Originally published September 24, 2015
Catechism isn’t as widely used as it once was, which I think is a real shame. It’s a way of teaching doctrine and Scripture to children in a brief question and answer format. The child memorizes the answers and repeats them back to the teacher or parent when asked. Perhaps you’ve heard this question and answer before:
What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
That’s from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which you might enjoy working on with your children. But even if a formal catechism isn’t a fit for your family, God still requires us to train our children in the Scriptures. God tells the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:
The Bible isn’t to be relegated to family worship time or church. We’re to saturate our homes and our lives with it. Ephesians 6:4 reinforces this thought in the New Testament, exhorting fathers to bring children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Scripture is to inform every aspect of our parenting.
Teaching your children the Bible might sound like a big task, and it is, but, if you think about it, we already catechize our children in so many ways we’re not even aware of. How many times have you asked your child, “What’s the magic word?” or “What do you say to Aunt Margaret for the nice present?” It usually doesn’t take long for them to get the hang of coming up with the right answer.
So don’t be scared. If you’ll take things moment by moment, intentionally bring Scripture into the circumstances that come up in every day life, and explain how it relates to those circumstances, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your children will grasp and apply the verses you’re teaching them. And they’ll be learning the most important lesson of all: God’s word is authoritative, and we are to obey it in every situation in life.
Here’s the informal “Lesley Family Catechism” that we have formulated and implemented over the years. Maybe with a few tweaks here and there, it would work for your family.
Q: You’ve done ________ to disobey me. What does the Bible say about obeying Mommy?
A. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1
It’s hard for little kids to remember all the do’s and don’t’s in the Bible, so God made it easy on them. One commandment that covers all the others: obey your parents. (Colossians 3:20 is very similar.)
Q: Hitting your brother is not right. What does Jesus say about how we’re to treat each other?
A. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Q: I know your friend was ugly to you, and that hurts, but what does God say about forgiveness?
A. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Q. God takes lying seriously. You cannot tell a lie and then when you’re caught, say, “I was just joking.” What does the Bible tell us about doing that?
A. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” Proverbs 26:18-19
Q. You are a thirteen year old, not a three year old. What does the Bible tell us about acting childish?
A. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11
This verse has been very beneficial with our teenage children, especially the boys. We have always emphasized to them that we are trying to raise them to be godly men.
Q. You may have done the right (or wrong) thing, but what was the attitude of your heart? How does God see you when He looks at you?
A. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b
It’s important for our children to understand that God doesn’t judge them merely by their external behaviors, whether they’ve tried hard out of love for Him and failed, or gritted their teeth and done what was right with a rotten attitude. This can lead to the incorrect understanding of the gospel that many people have today: “If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, I’ll go to Heaven,” or “Being a Christian is just being a good person.” God looks at our hearts, sees sinners in need of forgiveness, and offers us grace and mercy through repentance and faith in the shed blood of Christ for our sin.
Q. What do you mean, you hate your sister? You have confessed Christ as Savior. What does the Bible tell us about Christians loving their brothers and sisters?
A. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
In the context of this verse, and the book of 1 John, “brother” doesn’t mean “sibling,” it normally means “brother in Christ.” Still, in addition to fellow Christians, we are called to love our enemies and love our neighbors as ourselves, so we’re to show brotherly love to all.
Q. You’re doing an awful lot of complaining and arguing right now. What does God’s word say about that?
A. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, Philippians 2:14
Q. I know that what you’re telling me isn’t true. What does the Bible say about lying?
A. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. Proverbs 12:22
Q. You seem to be acting selfishly, pridefully, always wanting the first and best, and insisting on getting your own way. What does Scripture say about that?
A. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Q. It seems like you flew off the handle in anger. What does the Bible say about that?
A. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20
Working on memorizing these or other Scriptures with your children is a wonderful opportunity to teach them what God’s word means and to begin sharing the gospel with them at a very young age. And you’ll know it’s sinking in when you start hearing them say, “Mom, you’re doing ________. What does the Bible say about that?”
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.