Anybody Use Catechisms?

Anybody out there use catechisms? I have never seen them used in a fundamental, Baptist church, but after perusing the Westminster Catechism and Spurgeon's catechism, I think they could be a very valuable tool for discipleship. There is a lot of good stuff in there.

Any thoughts? My formative Christian years were spent in churches where creeds, confessions and catechisms were never even considered. It has only been relatively recently that I have given serious thought to their use. I wish I had done so sooner!

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Bob Jones elementary Bible curriculum used to have a catechism included. I think this is it. Kids 4 Truth produces a mid-week replacement for Awana that uses a catechism like this (available in multiple versions):

Q. What is the Bible?
A. The Bible is the only inspired Word of God, above all other books in wisdom, power, and authority.
1 Thessalonians 2:13b – When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I especially like the tip about Kids 4 Truth. Spurgeon's catechism is outstanding. I am really leaning towards re-tooling something for my own church down the road, and handing it out. Very good stuff.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

Kids for truth is the best kids program I have ever seen. My wife and I were consistently amazed at the depth our kids were learning. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I don't like the emphasis on rote memorization that catechisms can have, especially if the goal becomes memorization instead of comprehension. Honestly, however, there is already this danger with common kids programs, like AWANA. Often, it becomes a matter of having kids memorize verses to get awards, rather than ensuring they actually understand the Gospel. The other week, a 7-yr old AWANA kid proudly recited Jn 3:16 to me. I asked him what it meant. He furrowed his eyebrows, and replied, "I don't know. Is it about Jesus?" 

The basic concept, however, of the catechism is very sound. As a summary of Christian doctrine, in Q&A format, it can be really effective. I don't like the word "catechism," and I suspect most people would probably assume it was a "Catholic" or "Anglican" thing. Honestly, that was my initial reaction until fairly recently. If I ever adapted one, I'd probably drop the label "catechism" and call it "Questions and Answers for Christian Life," or something similar. 

It sounds like an intriguing prospect, and the concept can be adapted for new believers, evangelism booklets, mature discipleship and the like. This series of articles on catechisms from Founders Ministries was interesting . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Pastor Doug H's picture

Capital Hills Baptist has done some thing similar http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/wp-content/uploads/ChildrensMinistryBibleMemoryBook.document.pdf  their catechism for children starts on roughly page 53/54...also the folks at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville https://www.dropbox.com/s/cpo75or90oghx14/The%20Northstar%20Catechism_FINAL.pdf have done something similar both use Spurgeon's catechism as their starting point.

I believe both churches allow you to download in full...

DavidO's picture

Westminster Shorter (with a couple minor amendments on the Baptism answers).

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

I don't like the emphasis on rote memorization that catechisms can have, especially if the goal becomes memorization instead of comprehension.

Tyler, I would agree that rote memorization should never be the goal, but it is, in fact, one of the basics, and I believe it's much more necessary than modern educational thought gives it credit for. There is a reason we learn to recite our alphabet, counting numbers, lists of prepositions, multiplication tables, etc., long before we understand them. We fully understand that knowing these doesn't tell the learner much about language, math, or other concepts, but it puts them on the path. This is also the reason that "classical" education starts with memorization and discipline long before it gets to reasoning. Of course eventual understanding is the goal, but there is a reason we don't buy the world's idea that you should "reason" with your 2 year old, rather than punish, when he did something wrong.

I think it's quite common (in spite of the fairly large number of "conversions" at 5 years old) that a 7 year old would memorize a scripture without being able to tell what it means. However, it will give him something to think about, and that memorization will put him in good stead later. I remember when my kids were 6 and 9, and we had a memorization program in my church. At the end of a two year period, my 9 year old could recite the entire book of Colossians, and my 6 year old almost the entire first chapter. I'm sure they didn't have a great understanding of the concepts in that book, but it did give us many "jump off" opportunities for discussion as we worked each week on the memorization. My 6 year old (at the time) didn't even get truly saved until she was 15, though she made a profession earlier. But keeping her saturated with scripture was plus, even if she didn't understand all of it at the time.

A catechism is probably useful in the same way. It's not going to "save" a kid. But if that kid knows the memorized answers, those concepts will come back, and God can use them in the kid's life. We have used Kids 4 Truth in our church as well, and though any kids program can have weaknesses, I think it's very well designed, especially if the teachers are well-prepared and use the curriculum well.

Dave Barnhart

Ron Bean's picture

When I came to Christ I had a hunger to know "what Christians believed". A Baptist pastor suggested that i get my hands on The Westminster Confession of Faith (Including the Longer and Shorter Catechisms) with Scripture Proofs. It was the first book I purchased after my Thompson Chain Reference Bible. I read it through and I still have it on my book shelf where it is one of my most frequent references in doctrinal matters. It's been nearly 40 years and I'm still not a Presbyterian but, if I want a concise definition of a Bible doctrine it's where I turn.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

pvawter's picture

TylerR wrote:

I don't like the emphasis on rote memorization that catechisms can have, especially if the goal becomes memorization instead of comprehension.

Tyler,

I would echo what Dave said in response to this issue, and add that it doesn't have to be an either/or. In fact, the emphasis on comprehension over memorization has some very serious pitfalls.
When I taught HS math (algebra, geometry, trig, etc.), I found far too many of my students to be deficient in their knowledge of basic arithmetic to be able to comprehend more advanced concepts. I think the application to catechism is that without a foundation of Biblical knowledge, comprehension is really impossible. Memorization is the starting point with the goal of fitting the details into the big picture as time progresses.