How I Catechize My Children
Parenting has been both the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life. I have two young boys and they are full of adventure. They love to run around, play legos, and watch Toy Story. As a dad, I want the very best for my boys and like any Christian parent, my biggest desire for them is to one day find redemption in Jesus. This burden of shepherding these little souls has been daunting at times. I remember the night my first son was born, I cried as I held this little baby and thought “How am I going to make sure my son is saved from his sin?” It was a heavy burden, yet when I cried out to God that night His answer to that question was immediate and freeing - I can’t.
Despite what authors might write in their parenting books, there is no definite way to make sure your child will be a genuine Christian. After all, salvation belongs to the Lord not us. He is sovereign over all things, including the salvation of my children. Yet, this does not excuse the Christian parent from doing everything they can to help their child understand who God is, what He has done, who we are, and why we need Him. For centuries this was done through a now nearly extinct practice - catechism.
What is a Catechism?
“Catechism” might sound like a hyper-religious ritual or some type of surgery, but it's actually very simple. Justin Holcomb defines catechisms as “basic outlines of the teachings of the Christian faith, set forth in a way that those unfamiliar with doctrine can easily understand.” Most of the catechisms throughout Christian history are done through a Q/A format, but the main principle is to have participation from the one learning. Learning is the key. As Christian parents, We we want our little ones to learn so that they can understand and also be protected from false theology that is seemingly all around us. As Cyril of Jerusalem explained in the fourth century, “Let me compare the catechizing to a building. Unless we methodically bind and joint the whole structure together, we shall have leaks and dry rot, and all our previous exertions will be wasted.”
Most catechisms were not written for children. Believe me I checked. They were mostly written for adults and perhaps children nearing their teenage years. A few years ago as I searched for a catechism to do nightly with my son, after all repetition is the best teacher, I realized that I could make my own catechism. My son might not be able to understand the Westminister Shorter Catechism, Lutheran Small Catechism, or even the excellent New City Catechism, but he can understand simple things about God and as he grows we can build on that foundation. So I began to write out a catechism for my children.
What I came up with is nothing new. These are simple concepts that summarize the very basics of the Gospel. Nor, is this catechism long. It take about 30 seconds to recite together, as that’s about all my sons can handle at this point. This is certainly not all that I teach my sons, but it is the very height of what they need to know. I also use this catechism as a springboard to teach them other lessons about God and their need for Him. If they are scared, I’ll tell them “Remember God is faithful, He’s always there and you can talk to Him.” Or if they rebel, I will tell them about the reason Jesus had to die to pay for their sin like lying, anger, or disobedience. These teaching moments would not be as successful without the catechism.
We do our catechism nearly every night, I’m not perfect and there are nights that I forget, but most nights we read a Bible story (or a chapter from Chronicles of Narnia, we’re currently about to finish up Prince Caspian), pray, recite our catechism, and then sing the doxology together which my oldest now adorably refers to as “our song.” I’ve written our catechism below and attached a video of how we do it, but you have to decide what is most helpful for your child and maybe that means adjusting here and there. I’m not a perfect dad, I make a lot of mistakes, but I hope that entrusting this truth to my sons will help them as they grow in understanding of their need for God.
The Lentini Catechism (I Had to Name it Something, Ok?)
(Even after a few years, he still thinks "catechism" is a funny word, which is why he yells it at the end)
Here are the words:
Parent: God is Faithful (Child repeats)
Parent: And God is Good. (Child repeats)
Parent: So we can trust Him. (Child repeats)
Parent: And God is Loving, (Child repeats)
Parent: That’s why He sent Jesus (Child repeats)
Parent: To Die for our sins (Child repeats)
Parent: And rise again. (Child repeats)
Parent: So if we believe in Jesus, (Child repeats)
Parent: We can be saved (Child repeats)
Parent: And be with Him forever. (Child repeats)
I’d encourage you to end with a song either the Doxology, Jesus Loves Me, or something foundational that will support what you have said with your child. It also helps if this a well-known song as your child will only be more anchored in this truth to hear it sung by your local church. Teach your children. Teach them daily. Teach them the Gospel.
- Justin S. Holcomb, Know the Creeds and Councils.
- Cyril of Jerusalem, Prochatechesis.