Catechism can be fun
During our family devotions after dinner this evening I had our eleven year old son quiz me on my memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Now, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I could not recite all 107 questions and answers with perfect, infallible, word-for-word accuracy, though I have read the catechism through many times over the years, am quite familiar with its contents and concepts, and have committed significant chunks of it to memory. However, this is really nothing to boast about, especially given the fact that the Shorter Catechism was originally designed to be memorized by young children and new converts to the Faith, and it probably would not have been too long ago in historic Presbyterian circles that a Presbyterian minister who couldn’t rattle off verbatim the answers to any and all of the catechism questions without even a moment’s thought would have been viewed as an oddity at best, a concern at worst. In any case, as my son quizzed me he took great delight in pointing out any incorrect words, omissions, or other slight mistakes I happened to make in my attempted recitation of the answers to the questions. (At one point in the quiz — or should I say in my grilling! — he pointed out, with apparent glee in his eyes, that his pastor dad had paused at the wrong place in the sentence of one of the answers. One would be hard pressed to find a rougher catechism drill sergeant than one will find in an eleven year old son!)
I share this little tidbit of family life here to make the point that catechism memorization does not have to be dull, dreary, or burdensome. Not only is the Shorter Catechism an excellent “roadmap to the Bible” (i.e., an excellent summary of the broad contours of the Bible’s main teachings). Not only is it a wonderful guide for Bible study (for example, looking up the Scripture proofs to the answers and reading those proofs in their larger biblical context can be a helpful way of getting a good sense of the Bible’s teachings). Not only is it theologically and doctrinally rich and deep. Memorizing the catechism, if done in an interesting, interactive, creative and age appropriate manner, can also be fun! Catechism quizzes (whether between parents and children, spouses, among groups of Christian friends, or within a traditional classroom setting) can be done in a fun and stimulating way, and the many doctrinal truths explained in the catechism (for example, Scripture, God, creation, fall, providence, effectual calling, justification, God’s law, etc.) can be a source of lively discussion and fellowship in the truth.
So, if you don’t already have a copy, I recommend that you get yourself a copy of the Shorter Catechism (I suggest the Banner of Truth edition with the Scripture proofs written out under the answers). Read it. Meditate upon its truths. Seek to commit it to memory. If you are married, enlist your spouse’s help in memorization (and as your spouse quizzes you he or she will also be commiting it to memory). And if you have children, be sure to share with them the theological riches and doctrinal heritage of the Shorter Catechism. As you do, remember that catechism can be fun. Make it a joy, not a drudgery.
If you are looking for a family devotional guide that is based upon the Shorter Catechism, I would recommend Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2000). It contains short, daily readings based upon the catechism questions & answers (a week’s worth of devotions based upon each catechism question & answer). You can order the book here: http://www.prpbooks.com/Training-Hearts-Teaching-Minds-Family-Devotions-Based-on-the-Shorter-Catechism-8.html
The Banner of Truth Edition of The Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs can be ordered here: http://www.gcp.org/Products/CategoryCenter/CHSTD!WC/westminster-confession-and-catechism.aspx