Monday, July 25, 2011


I said on Friday that we have decided to teach our children more pro-actively about our faith.

A few weeks ago I reviewed a book which planted in my mind the idea of teaching our children a catechism. This was fortuitously followed by a conversation with a friend who has started doing the same with her family, and then another with a friend who was taught it as a child.

A catechism is a method of teaching using questions and answers which are learnt.

One of the well known catechisms of the reformed Christian tradition in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Shorter being relative and in comparison to it's longer sister. It still consists of 107 questions with full scripture references in the answers, the first one of which you may have heard before:
What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Some clever souls have devised simplified versions for children: I have found the Catechism for Young Children and The First Catechism. They are both similar, but do have slightly different emphases. So I have compared them both and made our own. If you would like to have a look - you can view it here.*

I realise it doesn't look that much simpler - there are 146 questions. However, it's a long term project. I expect it will take a few years, assuming times of learning and some breaks.

At the moment we are aiming to learn (memorise) 5 questions a week.** So far so good, and the kids are loving it. They question me, they question each other and we are learning the answers together. (each has their own laminated copy to read)

On the first night we did it they were so excited and keen we talked about and started learning the first 8 questions:
1. Who made you?
2. What else did God make?
God made all things.
3. Why did God make you and all things?
For his own glory.
4. How can you glorify God?
By loving him and doing what he commands.
5. Why are you to glorify God?
Because he made me and takes care of me.
6. Is there more than one true God?
No. There is only one true God.
7. In how many Persons does this one God exist?
In three Persons.
8. Name these three Persons.
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There is a huge amount in just that! Number 3 was a great one to talk about: Why did make you?
- Was it because he needs you? No.
- Because he wanted you in his image? No.
- Why? For his own glory.

What a great lesson we self-centred humans need to learn - the sooner the better. It is a great joy to hear my almost 4 year old sing out 'For his own glory!'.

I'll show you a few other resources for teaching the faith on Friday.

* As with any prepared material, there is some you will agree and disagree with. As we go through it, I am already modifying a few of the questions and answers - either to simplify the language, or to further clarify the answer.

** They have been so keen we actually learnt 35 in the first 10 days or so, so it might not take as long as I thought!


Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy

This is an intriguing idea. Do you mind if I ask a little more about how it works?

There are some pretty big concepts here - glory, persons, first parents, etc. Obviously your kids will understand these concepts more as they develop and their capacity for abstract thinking, etc increases. But I was wondering about how you handle those concepts now.

Have you given them simple explanations for what these words mean already? (If so, would you be happy share those too?) Or is the idea to just memorize the words at this stage and then reflect on the fullness of them as they grow up?


Wendy said...

Sure Tamie. You are right, there are some big concepts - but that's doesn't bother me too much, they understand as much as they can. Obviously M at age 8 understands a lots more than A at age 4, but she is still getting something out of it.

We definitely explain it as we go through it - there is no point learning something by rote if you have no idea what it means. So when we look at new questions, we talk about what each means. 'first parents' confused Amy, but once we said 'first people' even she knew the answer.

And it's not like they aren't already used to abstract concepts - God, heaven, hell & eternity for starters. The understanding of each of those continues to alter and adapt as they learn and understand more, as it does indeed for us who are adults and still have problems processing it all!

So far we have found they understand the explanation, and then the question (if previously confusing) makes sense. We are up to the mid 30s, but I change the language as I go through it if I need to - some of it was just a bit old or odd. I imagine I will continue to alter it, if needed, as we go through it. We want to teach them what we believe - not just what someone else happened to write down! But, it's a good resource to start from. If I'm mostly happy with it, I keep it for now - it means if we ever move to the Westminster Shorter Catechism proper, some of the language will sound familiar (although realistically I would probably update that too!)

As for sharing all my explanations, sorry - no can do - not because I'm not willing to, but I can't write down all my thoughts and our discussions, otherwise I would have to start a whole new blog! (and most of it, I think of as we go along). But, it's no different that you would explain any of those concepts to an adult, just with simpler language.

Hope that helps!

Meredith said...

Thanks for this. Really helpful links. We are just thinking about what to do next with the kids who, like yours, are ready to move beyond the children's Bible stories. This is a great resource.

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy,
Thanks for sharing the catechism resource you compiled. I'm going to save it and keep it for future use.
Emily Hood

Wendy said...

No worries Meredith and Emily, hope it's helpful. If you use it - let me know how it goes!