Collin Hansen delivers a message at TGC21 titled “The Duty and Delight of Catechizing Your Children.” He begins with the thesis that someone will catechize your children and follows with the pivotal question, “Will it be you or someone else?”
From Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Hansen addresses the nuts and bolts of catechesis, beginning with its theological foundation and detailing how parents might engage in both formal and informal catechesis, as the Scriptures command.
As parents lay the foundation of catechesis for their children, duty gives way to delight, while biblical truth begins to shape their families for the glory of God.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: Welcome to break out round for those of you gathered together here with us in Indianapolis as well as everybody watching around the world and live stream welcome. This is session is the duty and delight of catechizing your children. So now is your opportunity. If you’re in the wrong room, you will not offend me, if you run off to the different breakout, or if you’re watching online, you want to toggle to one of the other options as well. My name is Collin Hansen, I serve as the vice president for content and editor in chief of the gospel coalition. I’ve worked here since 2010. For the purposes of this session, it’s probably most important for me to explain that I am the blessed and thankful be the father of three children. Carter is six years old. Sister Elise is three, Lord willing, we’ll be welcoming William this summer in July. And so I don’t claim to be an expert on parenting.
On the other side of things, if you follow all of my methods, everything will work out, you’ll achieve every result that you want. That’s not where I’m coming from. Where I am coming from is a perspective where it will give you the thesis of this entire talk here for the next 45 minutes. It is that somebody will catechize your children. The question is, will it be you? Or will you let the world do it? That is the simple thesis as everything that we’re going to be talking about here. That’s what I care passionately about. Because I believe that in order for us to move forward as a church, in the middle of a fraught culture that is pushing against Christian belief in many different directions. Cross pressured as Charles Taylor would say that one of the most essential things that we cannot neglect as parents as church leaders, as children’s ministers, we cannot neglect the ancient and proven practice of catechesis.
Okay, so I’m going to do something a little bit different. I debated about whether or not to do this. If I do this a different time. Maybe I won’t do it. But I think it’s going to help with just remembering why we’re here. Okay, so I’m gonna read a book, you’re not gonna be able to see it. It’s okay, you’ll get the message is a children’s book is called not your typical dragon. Not your typical dragon. I have no idea how this book ended up in my house. Do any of you have that situation where these books just show up and they multiply and you’re reading them to your kids and you have no idea who gave them to you?
Every story has a message every story is trying to catechize what we’re going to spend about the next seven or so 10 minutes doing is trying to figure out what message this this scholastic and widely published book is trying to communicate through its story. Alright, so I’m going to do this as if I’m you know, well, a little different, but reading it to my kids. You’re not gonna see it begin you’ll get the message. Crispin Blaze was born into a proud family of fire breathing dragons. Every Blaze breathes fire explained his father, I breathe fire. Your mother breathes fire tomorrow when you turn seven. You’ll breathe fire to the little dragon imagined all the forests he would burn down he dreamed of all the castles he would destroy. He also considered boiling water to make tea. But he didn’t tell his father that the next day Crispin sad among family and friends is a big cake was brought to the table who will light the birthday candles his mother asked. I will declare it Crispin.
He could feel a tingling inside his tummy. But when he opened his mouth fire did not come out. Whipped cream came out. Crispin shattered his father dragons breed fire over the neighbors think worried his mother. I love whipped cream said his little sister Ashley. The little dragon was whisked off to the doctor the very next day please fix my son demanded Crispin’s father. What seems to be the problem as to Dr. Crispin opened his mouth and breathes but fire did not come out. You probably get the gist of it my now. Bandaids came out. I see So the doctor gravely dragons should breathe fire insisted Crispin’s father. We were low on bandaids and mumbled the nurse the doctor sent Crispin home with medicine he swallowed two teaspoons before going to school. It will help you become a real dragon said his father with a wink. After school Crispin joined his first fire breathing practice.
