By Marrena Ralph
A generation or so ago, parents wanted their children to attend church even if they didn’t attend themselves. Those children have grown up but are no longer attending church. Why? Where are they, and why did they leave the church?
These adults did not necessarily lack Bible teaching. In fact, some of them may have come from strong Christian homes, attended a Christian school or were homeschooled, or were a pastor’s children. They know the Bible stories, such as Noah and Jonah, but they do not know Bible doctrine. Children need to know Who God is and what He has done. As Bob Roberts, founder of Kids4Truth Clubs, has stated, “We are failing to teach our children why we believe what we believe.”
I would propose that people are leaving the church because they have never truly understood or known Who God is and why they need Him in their lives. They are, therefore, easily swayed and enticed by the world instead of being passionate about their relationship with God.
Children Want to Learn about God
Children have a built-in desire to learn and grow mentally, as well as spiritually. Why? How? Who? What? Parents often hear these questions from their children, who question as a way to learn. Early in life they desire to know how they got here, who made the things around them, and what others expect of them in order to accept them. When children follow their parents around asking why, children are not necessarily trying to be annoying. Instead, they are asking questions about things they are thinking about, and they want answers.
God created humans to naturally want to know about Him. Creation sings of the God Who created all things. Psalm 19:1 says that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Even a heathen who has never heard the Bible can tell there is a God and wants to know about Him. Be assured, therefore, that children want to know Who God is, because He is the One Who made them, made everything around them, and is the ultimate One they should desire to please.
Children Need to Learn about God
Do Christian parents push their beliefs onto their children? Why can’t children decide about God on their own when they are old enough? If Christians do not teach their children about God, the world will teach its beliefs and systems. Children realize that adults will teach them what is important to those adults. So children listen and learn from their parents and teachers. But children not only listen but also believe what they are taught. If adults teach them that God made everything and show them proof of that belief, they will believe it. If, however, Christians leave it to the world to teach children and they learn of evolution, that is what they will believe. If Christians fail to teach the truth, they communicate, “I do not know what is true, so listen to those who have answers.”
Catechisms Are a Great Teaching Tool
There is so much to know about God. The first step in teaching is to lay a foundation for children so they can mature and deepen in their understanding about God. Systematic truth taught through the question-and-answer method helps provide a framework by which kids will be able to assimilate other Bible truths.
In past centuries, the church taught children doctrine using a question-and-answer method called a catechism. The word catechism can refer to both the method of instruction and the content of the instruction. Catechisms were used to answer basic questions about God, such as What is the Bible? and What is the Trinity? Catechisms date back in church history to AD 353. Some of the most recognized catechisms are “A Catechism for Little Ones” (1652), “Baptist Scriptural Catechism” (1850), and “A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine” by J. P. Boyce (1874). These catechisms taught the doctrines of the Christian faith and laid a foundation upon which young Christians could grow and mature. As Catholics took over using catechisms, the Protestant church pulled away from that teaching method, and catechism became a dirty word. But in recent years, churches have been returning to the catechism-type approach. Some programs, such as Kids4Truth Clubs, have developed curriculum to be a “catechism on steroids,” meaning that children learn not only the questions and answers but also a Scriptural proof text for each answer. This means teaching facts about God as well as showing why those facts are true.
Catechisms help students understand that Bible truth is a tapestry of truth: all parts depend upon and are enforced by the others. Learners do not see information as fragmented pieces disconnected from the whole; instead they can visualize all parts fitting together like a beautiful puzzle.
Using a catechism-style of teaching has at least seven benefits:
- It demonstrates a unity of essential beliefs among Christians.
- Tying verses to appropriate questions promotes a faster, deeper understanding.
- It stimulates and motivates learning, because children love to answer questions.
- It safeguards against heresy.
- It prepares children to appreciate and understand sermons, lessons, and other Bible teaching.
- It clearly summarizes key beliefs.
- It can easily serve as a standard for essential teachings.
Churches and parents have a variety of curriculums available to them. Many curriculums are designed to catch a child’s attention, be exciting, teach morals or character qualities, or give an overview of the Bible and God. The question is, Does your curriculum teach Who God is and why you believe what you believe about God, and does it do so with Bible proof texts? If not, you may want to look into adding this crucial teaching method and content to your children’s ministry.
Marrena Ralph has directed Kids4Truth Clubs for 18 years at her local church and is now the clubs program specialist at Regular Baptist Press.