Last week in Kid’s Worship I promised to give the kids a word which would impress their parents and I did not disappoint.
The word “catechism” descends from the ancient Greek and Roman languages but gained a particular Christian meaning through church history to the present day. Catechism describes the ancient practice of teaching and instruction through the simple form of question and answer. Christians for generations have been distilling the essentials of the faith into this form in order to summarize the Christian faith and memorize through repetition. We have inherited some great catechisms from our ancestors in the faith, such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster shorter and larger Catechism.
What might one of these catechisms look like?
What is our Only hope in life and death?
That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
First Baptist Church Dublin in Dublin, GA is going to be incorporating the New City Catechism, produced by Crossway with The Gospel Coalition into its children’s program on Sunday mornings. This project was spearheaded by Presbyterian pastor, Timothy Keller and his wife, Kathy. The catechism is based upon many of the major Reformation and Protestant catechisms with updated editing for accessibility while keeping its archaic feel.
At this point you are probably wondering, why is this important for a children’s ministry? Kathy Keller faced the question when she was serving in a challenging intercity area of Philadelphia and heard about a very successful Saturday kids program at a local church. As she entered into the meeting to see the secret for their success, half expecting to see in her words, “warm-hearted volunteers dispensing Kool-Aid, hugs and Jesus stories,” she was shocked to find two hundred kids in a room, divided by age group, learning a catechism. Read how the pastor of the children’s ministry responded when Kathy’s shock and disbelief formulated into suspicious questions,
These kids know nothing whatsoever about God, or Jesus, or sin. They’ve never even heard the words, except as curse words. We’re building a framework in their minds of words and ideas and concepts, so that when we do tell them about sin and the Savior who came to die for it, there is a way for them to understand what we are saying.
Kathy later ends this excerpt from an introduction to a published copy of the New City Catechism by saying: “The key is becoming convinced that you are furnishing your child with the mental foundation on which the rest of his or her spiritual life will be built. Or, to switch metaphors, you are laying the kindling and the logs in the fireplace, so that when the spark of the Holy Spirit ignites your child’s heart, there will be a steady, mature blaze.”
The goal of a children’s ministry out to be to produce an environment in which children will slowly and steadily have a biblical foundation laid from which we hope will spring forth spiritual fruit in saving faith in the Gospel.
The fruit of a children’s program is not ultimately seen in how big of a crowd we can corral for an hour of fun with Xbox’s, top notch designed facilities and the latest trends in children’s ministry, but seen in years to come when we see the fruit of a faithful ministry of fire kindling which transforms into ember coals of faith within mature Christians walking with the Lord as adults.
As I have written elsewhere, our responsibility as a church is to ensure that the Gospel is deposited to the next generation, and I see this as a great tool for our children’s ministry to work towards that end.
How catechism works is simple: Once you get your hands on the material, start memorizing! Ask the question, say the answer. Over and Over again. Grab a friend and say it back and forth to one another.
Here are a few ways in which you can access this great material.
If you are interested personally using this material or integrating it into one of your ministries at your church, here are a few great ways to start.
First, take a few minutes of your children’s worship or Sunday school to introduce the idea and start with one question. See how the kids respond. Depending upon their ability to retain the content and parent participation, you can revisit the same question for two weeks to a month, and then move on. Our children’s ministry offers children’s worship from ages 4-10, so our speed will depend upon the ages of the children involved. I took slides and removed phrases and paragraphs out of the answer in order to challenge them to retain the information. Think about the spiritual impact that slowly walking through a great catechism could have in a child’s life if they are in your program for 6 years.
Second, let the whole church know what you are doing and ask them to join. Catechisms are great for Christians of all ages and sadly much of the content from this catechism is not known by Christians who have been in churches for decades. How surprised might a 7-year old be if one of the older members came up to them and asked them one of these questions in the hallway? For example, Sunday School classes can even begin their time with a simple reflection upon the question for the week before they begin their lessons.
Third, if you are a parent in particular, integrate this into part of your family worship. If you have struggled to implement family worship or sometimes lack direction, the New City Catechism is a great resource. Another goal of choosing this curriculum can be to support and come along side of parents as they spiritually lead their children. Parents supporting their children in the catechism will help their retention of these Biblical truths.
It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit would use these efforts to instill the truths from God’s Word into the hearts of the children at First Baptist Church Dublin. Will you and your church join us?
Jared Poulton (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church Dublin, in Dublin, GA. He is married to Kerry Poulton and they have two children, Riley and Oliver. Jared and Kerry are originally from South Carolina. You can follow Jared Poulton on twitter at @Jared_Poulton, or see his personal blog at @jspoulton.wordpress.com.