Thursday, June 28, 2007

To Catechize or not To Catechize? That is the Question...

My daughter Lily just turned one the other day and it sparked a conversation in my house about how we were going to educate, not just her but future children we may have. I grew up in a Christian home where Sunday worship attendance was not an option. I can remember vividly being forcefully dragged to church more than once dressed in my blue superman footie pajamas. While this was true from age 0-18 for me (the dragging not the footie pajamas), my wife on the other hand, did not grow up in a particularly Christian home. Her upbringing involved church attendance but it was spotty at best and often entailed going to a Southern Baptist church with her paternal grandfather one week, toddling off to a United Methodist church another week with her maternal grandmother, and every now and then departing with her father to a Presbyterian church the next with many missed weekends in between. Yet one thing we came to realize despite our wildly different attendance patterns at Sunday worship growing up was that neither of us received any consistently direct instruction from our parents in between Sundays (at least until I was in communicants class that is, my mother tried to catechize me in 6 weeks!). Also being that I am studying for the ministry and my wife had a post-high school conversion we speculated on the relative importance of parents catechizing their children. I mean we turned out o.k. right?

This is of course not the point. The mere fact that we are where we are today is by the grace of God not by any direct causation of our lack of mid-week parental instruction. We decided then as we did not have any contemporary examples of family catechizing that we would look to ,as many of my fellow compatriots have begun to do, look back at a time before our parents, even our grandparents, for a day in the past where it was common, strike that, expected that parents would catechize their children at home. What we found in a seemingly odd way was to prove the old adage true. 100 years ago atheists knew more about Scripture and doctrine than we ourselves do today. This caused us quite a lot of soul-searching and wailing with gnashing of teeth thereby causing us to come to the realization that catechizing our children was not just something were going to do but something we had to do.

Our next challenge was seeking out how to catechize our children. While we thought about just using the shorter catechism and "dumbing it down" we thought it would be better to seek professional help. We found up-to-date catechisms that look great and we also found old tried and true books that my grandfather mailed to me. While we look to study up ourselves before the kid(s) get old enough to teach we have made it a little mission of ours in our "community" to help parents understand the importance of family devotions and catechizing sessions not just for mere instruction but for the health of the family because there is a lot of truth to the old saying, "The Family that Prays together stays together."


will spotts said...

This is a wonderful goal - and something we do fail to do today. I believe it is very good that you are thinking about this now - as opposed to when your daughter is a little older. I'd be interested in your observations as you continue this exploration.

Gary said...

If you can, I think Christian school should be considered when she is older. I went to public school and hated every minute of it. Of course, I was the one being picked on and the "outsider" to every thing "cool". And thus no gf throughout hs and only a handful of dates sense.

I finally got interested in education when I went to Geneva. And think in a better environment, I would have had a much more positive time.

Reformed Catholic said...

At the church I attend, and am now an elder at, We'vealwaysdoneitthatway Presbyterian, we've been trying to introduce the congregation to contemporary Christian praise music in hopes of holding occasional blended services in the fall; as well as trying to move the congregation into being a more welcoming, evangelistic church.

During these praise 'sings' before our traditional summer worship (moved to 9:30 am from 11 am as A/C costs to much to install), we've been using the time to include some questions from the Longer and Shorter Westminster catechisms.

All this leads up to a comment I heard that lends itself to supporting additional instruction in the faith:

(from a 'long time' member of the church) "What exactly is the Shorter catechism?"

DOH !!!

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Brother, you MUST catechize your children. The Bible gives you the direct responsibility of instructing your family as the husband, father, and spiritual head of your family. See Dt 11:16-21.

Furthermore, as one seeking the teaching office, your family MUST be marked by a daily diet of personal and family worship. That is part of leading your family well and having obedient children. (I Tim 3:4-5) I can recommend Alexander Whyte's "Thoughts on Family Worship" and Donald Van Dyken's "Rediscovering Catechism."

My oldest daughter is 17 months old, and we are already sitting her with us at the table as we read the scriptures and the shorter catechism and pray and sing a hymn or psalm. She has learned to sit more or less quietly for the prayer and say "'men!" at the end, and she "sings" with us too. I have friends who have three year old twins who know the first 20 questions of the catechism and can sing several hymns from memory.

By all means, do this. Even if your wife is less than enthusiastic and supportive, do this. It is how God raises up godly seed after you.

Rev. Brian Carpenter

Anonymous said...

I am a PC(USA) ministers wife and Sunday School teacher. This year none, NONE of my students knew how to look up a Bible reference without the Bible page number being listed. I think we have a lot more work to do with just the Bible basics before we try anything else.