One by one little dragons aim their fiery breath at stacks of logs until they burst into flames. Crispin stepped up confidently he could feel the medicine bubbling in his belly. But when he opened his mouth fire did not come out. Marshmallows came out. Dragons breathed fire yelled the coach. Isn’t that right class? The other dragons didn’t answer they were too busy looking for pointy sticks for marshmallow roasting. I guess I’m not a real dragon Crispin thought he worried that his family would be disappointed so he ran away from home. The world can be a scary place for a little drag and you can’t breathe fire. Crispin found a dark cave
I’ll be a fireless dragon all by myself. I won’t bother anyone, and no one will bother me. now or later he had a visitor. I am Sir George squeaked a thin shiny night. Show yourself dragon. Crispin shuffled out of the cave. The thin shiny night held up his thin shiny sword. Do your worst dragon. Crispin opened his mouth but fire did not come out. Soap bubbles came out. Don’t you breathe fire dragon. Crispin shook his head. I can’t. Sir George moaned. But my father insists that I fight a fire breathing dragon. It even says here in my book that your typical dragon breathes fire. I’m not your typical dragon Crispin explained. So George side I can’t go home. Me neither Crispin nodded. But then he had an idea.
Maybe your book could tell us what to do. Of course, sir Georgia search through the pages. It says it’s probably just your diet. Sir George fed Crispin spicy curry, scorching chili and blistering salsa. Crispin opened his mouth but fire did not come out. Red party streamers come out. At least they’re the right color, said Sir George kindly. Sir George searched through the book again. Aha. It says it’s probably your attitude. So George showed Crispin had to look mean and angry enough to breathe fire. Crispin opened his mouth but fire did not come out. soft, cuddly teddy bears came out. Hmm. said Sir George. We may have taken a step backward. It’s no use Crispin side. I’m just not your typical dragon. The third George was not ready to give up. Aha. The book says you’re too stressed. So George may Crispin close his eyes while he described a quiet relaxing day at the ocean. Do you feel calm?
Now imagine 100 Shiny nights attacking you. Crispin opened his mouth but fire did not come out. beach balls came out. Well, that’s just plain weird. Secretly Sir George was glad that Crispin couldn’t breathe fire. He liked the little dragon and didn’t want to fight him. Crispin liked the shiny night too, but he missed his parents. So George is getting dark. I want to go home. A shiny night patted him on the back. Don’t worry a little dragon. I will take you. Christmas parents were relieved when he arrived home safely. Sir George was about to say goodbye when they heard a shout. There you are boy. Why on earth are you playing with a fire breathing dragon? He’s my friend father. Whisper sir Georgia. Besides, he doesn’t breathe fire.
A dragon that doesn’t breathe fire. That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. The shiny man laughed. Christmas father stormed out of the house. My son is not silly. He may not breathe fire but I certainly do. Christmas father laid out a powerful spray of flames. Do your worst dragon declared the shiny man. But then the flames scorched the lawn. That’s enough honey to Crispin’s mother, the flame singe the fence. You’ve made your points near now stopped showing off. She scolded. Then the flames ignited the roof. Christmas father panicked. I can’t stop breathing fire. You’ll burn our house down, cried his mother. You’ll burn down the whole neighborhood. Dragons came running from all directions. They knew how to start fires, but no one knew how to stop them. Crispin suddenly felt a tingling in his tummy.
He felt the bubbling in his belly he opened his mouth. But fire did not come out a gush of water shut out. Crispin named the water at his father’s flames. He saved his home and even saved the shiny man who wasn’t looking so shiny anymore. Hurray for Crispin. Everyone shouted. On Christmas next birthday there was a big party. Family and friends came from all over the land. So George and his family came to lots of dragons were dancing. Crispin stood with his mouth open wide fire still did not come out. Music came out instead. Your son said an old uncle to Crispin’s father he’s not your typical dragon Izzy. No reply. Crispin’s father proudly, my son is something special. And then he jumped up and danced to Crispin’s music, too, and of the story so again, indulge me here in the assumption that cultures craft children’s stories in order to contain in order to convey values, morals, and lessons.
Think about Grimms fairy tales. If you ever heard an author’s name so perfectly matched with the genre of literature before as the Brothers Grimm – it’s like if Stephen King’s name was Steven fear, the way to think about it there you know the stories. Of course, you know, the Disney version of the stories stone, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel. If you can get past that Disney gloss what you’re going to see is these stories teaching very clear lessons. Lying is dangerous. Keep your word, don’t trust strangers, hard work will pay off. So if that’s true, imagine yourself as some kind of cultural anthropologist, not native to the west. What would you say that not your typical dragon teaches? It’s actually got a couple examples here. You can yell out, I’ll say it to the room and to the live stream here and examples, but you got to say what uniqueness is, is the code, you aspire to be different, you should aspire to be different. Okay? So get one. Okay, you’re born the way you are, you can’t really help how you’re born, you should embrace that. So another good one.
