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Why We Catechize Our Kids

I often hear, ‘Kids shouldn’t interrupt the service, especially not the preaching of the word!’ Sadly, remarks like this remind me of the disciples’ poor attitude toward children.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 18:15-16)

Apparently, the living Word of God was fine with children ‘interrupting’ His public ministry. It’s clear in the gospels that Jesus welcomed children and commanded his disciples to do so. Children were not obstacles or inconveniences, but potential citizens of God’s kingdom. It’s also clear that the growing attitude toward children in the west is increasingly negative. Kids are considered accessories, or obstacles to one’s life.

While we recognize this attitude as unbiblical and totally self-centered, it can overflow into the church. Here are a few signs this is happening: you can’t find anyone to serve in children’s ministries or nursery. When people attend small groups and find children present they nervously look around for the sitter to arrive. When a child cries out during the assembly, people huff and puff because parents didn’t gag their kid before entering the sanctuary. Here’s one more: when efforts are made during Sunday morning to teach children and incorporate their learning with the adults, people are annoyed, deeming it a waste of time.

Rather than holding this kid aversion that is antithetical to Christ and His kingdom, we should seek to let children come to the feet of Jesus, especially when the whole church is assembled. We shouldn’t merely tolerate their presence but let them come near in a meaningful way. One often overlooked tool for doing this well is the catechism.

As a parent of three and a pastor in the local church, I have been exposed to many tools to help teach the faith to kids. About two years ago I started using the New City Catechism as a tool to help teach the faith to my little 4 year old. I was amazed at how she was able to quickly memorize the answers and delighted in the conversations we had about God, His world, and her place before Him. After sharing this with one of the sisters at our church, she suggested we add the catechism to our Sunday morning gathering. Our church began incorporating the catechism into our weekly service, gathering children ages 0-10 in the front of the auditorium, walking them through the catechism.  

The change made things messy, but it has been a messy blessing. After practicing this for over a year, an increasing number of young children and families have joined our ranks, and both kids and adults are becoming more established in the faith. While the catechism isn’t a magic bullet to saving faith, I offer a few encouragements to consider using it in your gathering in your efforts to establish children in the core doctrines of the faith.

Provide children with a place in ‘big’ church.

At the risk of sounding annoyingly obvious, this needs to be stated: Children didn’t bother Jesus and they shouldn’t bother His church. Age doesn’t make us less or more acceptable to God. I’ve been in churches where the presence of children has been met with the attitude more reflective of our surrounding culture than the attitude of Christ. If your attitude toward kids stinks, you are at odds with Jesus. He identifies with them since He made them, and even lived as one of them for a time, for our sake. By incorporating a designated teaching time with a transferable tool like the catechism, kids know they are welcome and parents know their kids are welcome.

Provide a model for parents

The congregation teaches each other. As the apostle Paul exhorted the church in Colossae to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (Col 3:16a). Since children are an essential part of the church we are to teach them as well. When catechizing in the gathering, parents are given an example by an elder/pastor of how this can be done. This is more practical than having everyone over to your home individually to observe!

Provide a tried and true tool for parents to disciple children

God has made parents the primary disciple-makers of their children. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Psalm 78:4-8; Ephesians 6:4), but the question becomes “How one goes about doing this practically?” The number of books, videos, conferences, and blogs on how to disciple is dizzying. Parenting is the most difficult work in the world and involves ‘on the job’ learning. In the midst of the haze, it’s good to have a simple tool available to put into parents’ hands that they can use in a variety of ways.