How to Catechize Your Children

Those who are new to the Reformed tradition may have some raised eyebrows when they hear us speak of catechizing our children; isn’t “catechism” a part of the Romanist tradition? The word is actually a Biblical word (1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6; Ro 2:18; Ac 18:25; Lk 1:4) that means to teach or instruct someone. It has come to refer to a formal question and answer format of instructing people, usually in the basics of the faith. The most famous Reformed catechisms are the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism. The Children’s Catechism, developed in the nineteenth century, is often utilized for young children.

So how do we best catechize our children? Here’s how we do it, and I hope this is an encouragement to you fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers who desire to instruct your children in God’s truth. (I also encourage you to post comments regarding ways of catechizing that you have found to be helpful; my way is certainly not the only way, and perhaps not the best way.)

First, I ask the question, i.e., “What was Adam bound to do by the covenant of works?” Sometimes I’ll get them to repeat the question, especially if it’s longer or harder.

Second, I tell them the answer, i.e., “To obey God perfectly.”

Third, I ask them to repeat the answer. If the answer has multiple phrases, I will say the whole answer, then ask them to repeat the phrases after me.

Fourth, I ask the question again and we say the answer together.

Fifth, I repeat this several times, sometimes letting them answer by themselves, sometimes answering with them. I currently have three of my children learning the catechism, and so they are able to say it together, or by themselves (when they feel competitive). My youngest can’t say all of the harder ones, but she’s hearing them and therefore I have confidence that at some point she will be able to learn them.

Sixth, I move on to the next question. I am currently trying to do five at a time each morning at breakfast (when I am home at breakfast), four questions we’ve already looked at and one new one each day. On the Lord’s Day afternoon I try to go through all the questions that we have done. We’re currently at number 50 of 145. I’d love to get through the whole thing by the end of 2010. Obviously with my younger kids I’ll have to go slower, and with my oldest I can go a little more quickly.

I encourage every father to spend time each day or each week at least catechizing your children. The more repetition the better. They learn by hearing the sound, so even if they can’t read they can learn the catechism. I recommend the older version of the Children’s Catechism, because it helps kids familiarize themselves with the older Confessional language – a help when it comes to actually reading and learning the Shorter Catechism and Confession. I also think the older language is of a more helpful cadence; its awkward syntax aids in memorization, in my opinion. They may not understand everything they learn, but you are storing their heads with truth, so that when they are older they have categories and concepts all ready for their further study of the Word. Clearly, you should be memorizing Scripture as well. And the older your kids get, spend time talking with your children about the meaning of the catechism/Scripture. If your kids see that you love the truth of God’s Word, this will go a long way toward their loving it as well. Teach His word diligently! (Deut. 6:7).

SDG,
Ezra

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Katy Brink on April 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    So this link is an older version of the Children’s Catechism, huh? This is the version I am using, but I was aware it wasn’t quite the same as the Children’s Catechism that the church uses. Good to know. It is neat how they can learn so quickly even when they don’t understand. We are up to #18. We’re also learning Bible verses from Susan Hunt’s ABC Bible Verses, and we love that.

    Reply

  2. Some good suggestions here. My wife and I are praying through how we will approach catechizing our children, but we’ve still got some time to figure it out as our firstborn is just 10 months old!

    Have you read “The Good News We Almost Forgot” by Kevin DeYoung? It’s a book on the Heidelberg Catechism. I’m about halfway through it right now. So far so good!

    It was nice meeting you @ Char the other day (I was there with Robert Ward). Take care!

    ~John Gardner

    Reply

    • Posted by calebcangelosi on May 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      John, thanks for your comments! It was good to meet you as well. I’d love to hear more about T4G from you. Email me if you get a chance. I haven’t read DeYoung’s book, but I’ve heard good things about him.

      Never too early to start family worship – it’s amazing how young they can learn!

      Caleb

      Reply

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