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My kids—ages 9 to 12—are like sponges right now. They are learning so much as we tackle their daily schoolwork on subjects including electricity, comparative adjectives, geology, pre-algebra, Revolutionary War history, and write papers on historical figures like Pocahontas, George Washington, and even the ancient math-whiz Archimedes.

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They have so much content to master, yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. In addition, they’ve had to learn how to use the multiple remotes in our living room, remember that the milk needs to go back in the fridge after they pour a bowl of cereal, and that you never hug your mother early in the morning until your teeth are brushed!

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With all of this memory work happening in their brains, where do we begin faith conversations? How can I as a parent capitalize on their impressionable minds with something that ties them to the faith that our family holds dear? How do I make the truths of the Gospel something they can quickly recall and use when it fits their everyday life?

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Devotions are a great place to start, but with my late elementary and pre-teen kids, I want them to have a great foundation that we can build devotions on as they mature and age. I’ve found something that works great for our family, and the brains of the three growing kids in our house.

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That’s right, you read that correctly. Catechism. The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means, “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in Church history. In the early Church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers.

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A catechism is just that–a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth. For example, here are some of the catechisms we’ve learned this year; and there are many more that we will learn in the weeks, months, and years to come:

  • Who made you and everything? God made everything and me.
  • What is God like? God is our holy and almighty Creator. He cannot be seen, but he has made everything we can see.
  • Why did God make you? God made us to enjoy him and show his glory to others.
  • What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that we enter God’s kingdom through God’s cross by God’s grace.
  • Why does God tell us, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”? So we will rest in God and remember the finished work of Jesus.
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We’ve added a few catechisms to the kids’ weekly spelling lists. We’ve added them to whatever vocabulary words they are learning, and I’ve thrown them into a few special “get rewarded with ice cream real quick” scenarios I create on a whim.

Getting Started

Untitled There are many different catechisms out there, but our family settled on the wonderful North Star Catechism developed by my friends at Sojourn Church. You can download a PDF or order a set of flashcards as an easy visual aid. This introduction clearly outlines what catechism is, and the details help you quickly understand what they are communicating and preparing in the hearts and minds of your children.

However, for clarity let me state what they most definitely are NOT.

  1. They are NOT just another way to beat my kids over the head with more learning. They are easy to memorize, easy to learn, and fit perfectly alongside all the other things our kids have learned. If you think your kids are “smart enough” to memorize these, then you’re not giving them enough credit. Add to it that they’re just different enough from what they normally memorize that it’s fun and unique.
  2. They are NOT a way to guarantee faith in our kids. I’d go so far as to say that they won’t do much for their souls if learning the Catechisms aren’t marinated in their hearts with spiritual conversations with their parents and others who love them. The cards are oftentimes a starting point for us, but they are not the end point.
  3. They are NOT separate from God’s Word. God’s Word is perfect and on each catechism we take the time to make it clear that these answers (and many of the questions themselves) come straight from the Bible. The foundation is God’s Word, and anything I can do to help bring that to the center of my kids lives is key.

There are so many ways to teach our kids faith, and the challenge for us as parents is to find ways to make faith relevant, real, timely, and catchable to our kids. I know that the day will come when they have to decide for themselves who they will serve, but it’s my duty to help them get the right picture of what you are believing when you believe in Christ for eternity!

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cliff Jonathan is the Director of Group Life and Community at Grace Community church in Clarksville TN.  Jonathan is a huge advocate for the family and believes that the family is God’s primary way of reaching the world. It’s his privilege and prayer that he helps kids and students learn to see the world as their mission field, and begin to use the gifts they’ve been given to make an impact on everyone around them. He is married to Starr and dad to two sons (Ryan and Dylan) and one daughter (Lauryn.)


Jonathan Cliff

All stories by: Jonathan Cliff