What Is a Catechism?

Some of you may have noticed recently on the church Facebook page that we have been posting a daily Bible reading plan that is geared toward helping families engage with the Word together. Kelly and I have been reading a chapter each day with Josh, and I have found that though it is much easier to just read a children’s devotional book, there is something powerful and even mystical about reading Scripture together. For instance, tonight while reading Matthew 5, it was a little awkward trying to explain to my six-year-old son what Jesus meant when He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” We did, however, have a fruitful conversation at the end of the chapter when Jesus teaches about retaliation–a topic on which a kindergarten boy needs a great deal of coaching.

In addition to the daily chapter of reading, we are also encouraging families to walk through the New City Catechism. Now if you are like me and you grew up in traditional Baptist churches, you probably see the word catechism and it conjures up ideas of monastic living, transcribing large passages of Scripture by candlelight, and chanting creepy music in Latin. Don’t worry, it’s not as strange as it sounds. A catechism is simply a summary of Christian beliefs stated in a series of questions and answers. Generally these are constructed in a way that makes them useful for helping believers learn the foundational doctrines of our faith. This is a practice that churches have been utilizing for hundreds of years, but it has fallen in popularity in the modern church. We believe it is still a valuable tool for us today.

The New City Catechism in particular was largely compiled by Pastor Tim Keller and his wife Kathy as they taught their children about God. When their children were young, they asked simple questions like, “Who made you?” Answer: God. “What else did God make?” Answer: God made all things.

The intention is to introduce our children to these concepts at a young age. They will not understand them fully, but it will help them to progress in their knowledge of the Word more quickly and deeply as they grow in faith. The catechism has 52 questions and answers, one for each week of the  year. Each question also has a shorter more child-friendly version. You can download the app for free in the Apple Store or in Google Play.

For more information about the New City Catechism, read Tim Keller’s introduction here.

Throughout the year I will be posting some thoughts and additional resources on that weeks’ question.

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