Perhaps the reason many people have a negative opinion regarding catechisms and doctrinal teaching is that there is a prevalent misunderstanding of catechesis. What so often comes to mind are thoughts like: “rote memorization,” “boring,” “dry,” “lifeless,” and “mechanical.”
But this does not at all accurately reflect what catechizing nor the use of catechisms has meant in the past. The church fathers and Reformers were interested in not only teaching the mind but also affecting the heart and the actions. Theirs was not a system of rote practice, but rather a determination to disciple each individual. It was life-on-life questioning encouraging critical thinking, discussion, investigation into the Scripture, explanations, and yes, memorization of the essentials of the Christian faith. It wasn’t blind memorization of catechism, but an investigation into the claims of the Bible. The emphasis was not on teaching a parroted answer, but on understanding, learning, and embracing truth.
…Parents would learn how to ask questions, to lead their children through a text of Scripture, to explain spiritual truths, to have a spiritual conversation with their children, and to delve into personal application. Armed with this understanding of engaging the mind and affections, a parent would then be well prepared to teach the catechism within the relational context of the home. As children are grounded in the truths of the Bible and encouraged at home to live by these truths, they may begin to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
(Discipleship through Doctrinal Teaching and Catechism, ©2017, pages 28 and 35)
Getting StartedFirst, consider this buying this short, affordable booklet by Sally Michael, which provides a helpful foundation for understanding the purpose and benefits of using a catechism and tips on choosing a catechism for your family:
CatechismsNext, choose an actual catechism resource (some are available for free). Here are some we recommend:
The Baptist Catechism Set to Music by Jim Scott Orrick (2CD set)
The Heidelberg Catechism (updated 1988 version)
The Heidelberg Catechism by Faith Alive Christian Resources (The 1988 version with the answers arranged in logical order, rather than paragraph form, making them easier to memorize.)
Heidelberg Catechism, 450th Anniversary Edition by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
First Catechism: Teaching Children Bible Truths by Great Commission Publications.
The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds by Crossway
Other ResourcesHere are some resources based on the catechism.
The Big Book of Questions and Answers: A Family Guide to the Christian Faith by Sinclair Ferguson
Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt
The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism by Kevin DeYoung (Heidelberg Catechism)
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism by Starr Meade
Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism by Starr Meade