adapted from The Daughter of Zion (thedaughterofzion.wordpress.com); originally published 5 Dec 2017
A friend shared on Facebook the other day her routine for catechizing her children and doing family devotions. I was struck by how similar it was to what we do at our house. Her method is almost the same as the one I’ve settled on, after a little trial and error. Her husband is a Lutheran pastor, and I’m sure he has his own things he does with their children, but this is what she does with them.
First, she reads a few verses of Luke 2. Then she and the children discuss the verses for a few minutes, not too terribly long because most of her children are small. Then she drills them on memorizing part of Luke 2. That’s it. It takes maybe ten minutes tops, she noted, and then the day goes on. That’s all. Ten minutes.
My method is remarkably similar. I read a few verses out of the New Testament. We had been rotating through the Gospels, but I sensed that my progeny were getting slightly bored (good — it means they’re recognizing and remembering what they’re hearing), so I switched it up and gave them something they haven’t heard yet. Right now we’re in Acts chapter 8. After reading the verses, we discuss for a few minutes. I ask a question or two, the children might ask a question (little ones practically catechize themselves sometimes, they can be so curious), and then we move on to Proverbs. I added a verse from Proverbs for every time we have our devotion, because I felt our children needed more guidance in godly living. I explain the verse, illustrating with examples from their everyday experience (parents, chores, siblings, etc.). They might ask a question or two, and I make sure to repeat the proverb a few times, just to give it another chance to sink in.
Then it’s time to crack the catechism. I drill the children on a part of the catechism, making sure they do it word for word and that they memorize it reasonably well. We go through the day’s portion three times, tops. Their attention span starts to go downhill past that point. Usually twice through is fine if they play along and do a good job (which they usually do.) I don’t get too uptight about absolute memorization, because we’ll be coming back to that part of the catechism in the future anyway. Sometimes we merely introduce a section, and I have them repeat it back to me. Other times we drill. Right now we’re finishing up the First Article (again). Next week we’ll be on to the Second Article. I explain what they ask questions about, and then we have a cookie or a sucker. A treat at the end is key, because the children are more willing to play along if they know they’re going to get some sugar at the end of the process. They also enjoy the whole thing more if they associate drilling and memory work with sweets. (Thus the saying is true, “Sweeter than honey are Your words to my mouth.”) Read, discuss, drill, cookie. Repeat a few times per week. That’s it.
In less time than it takes to write about it, you can bring God’s powerful Word to bear on their little hearts, teach His lambs to see their Savior more clearly, and help shape them to live for Him. You are giving them the best possible head start on growing up to be active, committed Christians. The Holy Spirit builds them up in faith. Pretty good return on investment, wouldn’t you say?
Most people never find out that the natural setting for teaching the catechism is in the home. Nor do they find out how enjoyable it can be. Late afternoon in a church basement with the pastor is not the catechism’s natural setting, nor where it comes alive — not without a lot of extra effort. I know. I’ve done it both ways, and do it both ways, on a regular basis. The catechism is meant for the home. It’s very natural and easy to read part to your children and have them say it back to you. It’s also a lot of fun. Our boys are 3 and 2. They always want to climb on my lap for the catechism part. Our girls are 7 and 5, and they go to a Lutheran day school. I still drill them on their memory work. The 5 year old goes to kindergarten 3 days a week. When she’s home, she joins in the Bible reading & catechism time. She knows how it goes now, and she sets a good example for the younger ones. We have fun, together.
Sometimes I see what other pastors or other Lutheran parents do with their children, and I feel inferior, or like I’m slacking, when I feel like I’m barely getting by most days. We could add music, singing hymns for example; we could do more with memorizing Scripture… To be honest, that sort of comparison to other Christians is a trap of the devil. Ten minutes per time a few times per week makes a huge difference. It gives the Holy Spirit a whole lot to work with, and really the results are up to Him, aren’t they? It’s His Word. They’re His children, washed in baptism, held in Jesus’ heart of love that He laid open for us all on the cross. Trust Him. Trust His Word. Trust the process. Put in ten minutes at a time, and leave the rest to God. Give them the grounding they need to be strong and courageous in the Lord for their entire lives.
With the world the way it is – with how busy everyone is, making money and having fun – can you afford to take ten minutes and teach your children God’s Word?
How can you afford not to?
And with the coronavirus raging across the known world, many outside obligations and commitments have been cancelled. You may not have a better time in your children’s young lives to introduce this, and make it stick! Seize your opportunities!