The word catechism and the practice of “catechizing” carries with it a lot of baggage. Some immediately think, “Aren’t catechisms quirky, out-dated, and rigid?”
If you are from a Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, or Lutheran background, you may remember studying a catechism in confirmation classes. Others will have never heard of a catechism at all.
So, what is it anyway? 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. A catechism is just that–a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.
In fact, the roots of this method go even farther back than the early church. When God rescued Israel from Egypt, he gave them a whole slew of laws, ceremonies, and sacrifices to help them remember his great rescue and guide their journey to the Promised Land. These traditions were important, because God wanted Israel’s faith to be passed down to their kids with clarity and stability.
God knows that kids have questions, because he made them with curiosity and a sense of wonder. So, when God gave Israel his law, he anticipated their children’s questions. In passages like Exodus 12:26-27, Exodus 13:14-16, and Joshua 4:6-7, we find a pattern like this one:
“And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them…
In these passages, God gave the Israelite parents a script for answering their kids’ curiosity. In Exodus 12:27, it went like this: “It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.” God wanted parents and kids to put this little script to memory, so that they’d always be ready with answers.
At SojournKids, we’ve put together a short list of questions and answers to teach Bible doctrine to our kids…