For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Catechisms for Families
It is our desire to encourage you to use a catechism as a tool to build and strengthen faith in your children. Simply put, a catechism is “a manual used to teach biblical truth in an orderly way.” Catechisms are not the only means that can or should be used to instruct the next generation, but they are helpful for certain purposes. Listed here are ten specific benefits a catechism can uniquely offer. Hopefully, these ten points will help you understand how a catechism can be effectively used in your family.
1. Catechisms present the gospel message.
The gospel is amazing! It is wonderfully basic and infinitely glorious at the same time. A children’s catechism keeps the Gospel simple and age-appropriate for the simple person: the child. Everything a child needs to know for salvation is embodied clearly and concisely within a catechism.
2. The question-answer format of catechisms engage little children.
Children love to ask questions! They have a God-given curiosity and, therefore, the questionanswer format of a child’s catechism can be very engaging. Usually both the questions and the answers are concise, keeping facts short, truthful, and clear, helping children to understand.
3. Catechisms foster a God-centered curiosity in children.
Even though children have a God-given curiosity it is important to remember that folly is bound up in their hearts (Proverbs 22:15). Parents have a responsibility to harness and direct their children’s curiosity towards the important and deeper matters of spiritual growth. Not only the answers but also the questions may very well help children to foster their curiosity about God into a God-centered curiosity.
4. Catechisms serve as a basic outline of biblical truth.
The Bible is undoubtedly an overwhelming book for adults—how much more so for a child! Understanding the basic contents of the Bible makes it easier to embrace the Bible. Because catechisms are organized by different doctrines of Scripture, they can serve as an overview to the key teachings woven through the Bible. As children grow older and become better readers, they are more likely to take up Bible reading on their own if they have a grasp of foundational Bible doctrines.
5. Catechisms preserve and purify accurate knowledge of biblical truths.
Young children tend to operate in black or white, right or wrong, and yes or no thinking. Dad and Mom are also the most influential people in their lives at this time. Therefore, young children are extremely likely to believe something just because it was Dad and Mom who said it. The easy-to-remember truths in a catechism, along with Dad and Mom’s influence, make an effective combination in combating falsehood. One of the goals in nurturing young children is not only to teach them accurate theology, but to preserve these truths in their minds until they are old enough to understand and defend it
6. Catechisms form a good foundation for deeper understanding later in life.
If sound doctrine of God is preserved purely when children still think in absolute terms, it will serve as the foundation of solid faith for children when they are able to think in abstract terms. Not only will older children have accurate theology preserved for them, they will have a pattern for sound thinking and reasoning as well. Strong faith comes from sound doctrine. When accurate theology is supplemented with the doctrines presented in a catechism, the two will likely form solid faith as children grow older.
7. Catechisms teach children to pray biblically-grounded prayers.
Prayer is something that needs to be learned as children do not naturally know how to pray or what to pray for. For this reason, they are prone to pray self-centered prayers or to dwell on tangents such as birds and ducks. Catechisms are very particular in what they address. Most catechisms point to the Lord’s Prayer and highlight petitions Jesus teaches us to pray for. Memorizing these points will help shape a child’s understanding of what it is to pray biblically-grounded prayers.
8. Catechisms encourage independent Bible use in children.
Next to every answer in a catechism is a Scripture reference directing children to the source of the answer. Parents who use a catechism with their children have the advantage of knowing key biblical doctrines and knowing what Scripture passages are used to support key doctrines. Referring to the Bible as the source of the answers will not only teach the authority of Scripture to a child but will also familiarize children with the Bible.
9. Catechisms encourage the beginning stages of biblical interpretation.
Essentially, the answers in a catechism are good interpretations from Scripture restated as recitable truths. Biblical interpretation is the process of discovering the intended meaning of a text and making application to present day life. Children who use catechisms will begin to see the idea that a biblical text has original meaning and an application to shape their personal lives.
Title: My First Book of Questions and Answers
Author: Corine Mackenzie
Most appropriate age: Preschoolers ages 3-5
The brilliance of this little book is the author’s ability to effectively communicate solid truths using simple and few words. The book is modeled after the Westminster Shorter Catechism and consists of 114 questions and answers. Thus, it covers a broad range of theological concepts and organizes them in a coherent manner, making it a valuable tool for older children as well. Most answers are accompanied by a Scripture passage, encouraging parents to make age-appropriate journeys to the foundational text. Overall, young children will be able to understand the truth so effectively communicated in this book. And because of that, parents will find it to be a friendly tool for a difficult yet important age.
Title: A Catechism for Boys and Girls
Printer: Stanley L. Hunt Ltd. Rushden, Northants.
Most appropriate age: Elementary age (at least 6)
This catechism distinguishes itself from “My First Book of Questions and Answers” by discussing theological concepts on a deeper level. Answers are longer and adult language is used. As words like “regeneration”, “justification”, and “sanctification” are used, children will take one more clarifying step toward understanding a systematic theology. The vision behind this catechism is that children might understand the Bible better and appreciate biblical preaching as they grow older (see pg 5). Each answer includes several biblical references, providing a wonderful opportunity for further Bible study. Understanding that multiple passages support the same teaching emphasizes the unity and validity of Scripture. This catechism is child-friendly but not childish. It is written with a high view of teaching children. Parents can use it as a tool to seriously acquaint their children with the teachings of the Bible.
Title: Big Truths for Little Kids
Author: Susan and Richie Hunt
Most appropriate age: Elementary age
The conviction of this catechism is that biblical knowledge will help develop a Christian worldview, which has a direct effect on how we live our lives (see page 5). Therefore, this unique catechism offers relevant and engaging life application stories. These stories are responses to the teachings of the catechism, highlighting the idea that we are to be not just “hearers” of the Word, but “doers.” Parents will find this book helpful as a resource for parenting! Deuteronomy 6 calls parents to be their children’s most influential theological teachers: “you shall teach them [statutes and commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk to them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise” (verse 7). All day and everyday is both a calling and opportunity for parents to shepherd their children’s hearts into a deeper understanding and love for God. This book will encourage parents to imagine how they might use all aspects of family life to shepherd their children’s faith. Thus, this book is excellent as a catechism as well as a practical guide for application for children. It is a resource of ideas for parents to create a faith-cultivating environment for their children.
Title: The Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus
Author: Sinclair B. Ferguson
Most appropriate age: Elementary age
This book is truly a gem! While teaching their children these truths, parents may come to more fully grasp concepts they thought they understood The body of Christ is blessed to have a teacher such as Sinclair Ferguson use his gifts to bless families. Not many writers can draw out the glories of Christ in a way that both adults and children together stand amazed! This book offers the opportunity for families to be knit together in worship of our great Savior. Unlike other catechisms, it is devoted to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ alone. Some of the concepts suit mid-elementary children best, but the catechism is a wonderful tool that will help families with younger children start to study the person, work, and purpose of Christ. The creative activities, conversation starters, Scripture readings, and prayers offered in this book give parents multiple avenues to spiritually engage their children.