While Sunday School classes and Christian academies can play an important role in the spiritual development of our children, it is first and foremost the parents who are given the weighty responsibility of bringing up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). God’s word makes it abundantly clear that parents are to be the primary disciple-makers of their children. We are to provide for their spiritual growth by teaching them about the Lord and training them to walk in his ways—we are to nourish our children with theology! As Paul Tripp has put it, when it comes to parenting, “nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.”
Remembering the Lord
Moses gave this command to Israel: “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” (Deut. 6:6-7). Here is a picture of family life immersed in the truth of God. Our homes should be filled with the stories of our Creator, the songs of our Redeemer, and the statutes of our good and gracious King. In Psalm 78, the psalmist declares that parents (as well as the covenant community) are to be dedicated to telling the coming generations “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps. 78:4). They are to ensure that their children know the works and words of God.
So, how can we accomplish this? How do we begin to teach our children about the glorious deeds of the Lord and his all-sufficient word? One of the most simple and effective ways to do this is to catechize them.
What is a Catechism?
The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katecheo which means to “teach” or “instruct” (Acts 18:25; Gal. 6:6; etc). It is essentially a summary of Christian doctrine—like a statement of faith—but arranged as a series questions and answers that are to be committed to memory. For example, the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously begins by asking: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The church has used such catechisms for centuries to help teach not only new believers the truth of the gospel but also children.
However, while there are several good catechisms available for parents to use with young children, there are not many written for toddlers and preschoolers between the ages of one and five. That is why we’ve created this new resource for parents. It is a collection of thirty-six simple questions with very short (often one-word) answers, covering the basic doctrines of God, man, sin, and salvation. The answers contain several important words for your children to begin learning at an early ages, such as ‘glory,’ ‘grace,’ ‘faith,’ and ‘the church’.
Why should we catechize even our toddlers?
The psalmist gives the greatest reason for catechizing our children, teaching them the works and words of the Lord: “So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:7). Far above our children’s health, intellect, social status, education, future job, material prosperity, and life accomplishments, should be these three things. For in them alone will true and lasting joy be found.
Before our children can even form coherent sentences, we begin teaching them the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, animals (as well as the sounds they make), and to say “please.” As they grow up we make them memorize their times tables, the fifty states and their capitals, and important dates in our nation’s history (as well as the church’s history, hopefully!). Adding a simple children’s catechism to that list is an easy but profound way to make sure our children know what is of utmost and eternal importance.
We know that our children don’t understand such abstract concepts as letters, numbers, grammar, or logic, but we nevertheless begin to teach them basic truths at a very early age. How much more should we begin to teach our children the basic truths about God and his gospel? Catechisms are an effective way for parents to do their part in preparing the wood on the altar of their child’s heart so that God might one day ignite it with the fire of his saving grace.
Matt Bedzyk is the lead pastor at Elmira Christian Center. He received his Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt and his wife Brianna have one daughter: Lorien Grace. In his spare time, you can find him reading, playing music, enjoying coffee, and supporting Manchester United.