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A Simple Children's Catechism

Aiming for deep answers that are easy to remember and to say.

June 21, 2016Filed under Theology#familyMarkdown source

I was talking with some family today about how we all approach catechizing our children, and it made me think: I should write up the simple catechism we use with our girls. The goal is to package the great truths of our faith in terms that little kids can remember and that they can say. There’s nothing original here except perhaps the specific form and order. But I hope someone finds it a little bit useful! If you’re curious about sources or reasons, see the footnotes, which in this post serve as commentary.

Who made you?
The Trinity!1
Who is the Trinity?
God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And they are…
…three persons, just one God, and no divisions.2
Why did the Trinity make you? Why do you exist?
To love God and be happy in him forever.3
What is the most important rule?
To love God with all your everything4—with your heart, and your mind, and all your everything.
What is the second most important rule?
To love others as much as you love yourself.5
What is the first rule that comes with a promise?
To honor your father and mother.
And what is the promise that comes with it?
It will go well with you and you’ll live a long time.6

Beyond this, we started memorizing Genesis 1 with our oldest when she was three. We need to pick that back up (she’d memorized 12 verses!), but haven’t figured out what it looks like schedule-wise yet.

I’d like to start adding some further explication of the gospel going forward as well—how God has loved us. We talk about that on a regular basis, but including it in our catechism will be helpful (and I’ll just keep borrowing regularly from the existing catechisms).

  1. This might surprise you, as most children’s catechisms use “God” or “God made me” here. Our oldest child simply couldn’t remember that answer. But we sing “Doxology” every night before bed as well as doing our catechism, and one night I said to her, “God is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That’s the Trinity,” and she said Trinity happily. So when I asked her “Who made you?” a moment later, I prompted her with “The Trinity” and… it stuck. So we ran with it; the questions which follow were a natural progression from there.

    I actually think this happy turn is a profoundly good thing: the God we confess is, as Athanasius pointed out many centuries ago, not just some abstract God, not first and foremost the Creator. God is in eternally, internally, triune. The gospel we proclaim is a Triune good news—the Father sending the Son who is empowered by the Spirit, so that through the Spirit’s applying the Son’s work to us we might be the adopted children of the Father, and so reconciled with God and (astounding thought) participating in the very life of the Trinity. That is the good news.

  2. As our kids get older, we’ll elaborate on this. Eventually I’d love for us all to be able to say together the Nicene-Constantinoplan Creed, which carries this much further. But this gets the most important bits in place.

  3. Borrowed fairly directly from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

  4. I was riffing off of the word we usually translate strength from the Hebrew. “All your everything” isn’t an amazing translation, but it gets the point across decently, and our oldest had an easier time with it than “strength.”

  5. Here, as with our paraphrase of the Shema, the point is to get the point across. In both cases, we’ll switch to more usual wording as the kids grow up.

  6. Again: getting at the gist of things. We’ll elaborate on this and start talking about how it fits in the context of salvific history as they keep growing. But Paul’s use in Ephesians 6:1–2 gives us good warrant for continuing to apply it to our own children, I think.

    Applying the promises to our own children is, I know, complicated for Baptists. I have… thoughts on this. They will emerge at some point, probably after substantially more study, and probably without my becoming Presbyterian.