“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” – Psalm 78:5-7
Some of you may wondering, “What in the world is catechism, and why does it matter to me?” Simply put, a catechism is a collection of biblical doctrines organized into a question-and-answer format (from the New Testament word katecheo, which means “to teach or instruct”). Historically, the goal has been to lay deep and strong biblical foundations for a lifetime of faith in kids and to combat doctrinal ignorance and biblical illiteracy (both of which are pretty high today).
Our children are constantly learning, and their inquiring minds soak up information at an amazing rate. As they try to make sense of a complex and ever-changing world, a framework of understanding is established in their minds. This is called their worldview, and research from the Barna Group has shown that a person’s worldview is usually in place by the age of 13.
I’m currently reading the book “Faith for Exiles” by David Kinnanman and Mark Matlock, which reports that only 10% of Twentysomethings have what the authors call a “resilient faith” that has continued on from their youth. These young believers 1.) attend church at least monthly and engage with their church more than just attending worship services; 2.) trust firmly in the authority of the Bible; 3.) are committed to Jesus personally and affirm he was crucified and raised from the dead to conquer sin and death; and 4.) express desire to transform the broader society as an outcome of their faith.
I’m assuming you’d like this to describe your child when they hit their twentys(?)… but it’s not going to happen by accident. We have a great responsibility to raise children and shape their understanding of the world, how it works, and their unique purpose in it (see Ps 78 above). To “catechize” our kids gives them a coherent system of thought, equips them to confidently interpret the world through a biblical framework, and nurtures in them a love for and understanding of essential doctrines for the Christian faith.
So here’s what we’re going to do between now and summertime… we are going to go through 20 catechism questions as families, using the New City Catechism app. Each week we will take one question and spend time talking about it. The app provides you with the question to ask, related Scripture, a commentary if you want to read more, a closing prayer, and even a song for the kids to reinforce the question/answer (make sure you’ve clicked “Children’s Mode” in the settings). The goal is mainly to get them (and yourself) familiar with the basics of the faith, not necessarily to memorize the whole thing.
My personal plan for our family is to use our daily drive times and meal times to just go over the questions together. I’m not going to worry too much about specific content… just go over the questions and see what all comes up. I welcome feedback from you on how it goes and any creative ideas.
I’ll send out a reminder each week of which question we are on, but here’s the outline…
- (Week of) Jan 13 – Question 1: What is our only hope in life and death?
- Jan 20 – Question 2: What is God?
- Jan 27 – Question 3: How many persons are there in God?
- Feb 3 – Question 4: How and why did God create us?
- Feb 10 – Question 5: What else did God create?
- Feb 17 – Question 6: How can we glorify God?
- Feb 24 – Question 7: What does the law of God require?
- Mar 2 – Question 8: What is the law of God stated in the Ten Commandments?
- Mar 9 – Question 9: What does God require in the first, second, and third commandment?
- Mar 16 – Question 10: What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?
- Mar 23 – Question 11: What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandment?
- Mar 30 – Question 12: What does God require in the ninth and tenth commandments?
- April 6 – Question 13: Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?
- April 13 – Question 14: Did God create us unable to keep his law?
- April 20 – Question 15: Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?
- April 27 – Question 16: What is sin?
- May 4 – Question 17: What is idolatry?
- May 11 – Question 18: Will God allow our disobedience and idolatry to go unpunished?
- May 18 – Question 19: Is there any way to escape punishment and be brought back into God’s favor?
- May 25 – Question 20: Who is the Redeemer?