Catechizing Your Children–Don’t Worry, It Doesn’t Hurt

Some may have never even heard the term “catechism”, so, briefly, it is a summary of the basic Christian beliefs in a Q & A format.

Years ago, catechizing children–that is, having them memorize the catechisms–was as natural for a Christian parent as teaching their children their ABC’s.

Currently, few Christians even know what it means. I submit that the loss of the catechism tradition plays a huge part in why many Christians are so shallow in their knowledge of theology and the Bible.

As a parent, few things are as important as teaching our children how to handle the Word of God–which begins with the basic tenets of our beliefs. It should be FIRST on our list!

And the catechisms make it so easy. To a parent who asks, “How do I teach the Word of God to my children?” There isn’t an easier answer than to begin with the simple instruction of the catechisms.

We prefer the Shorter Catechisms with our children–and even as named such, there are 107 questions and answers to prove challenging to even adults!

As already mentioned, great spiritual heroes of the past were taught these tenets of the faith as early as they could talk, and expected to learn them before anything else.

I admit that we have waxed and waned in our teaching of the catechisms. But my husband and I were talking last night that we need to revisit the practice and see it through.

These make GREAT exercises for school, by the way, particularly incorporated into copy work.

I challenge you…it may seem overly simple or pointless, but I think you’ll be amazed at how much wisdom and knowledge is imparted through these questions, and how often you’ll refer back to them as you daily instruct your children.

10 thoughts on “Catechizing Your Children–Don’t Worry, It Doesn’t Hurt

  1. I agree wholeheartedly! I am a twenty-something who didn’t grow up in the church, and after our church did a summer Sunday School series on the catechism, I decided to keep going and memorize the rest of it (Westminster Shorter Catechism). I love having the phrases in my head. Sometimes when I start worrying, I calm down by reciting #11: “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing ALL HIS CREATURES and ALL THEIR ACTIONS” (emphasis mine). It’s very reassuring to think about that.

    One of the other ladies in our class said that when she was at the funeral of one of her husband’s relatives, she kept thinking about question 37 (What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?) and the answer (The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory…). The words were right there in her mind to comfort her and help her process what was going on.

    I have wondered if it’s worth my time to memorize the catechism and if I should spend the time memorizing Scripture instead. But if I believe this catechism is a very good summary of Scripture (and I do), it’s so helpful to have the structure of the concepts memorized. It’s all derived from Scripture, but it’s a much briefer summary and overview to help you get the big picture easily. And then, when you read and memorize Scripture, you can see how things fit into the big picture.

    There are plenty of resources out there to help. Our church recommended these three:

    First Catechism published by GCP. (for really little kids)
    Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on The Shorter Catechism by Starr Meade.
    Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live to God by Susan Hunt, Richie Hunt and Nancy Munger.

    There’s also a CD that sets all the catechism questions (exact wording) to music. I’m not sure of the name, though.

    All that to say, go for it!


  2. Hi Kelly,

    I’ve always wanted to learn this myself, where do we find the material for the shorter Catechisms?

    My children and grandchildren are all grown now, but I am teaching a Titus 2 class to some very little girls and thought maybe they could learn them.

    Blessings, Janet.


  3. We are currently learning the Westminster Shorter as found in “The New England Primer.” This was early America’s leading textbook for decades. At our country’s founding, if there were any books in the house, the following three were considedered a priority: The Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and The New England Primer. All are still foundational to a Christian education today. Enjoy these gems of the past to provide a rich heritage for the next generation of believers.


  4. ” many Christians are so shallow in their knowledge of theology and the Bible.”

    I don’t think that “many” Christians are shallow in their knowledge of the Bible. Not at all!


  5. We also started training our children in catechism last year, but because our children are so young, I found the Catechism for Young Children to be much simpler and easier to understand and memorize. You can find all the Q&As online at (just google it) or do what we did and buy the little booklets containing cartoons from Doorposts or Vic Lockman (again google it). They even make accompanying coloring books with the Biblical references for children to read and color. My children have actually enjoyed memorizing and learning the basic tenets of their faith! And it’s even been helpful for me, a lifelong Christian who never even heard of catechism growing up.


  6. I really enjoy reading Catechisms. They do much to explain our Christian faith — consolidate and condense it, so to speak.

    Care needs to be taken when using it with children. Children need to have explained to them in terms they can understand,what they are memorizing.

    I grew up Catholic, going to school for almost 7 years with the nuns. We memorized Catechism nearly every day. By the time I was out of school, though, I remembered nothing of it. Could not have told you what I was supposed to believe as a Catholic, or why.

    Why? Because it was merely rote memory alone (which works well with spelling words and multiplication tables), not at all tied to reality or the Bible or anything — just words on a page, memorized, and regurgitated for a test. Quickly forgotten.

    My husband found this to be true, too, when he asked the old-timers in our Reformed church who had been raised on the Heidelberg Catechism. None of them remembered anything or knew what they believed or why (he would quiz them).

    This is because the Catechism is often merely memorized with no explanation given to the children. Please explain to children what they are reading and memorizing out of a Catechism. Then it can be useful and beneficial.


  7. chengdu,

    Actually, there is research that shows this to be true. Many mainstream Christians can barely answer the basic tenets of Christianity or what they believe or why, much less do they understand any doctrine or theology deeper than that.

    Most Christians could not adequately answer the basic questions of the catechisms.


  8. chengdu,

    If you care to read further, this article by the Barna group is quite revealing:

    “A new nationwide survey of adults’ spiritual beliefs, conducted by The Barna Group, suggests that Americans who consider themselves to be Christian have a diverse set of beliefs – but many of those beliefs are contradictory or, at least, inconsistent.”

    The study reveals that many Christians don’t even understand the BASIC tenets of faith…I’m talking here about deeper theology and doctrinal understanding.


  9. I couldn’t agree more, Kelly. Catechisms are wonderful! I think many Christian shy away from them, however, because they are necessarily interpretations of the message of Scripture. Whatever Catechism you choose, you should always be careful that it is in keeping with your theology.

    For example, with the Shorter and Larger Westminster Catechisms, you’d need to be a Reformed/Calvinist Christian.

    Our family uses one of the Catholic Catechisms, because we are Roman Catholic.

    The trick comes with nondenominational or non-Creedal evangelicals, I think. Because they do not adhere to a specific theology, I don’t think there is a catechism available for them. I’d be interested if someone from this background has tools to recommend to their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?


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