Catechism—from a Greek word meaning “instruction,” and specifically instruction that comes by word of mouth—is a systematic series of questions and answers that summarizes Scripture. For example, the first question of the Children’s Catechism asks: “Who made you?” The answer: “God.”
As a complement to reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture, catechism instruction provides a framework for understanding the Bible. Memorizing catechism questions and answers ensures that we cover a breadth of doctrinal issues from the Trinity to the sacraments to why God gave us the Ten Commandments—and helps us not miss any topic. By memorizing this set of questions and answers at young ages—when their minds are most receptive to memorization—our children have a foundation of theological knowledge so they can know God and love God.
Theologian John Murray once told a group of children, “The primary reason is to learn it for the purpose of having in your mind a comprehensive compendium of Christian truth, but even apart from that there are a hundred by-products. It will be invaluable to you through your whole life, and not only in this life, but in the life which is to come.”
I also appreciate that catechism gives my children and me a shared lexis that provides a starting point for great discussions. Often when one of my children has a question about God, I take them through the relevant catechism questions and answers, leading them to make applications based on what they already know about God. We expect our children to memorize multiplication facts and state capitals. We should also insist they fix these doctrinal principles in mind as well. They will be unmoved by false teachings later in life if they memorize the truth now.
For further reading, see “Why We Memorize the Catechism” by R. Scott Clark.
For more catechism resources, please see our Family Resources page.