When I was a kid, my siblings and I listened to Steve Green’s “Hide ‘Em In Your Heart” albums over and over again. These albums are a collection of dozens of kids’ songs that are basically just Bible verses put to catchy tunes. To this day, when I notice fear rise in me in a particular moment, I instinctively start singing, “When I am afraid I will trust in You, I will trust in You, I will trust in You,” from Psalm 56:3-4 thanks to one of those catchy tunes. The title of the albums is a nod to another Psalm—Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Because of the truths embedded in them, these albums were instrumental in my spiritual formation in my earliest years. Learning truths from God’s Word and committing them to my memory helped to shape me into the person I am today, now with children of my own.
As I raise my own kids, I want to pass on to them the truths that were planted in my heart when I was as small as they are now. So, I am doing many of the same things with them that I was privileged to have as a child, which certainly includes singing Scripture-based songs, memorizing Bible verses, being involved in our local church, and staying connected to like-minded friends. One new element of discipleship that I have been introduced to in recent years, though, is catechisms. I have found this to be another wonderful tool for helping my children to hide truths about God in their hearts.
When I first heard that our current local church encourages families to go through a catechism together, that struck me as a foreign concept based on my upbringing. I associated catechisms with the more liturgical sectors of the Christian faith. After looking through the booklet given out by our church, it became clear to me that a catechism is just a summary of Christian principles presented in a question and answer format, and there is a wide variety of them out there in different Christian traditions. Some great options for kids include Carine MacKenzie’s My First Book of Questions and Answers. Tim Keller and Sam Shammas have created The New City Catechism, a free web-based resource for adults and children. There are Truth and Grace Memory Books by Thomas K. Ascol that are age-specific for children at various levels of development. The book that my family and I use is Catechism for Young Children: An Introduction to the Shorter Catechism, which is a kid-friendly, abbreviated version of the Westminster Catechism.
In my family, we began to implement the catechisms as a daily practice on our car ride to school each weekday. I ask each of my children a question and explain to them the answer. The first few questions and answers go like this:
Q: Who made you? A: God.
Q: What else did God make? A: God made all things.
Q: Why did God make you and all things? A: For His own glory.
Each question and answer are fairly short like these. I have found this practice to be so helpful to my children as it breaks down the truths of God’s word into small, “digestible” segments. Now that this is an established practice in our family and part of our routine, my kids can easily engage with the question and answer format and have committed many of the truths to memory. My seven-year-old son now knows 43 of the questions and answers, and my four-year-old daughter has memorized 14. I try to make it as engaging as possible so that it doesn’t feel like a dry, rote ritual. Our catechisms have an accompanying audio element that is a helpful resource. And I have found that many of the catechisms we have memorized tend to sneak into daily conversations and moments when correction is needed. These questions and answers are a simple, familiar way to steer my children back to the heart of God in the midst of a challenging situation.
The older I get, the more I understand that growing in my own faith is a complex, multi-faceted journey. The same is true for my children. And as a I continue navigating the ways God is calling me to disciple my children, I strive to encourage them along in their own faith journeys. While it is not the end-all-be-all of discipleship, I have found catechisms to be a helpful tool (among many) to help my children in their spiritual development. As parents, each of us must consider how we can best encourage our children on their faith journeys. And as we raise our children to be grounded in God’s truths, we cling to the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
If you think this is a practice you would like to explore with your family, here are a few resources to consider:
Every parent knows that kids have questions, many of which are thought-provoking and complex. Carine MacKenzie's My First Book of Questions and Answers provides 114 questions and answers to help parents and children navigate some of those complex questions in an age-appropriate way.
Thomas K. Ascol's series Truth and Grace Memory Books has three age-specific levels. Each book includes Scripture memory suggestions, classic hymns, and catechisms.
Catechism for Young Children: An Introduction to the Shorter Catechism is of a Presbyterian background and is based on the Westminster Catechism. It is kid-friendly and has accompanying audio resources.
Tim Keller and Sam Shammas created The New City Catechism, a free resource for kids and adults. There are user-friendly web and mobile apps, as well as books and curriculum available.