Upon hearing this word, most people respond in one of the following ways:
- What’s that?
- Isn’t that a Catholic thing?
- My kids would be bored to tears.
- That’s way too outdated and old fashioned.
- I’ve thought about teaching with it, but wouldn’t know where to start!
I hear you.
This past year, our family has discovered the value and even enjoyment of using a catechism. We’ve gone so far as to create a free curriculum to share with you!
Today, let’s take a look at what a catechism actually is, why you would want to teach it to your kids, and how to go about it.
What is Catechism?
Catechism is a tool for teaching important information using a question and answer format. That’s pretty much it. There are some secular uses of catechism, but most are for religious purposes. In fact, many parents catechize informally all the time and don’t realize it.
Q: “Does asking me the same thing a thousand times change the answer?”
Q: “What are you supposed to do when your brother takes your toy away?”
A: “Calmly ask for it back.”
Q: “What if he doesn’t give it back?”
A: “Ask Mommy for help.”
See what I mean?
In Christianity, catechism is used to teach basic doctrine, and usually includes questions and answers on the topics of God, sin, Christ, salvation, the law, prayer, and the sacraments or ordinances. It looks something like this:
Q: “Who made you?”
A: “God made me.”
Q: “What else did God make?”
A: “He made all things.”
Q: “Why did God make you and all things?”
A: “For His own glory.”
Why Teach Catechism?
There is no substitute for ongoing study of the Bible. However, you can think of a catechism as the Bible’s Cliff’s Notes. Arguably, it contains all the major points necessary for salvation and godly living.
Using a catechism may seem out-dated and stodgy. However, there are several good reasons for catechizing ourselves and our children. Here are just a few:
- Helps children to memorize and routinely state biblical truths
- Establishes firm beliefs that are built upon as study and understanding grow
- Provides countless touch points for parents to connect with their kids on important issues of faith
- Helps parents solidify their own beliefs and what they want to teach their kids
The more we know God’s written Word, the deeper our knowledge of scripture and the more solid our confidence in the Lord and His ways.
How Do I Teach Using Catechism?
Teaching with catechism isn’t overly difficult. First you must choose a version to use. After that, it’s just a matter of making the time each day/week to practice the questions with your kids.
Choosing a Catechism
I won’t go into a long explanation of the different kinds of catechisms. Suffice it to say, there are several corresponding to the different confessions of faith. There is the Catholic catechism, of course, but catechism also has a long history in the Protestant churches. Within the Protestant catechisms, there are many versions including Lutheran, Reformed (Heidelberg, Westminster, etc.), Baptist, Anglican, and so on. In addition, there are many floating around that people have written themselves based on existing versions.
The best way to find a good catechism for use in your home is to start skimming through several of them until you land on one that works. Don’t be afraid to modify them for your own purposes if needed. You may very well find one you like but that is a little off as far as usability or doctrine. That’s ok!
For example, we found an amazing set of catechism songs for kids that we all love (from Songs for Saplings). However, not all the albums completely fit our views on the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper). So we use most of the songs but do something different for those sections in the catechism. You can do that sort of thing too—these are your kids!
Using the Catechism
Simple Routine. Once you know what your going to teach, you can get started! See below for a list of books and curriculum. You can also simply begin going over a question and answer every day or week and move on once everyone has it memorized. If possible, memorize the supporting scripture and reference for the answer as well.
Make It Fun! My kids love catechism because we hand out chocolate covered sesame seeds when they answer correctly. They get another one when they can quote the scripture that the answer is based on. You can use stickers, a resounding round of applause, or some other reward system instead. Eventually, you can build on this review time to incorporate other important memory work such as scripture, the apostles creed, poetry, and so on.
Our Favorite Catechism Books and Curriculum
- Sound Words: Questions and Answers of Faith For Kids is the catechism curriculum I provide at Proverbial Homemaker. It uses the Songs for Saplings albums, scripture charts, crafts, copywork, notebooking pages and more!
- A Catechism for Boys and Girls from The Reformed Reader
- Truth & Grace Memory Books (affiliate link) by Tom Ascol (how we got started with catechism!)
- A Baptist Catechism by John Piper
- Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (affiliate link) family devotion by Starr Meade
- Big Truths for Little Kids (affiliate link) by Susan Hunt
- Questions with Answers albums from Songs for Saplings
- Westminister Shorter Catechism Songs (affiliate link) by Holly Dutton
- Westminster Shorter Catechism for Kids (affiliate link) workbooks by Caroline Weerstra
More Information About Catechisms
- Wikipedia has a good basic explanation of many of the available versions.
- Teaching Theology to Littles post at Proverbial Homemaker
- Catechisms at BibleStudyTools links out to copies of some major catechism versions