This is actually a question that’s been a burden on my heart for a long time. This article recently brought it back to the forefront of my mind. I’ve wrestled with this for close to five years. One day at church one of my volunteers brought me a book that she was using with her kids. It was Catechism. Huh? Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either. If you’re from a catholic background, you’re probably rolling your eyes.
Catechism is a painful ritual and procedure for most devout young Catholics. It’s a list of well over a hundred questions. Each question had an answer and a verse or two to support the answer. Good catholic boys and girls memorized all these answers and sometimes the verses as well. For most, it’s a lifeless ritual, a shell of religiosity.
However, when I saw this, my spirit starting doing back flips. What I saw was good and solid theology. In many ways, catechism is the basics of the faith, theology boiled down to the key components. I started asking myself, “how can in incorporate this into my ministry? How can I get this into the hearts of the kids?” I see so many kids who know a lot of the Bible stories, but they don’t have a healthy and holistic understanding of good doctrine. Yes, a relationship with Jesus is vital. However, so is good theology. When life get’s messy, understanding God’s nature will go a long way in keeping that friendship strong.
Yeah, theology is taught all through our curriculum, but it’s rarely intentional.
Is this ever a concern for you? How do you incorporate good doctrine and theology into your ministry?
By the way, catholics are not the only ones with catechism. Several denominatons have their own. Here is the Baptist Catechism from the year 1813. Gotta love the baptists! 🙂
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I’ve actually been thinking very seriously about using it with my family. It’s a great way to actually get some sound doctrine and there are shorter catechisms that may be worth considering instead of the full-blown ones. I find too many kids couldn’t recite the model prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, have never heard of the Nicene Creed, and generally know very little. It might even be good for adults to look into. Thanks for the thoughts and the link.
While I resonate with this, I think we have to be careful, though that we do not make our flavour of theology a god in and of itself. We need to equip kids, families and volunteers with right beliefs (othodoxy) while at the same time equipping them with right practices (orthopraxy). (I threw in those big words to make it look like I know what I am talking about 🙂 )
Anyway, we need to be teaching both theology (whater fits your particular expression because there are different streams of theology: armenian, reformed, orthodox, etc.) and how to be missional (outward focused) at the same time. It’s a crazy balance that we are tasked with.
This was really on our hearts when we looked at how we’d been teaching our fourth and fifth graders. This school year we started a new program for them, and our purpose behind the curriculum we created was to give them the tools to not only study the Bible for themselves, but to also be able to understand and define what they believe. The school year has been a progression of first looking at how to study the Bible, why we study the Bible, and now we’re in the process of looking at key words for our faith (salvation, love, faith, worship, etc.). I’m really excited about our next unit because it’ll put everything into practice–helping the kids look at who they are in Christ. We’re still working out kinks, but I’m excited to know that our kids aren’t just knowledgeable of Bible stories, but how they represent who God is and then how to understand who they are in Him.
Jill Nelson’s last blog post..My Favorite Volunteer…
Good thoughts everyone.
Yes, a very interesting balance. I’m a part of a church that is very much engaging with the culture, so a straight up catechism isn’t the solution. However, when you utilize purchased curriculum, how do you impress the doctrine that you want to teach on the schedule you want to emphasize… when do you make time for it? I know, most purchased curriculum contains a certain amount of applied doctrine, but is it intentional enough?
The other thought? How do you maybe push this home? Yeah, our parents need to know this stuff as much as their kids? Can it be packaged in a way that kills two birds… teaches good theology while engaging parents? These are just thoughts… might write a follow-up post. You guys have gotten me thinking.
Kenny, I’m in a bit of the same situatin you are in. On any given weekend, I can have half to two-thirds of kids who are from families that are still trying to figure out what it means to follow God and have not prior church background. What I’ve tried to do is intentionally explain theological concepts when they come up in lessons… such as salvation, atonement, prayer, etc. I use the “big” word and then simply explain it. As for parents, I simply try to connect with them personally (and have my team do the same) and encourage them to look into things like learning the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostles’ Creed or the Jesus Creed (a la Scot McKnight… a version of the Shema which includes loving your neighbour as yourself)… I don’t do much “packaging” of stuff. I do more pointing to different resources and encouraging so that I’m not sending a “curriculum” home with parents, which I have problems with.
Henry Zonio’s last blog post..New Study About Spirituality vs. Religion and Children
I also think that it can be included through your curriculum. I always make sure that our kids know that:
God is not Angry with me.
God loves me more than I can love myself.
God can always be reached.
And yeah the parent thing is tough. Whether the family ministry or not. If anyone finds a fool(me)-proof way to get the parents interested in taking charge of developing their child’s spiritual walk please let me know. But I do think that it’s important to develop their thought of God’s character.
J.C.’s last blog post..Theology in Childrenâ€™s Ministry
While I’ll agree that theology is important, I think that setting up more curriculum to make sure were being intentional isn’t the best answer (which I’m sure I don’t know what the best answer is).
One of the things that we are beginning to do is to teach the story of the Bible from beginning to end. The weakness that I see with most curricula is that it is extremely repetitive and it doesn’t teach children how to observe, interpret and apply for themselves.
Writers tend to want to make sure that the teach a certain principle, then look for a story that can be used to get that point across. While not the worse thing to do, writers tend to use the same stories over and over again, expanding on them each time. This leaves children thinking they know some stories inside out (which they don’t) and having never heard others.
We’ll be trying this out, so I have know idea that it’s a perfect solution, but it’s been sought and prayed about for a time….
Our Sunday school classes will be going through the bible from k-5th grade, never repeating any of the stories. During that same time, children who go to our children’s church will go through the Bible in a year (hopefully six times over 6 years). In children’s church they’ll learn how to Observe (in our story time), Interpret and apply (in small groups)…and I believe that if we start at the beginning and go through the Bible in a story format, most if not all of anyone’s theological starting points will be covered somewhere along the way.
Personally I think setting up our own curriculum period isn’t the best answer… in most cases. But that’s just my opinion. I think many Children’s Pastors create their own lessons and curriculum and they’re not even remotely qualified to do such. But, that’s the educator in me…
I have been tasked with children’s ministry in my church. I would like to be assisted with a programme that I can use to guide them about God and His ways. I need a structure, that would guide me instead of creating my own and repeating topics like I’m currently doing