By Aaron Batdorf
It’s already happening; our kids are being catechized. The world is bombarding them with a narrative meant to shape how they think and telling them what to value. It could be Bluey, Sunday school, commercials, advertisements at the grocery store, or any number of messages they encounter in day-to-day life. We may not always be aware this is happening, but we need to know it is. The patterns we lead our children through shape and form how they view God’s world and how they think.
What Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 places the responsibility to lead in this process on parents. “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.”
Our responsibility as parents involves constant conversation about who God is and what He has done for us. Teaching our children diligently is an all-encompassing endeavor. When you sit in your house, when you are going from here to there, before bed, and in the morning—every situation of the day with our children can be used to speak of who God is and what He has done for us in Christ.
But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me define catechesis. Catechesis is a method of oral instruction that uses memorized questions and answers. The word catechesis comes from a word in Greek from which we get our word echo. This helps us understand the point of catechesis: laying a foundation of truth upon which to build a godly life, one that echoes the truth taught by a catechism.
You may be concerned at this point with the idea of memorization—don’t we want our kids to have a relationship with God, not just simply to know facts about God? Absolutely! If you have or have had a toddler, let me remind you of the “why” stage to quell this concern. How many times did you answer the same question, often simply articulated as “why?” Catechesis captures a child’s natural curiosity and directs it Godward. It takes what the child is already doing and points them to who God is and what he has done for us and for our salvation.
Our family is using Charles Spurgeon’s “A Catechism for Boys and Girls,” one of the many great options available. Let me illustrate how this has helped our family to have constant conversations about God. My son has recently become infatuated with stars. It started when he saw the moon during the day and exclaimed, “Silly moon, it’s not night!” One night toward the end of summer, I took him outside to show him some planets that were visible and talk with him about the God of creation. It was an easy transition because all I had to do was ask him the questions he is used to hearing—the first three questions of our catechism: “Who made you?” “What else did God make?” “Why did God make you and all things?” He responded to the questions and moved from the answers to a realization that God made the planets and stars we were looking at right now!
The foundation we had laid at the dinner table was being built on as we looked at the night sky. He was understanding—at a three-year-old level, to be sure—that what we see, God created for His glory. We talked some more about creation, prayed together, and went inside to bed. Would a conversation about God as Creator have happened without the familiarity of a catechism? Probably. But he was the one who made the connection based on truth that was familiar to him as he experienced it in the night sky. In other words, the catechism worked to shape how he thinks and helped me to have an easy entryway into an intentional conversation that helped direct our eyes on our Creating God.
The most difficult part of the process (probably!) will be choosing a catechism. But we live in a time of a wealth of resources, so find one that fits your tradition, and get to it! As you do, you will find ways to take the foundation it lays and connect it to your everyday experiences to help shape how your kids think about who God is and what He has done for us in Christ!