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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.)
- Memorization requires review. The key to memorization is not the initial memorization but review the information frequently. That way it becomes internalized.
- 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.
- 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.