by Clay Holland
The practice of Catechesis has practically gone by the wayside in today’s evangelical culture. While there are a few groups whose members cling by the reciting of entire classical documents on Christian theology these instances are few and far between. These seemingly primitive means to developing sound doctrine hardly seem necessary for us as adults so why should we bother teaching them to children?
Historically catechisms were created in order to do one or more of three things. The first of these was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the Gospel. This was not just to explain what the Gospel is but also to lay out the building blocks upon which the Gospel is based such as the character of God, nature of man, or divine character of Jesus and so on. The second purpose behind catechisms was to address cultural concerns at the time with a biblical solution or response. The third purpose of these was to create a people that reflected the likeness of Christ in their character.
The Bible calls parents not only to serve the physical needs of their children but also to instruct them in the ways of the Lord. Paul in Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) says that fathers should “bring them (children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In addition to relying on the teachings of the church and the influence of the Holy Spirit to bring children to the feet of Jesus as parents Christians are called to play an integral role in the spiritual development of their children. Deuteronomy 6 calls parents to create environments within the home that would encourage and enable Gospel conversations to happen at all times.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
Catechisms themselves are such an effective tool at giving children (parents as well) a Biblical foundation for their worldview from a young age. Kathy Keller through discipling a young girl in her community says of catechesis “it creates biblical categories in our minds and hearts where they act as a foundation, to be gradually built upon over the years with new insights from more teaching, reading, and experiences. Catechesis done with young children helps them think in biblical categories almost as soon as they can reason. Such instruction, one old writer said, is like firewood in a fireplace. Without the fire—the Spirit of God—firewood will not in itself produce a warming flame.”
Homes need to be a place where no topic is off limits especially topics of Gospel conversation and the things of God. Having an open dialogue with your kids about the way God is working in your life and the way God is working in the world are crucial for opening lines of communication. How sad would it be of a home for it to be a place where parents talk to their children about school, friends, heartbreaks, and triumphs without ever approaching the topic of God? Making the home a place where the things of God develop rich and deep conversation will without a doubt be one of the most rewarding experiences in a parents life.
At Mercy Hill we have been blessed with parents that are genuinely concerned for the eternal life of their children. I would say with confidence that our families have parents that pray for their children and are committed to raising their children in an environment that would nurture their spiritual health. For parents that are committed to building Gospel centered homes a catechism is an effective tool that would be beneficial in the process. Catechisms such as The New City Catechism or Westminster’s Shorter Catechism are great examples of simple question and response statements to be memorized by children (and adults) and can both be accessed online.
As a church we want to equip parents and come around them as the body of Christ to encourage the formation of gospel centered churches. In response to this desire we are having our first Parent Commissioning service on Sunday, November 10th (at both services). You can visit our events page here for more info and also to sign up.
May all of the families at Mercy Hill be able to say of their households “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, ESV)
Clay Holland is a student at Elon University an is currently interning at Mercy Hill Church with our children’s ministry.