to help the child memorize the point of those passages: God is everywhere. Obviously, the memorization of Scripture and the catechism should be done in tandem for the best result.

Children will internalize the doctrinal truth and ask good questions. The best way to internalize something is to hear it and to say it over and over again. This is how our minds work, both for good and for ill. A person suffering from depression maybe has a mantra in which they say, “I am worthless. I am worthless.” Because this is said over and over again, the depressed person internalizes it and it becomes part of themselves and how they view the world. Now, if this can be done with falsehood, like the mantra of the depressed person, shouldn’t we seek to help our children internalize truths, like God’s love and care for them? Using a catechism will fill a child’s mind with beautiful and eternal truth that will be good for their soul.

One of the other things that we have noticed with teaching our children through a catechism is that the questions and answers provoke more questions. In other words, our children are thinking about the truths that we are teaching them and that is exactly what I as a parent want. We want our children to think through and think about what we are teaching them. And the catechism will raise issues in their minds which would not have cross their minds otherwise.

Do you use a catechism with your children? What are some benefits that you have seen from using this method? Let me know me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Next week, we will look at how parents can teach their children a catechism.

 

What is My Family’s Role in the Fight to End Abortion?

brothers-457237_1280Early last Friday, as I searched my desk for my lesson plans so I could remember what I was going to teach my hooligans…er, I mean, students, my wife sent me an interesting text: “What’s our role in the fight against abortion?” I gave her a fairly generic, carbon copy answer about what Christians should do. Then she sent back an even more profound question: “No, what specifically should our family do?”

Abortion is a societal issue and I always have relegated it to something that happens “out there” and that should be dealt with by politicians and activists. After all, Duffau is not a hot bed of political activism or activity. Yet my wife’s question brought the issue home for me. What should I do and my family do to not just fight abortion, but to end abortion? John Stonestreet, a Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, stated well the goal of pro-life advocates the other day in a radio interview: “We do not just want to make abortion illegal. We want to make it unthinkable.” He went on to make the point that this is done, not by laws and regulations, but by changing people’s hearts and minds. As parents, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to do just that with our children; to raise up our children  with a positive, God-fearing view of all human life from conception until natural death. How do we do that?

  1. Disciple your kids intentionally. Your children are your responsibility to disciple. Do not rely on their Sunday School teacher, or pastor, or children minister, or youth minister. God has given you your children and you should teach them what the Scripture teaches. Scripture teaches that each and every human being, no matter how small, disabled or old, bears God’s image (Gen. 1:26). It also teaches that God himself is knitting together the child in the womb (Ps. 139:13-16). Furthermore, it teaches that to take a human life is morally wrong (Exodus 20:13). These truths must be ingrained into our children’s minds, so that they can defend the rights of the unborn, as well as the disabled and the elderly who are targeted by euthanasia and assisted suicide policies. Being pro-life does not begin with going to a protest or a march. Being pro-life begins with you teaching your child that God created life and he alone has the right to decide how long or how short of a time a person should live.
  2. Become “fully” pro-life. Too often the perception of pro-lifers is that once the child gets out of the womb, we drop our interest in the child’s well-being and stop caring. May this never be! We should care about the child and help the child to flourish, not just care that they are alive. This means that as a family we should teach our children to care for the least of these. We need to teach our children (and ourselves) what James states in ch. 1 of his letter: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” As families, we should help organizations that aid impoverished or at-risk families. We should help and reach out to those who might be “undesirable” according to our societal standards. Befriend a poor family, take them to church, feed them a meal weekly, help them to help themselves out of poverty. Being pro-life means taking care of the least of these, even after the least of these are born.
  3. Teach your children a positive sexual ethic. When I was a teenager, Christian ethics revolved around 4 commands: Don’t drink; don’t smoke; don’t cuss; and don’t have sex before marriage. These rules are all true and applicable for teenagers in our society, but they are framed negatively. The problem with framing rules negatively is that children then seek to do that very thing. Paul even testifies to this when he talks about coveting in Romans 7:7-8; the law said, “Do not covet” and so what do people who are ruled by their sinful nature do? They covet! As parents, we do not need to tell our children just what not to do, but what to do. We need to tell them of the glorious gift of sex and that this gift is to be enjoyed only within the marriage relationship. We define sex, the sexual relationship and the confines of the sexual relationship in positive terms. Instead of “Do not have sex”, say “Enjoy sex in marriage.” Teach children that sex is a good thing and is to be enjoyed by marital partners.
  4. Teach your children personal responsibility. Our children need to learn that actions have consequences. Though our culture tries to negate this fact constantly, it is one of the things God built into nature. This begins early and it begins at home; do not rely on the schools to do this, because school administrators wring their hands so much over discipline issues that I am sure even detention will be outlawed before long due to adverse litigation. And again this does not have to be negative. Good actions have good consequences; bad actions have bad consequences. Children and teenagers do not understand this, but there are ways to teach them. At the school where I teach, a chess club has recently been started and I am very glad because chess is a game which teaches that actions have consequences. If you do not pay attention and move your queen where a pawn can take her, too bad; that is how the game is played. Chess is a game that teaches children to consider what affect their actions will have and to act accordingly. With trophies and participation ribbons being dispensed like candy, our children desperately need to learn that their actions do have consequences, either negative or positive.

What do these things have to do with abortion? Everything. Working to form your children’s minds according to Scripture is the most important weapon in the fight against abortion. Remember our goal is not just to make abortion illegal but to make abortion unthinkable. The only way to do this is to train children to understand how God views human life and what he demands of us in regard to human life.

The fight against abortion does not begin at picket line, or by protesting in front of Planned Parenthood. It begins on the real front line: the home. Are you ready to fight?

Spurgeon’s Sorrows

spurgeons-sorrowsDepression is like walking through pudding. Or at least that is the way I describe it. You are surrounded by things which should be sweet and desirable, like chocolate pudding, or even better, banana pudding. But there is no sweetness. There is no desire. There is only an unending slog through the sweetness without being able to partake of the sweetness yourself. In fact, the sweetness slows you down and hinders you just as if you were walking through a pool of pudding.

And worse yet, due to our societal and cultural stigma regarding depression, a depressed person feels like they must make this slog alone. Thankfully, this is not the case. Zack Eswine has written an incredibly helpful (and mercifully short) book on depression, but with a unique twist. Rather than just examining what depression and attacking the problem head-on,  he instead examines the sources and effects of depression by looking at depression through the lens of the life of the “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon.

Continue reading “Spurgeon’s Sorrows”