There examples. individualism, it’s all about the individual person, even a child. That’s another good one. Anybody else? belonging. Okay. So I think there’s also a good story in here, there’s a good message in here, which is that just because you’re different, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be included, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be valued. For who God has made you to be. That’s a good way that you could interpret this book in some ways. I would say, anybody else. Your parents might not get you at first. I think we could take that a step further. And also say, dads are kind of bummed you know, buffoons, as well, you can’t really trust authority figures. Did you guys also notice in there, that books are not considered to be authoritative, you know, those old books that tell you how the world is supposed to be, you can’t really trust those either may have picked up on that in there.
Anything else? I mean, you guys have I think you’ve picked up on basically those themes in there. Another I would I would add here is that if we weren’t so stuck, in our ways, we would have a lot more fun with life. It’s entirely possible here that you think that that’s a waste of time for me to spend all that time reading this book, and that I’m reading too much into this. Maybe I am. That’s entirely possible. I might be reading too much into this children’s book. So I want to ask you a question in response, then. Do you think parents in China would read this book to their children? Not a chance. Not a chance. Would this book be published in Saudi Arabia? Not a chance. There’s no way it’d be published in Saudi Arabia? Would the book make any sense? If you published it in Zambia? It just doesn’t make any sense. It would not communicate to children in Zambia. 100 years ago, would you imagine this book becoming popular in Germany, in England, or in the United States?
I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s any way that would be true. And I don’t think again, I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that’s all together bad. Because Christians, of course, teaches that there is dignity in every person, because God has made all in his image. Even if you’re not typical, you’re loved by God. And we’re called to love you as well. Parents are definitely not perfect. Dads get things wrong. Expectations for Christian fathers, as we know, have changed in many ways to be more relatable, to be more understanding, to be more empathetic, to be more, more emotional with their children, I don’t think those are bad things there as well. We agree as Christians, the world would be better off with a lot more dancing and a lot less killing. That’s a wonderful message in here as well, especially if we love those people who are different from us, our enemies.
There’s lots of different kinds of messages in here. You can see, you can see progress in our society, the privileges of living in the West, under the residual influence of Christianity in some of these ways. But I also don’t think it would be very hard at all. And I actually got into a bit of a debate with the author about this on Twitter. I he wasn’t, and I just I just chose it right there. I mean, it was funny, he found me out. I just mentioned something about the book. I wasn’t seeking him out. But I guess he had some sort of alert or something on it. But I just don’t think and he never argued otherwise that it would be considered a very thinly veiled apologetic for gay marriage. And for homosexuality, I think you could very easily apply that whole situation to exactly this story came out in 2013. That’s two years before the Obergefell Hodges decision that legalized gay marriage across the country. I think if you applied a lot of the standards about transgender ideology that Rebecca McLachlan writes about in her new book, The secular creed that you guys have received as a part of this event, and you’re going to get online as well. I think it would be very easy to apply all of the same messages to what we’re seeing with with transgender ideology. especially with young people in particular.
More broadly, though, what I would say is, is a clear cut example of expressive individualism, a clear cut example of expressive individualism, which is the dominant and guiding moral philosophy of our age in the West. This message tells us that what feels good to me, even if authorities disagree, is right, and indeed cannot be wrong, and everyone else must affirm my decision or my lifestyle, or perspective. The session is on the duty and delight of catechizing your children and we’re going to get to the delight toward the end of our time together, but I want to first address the duty and to build it off this story to talk about the duty of catechizing our children catechesis is not merely a tool that Christian that Christian parents may choose, or children’s ministers may choose to use with their children, without any or not with no consequence. You could say that some parents sing together with their children.
Some parents use story Bibles with their children, other people prefer Bible Memory, all those good things, which I’m going to talk about, we get into the delight of catechesis. I think there’s often a negative perspective, though, that people treat Cata cases as a kind of rote learning. And they have a lot of skepticism toward it. Like why would we bother with that thing? It seems so old. But as I said, at the very beginning, my message for this breakout is very clear. Very simple. Someone will catechize your children, someone will do that. The question is who maybe it will be your church. But consider how much time children spend your children. If your children’s ministry, how much time do they spend in your church each week, maybe it will be their school, it’s gonna be different depending on if it’s a public school, depending on what kind of public school what kind of Christian school or homeschool, but no matter how hard you try, the world will find a way to catechize your children, you’re going to end up with books in your home, that you have no idea how they arrived there, you have no idea who who brought them there, you’re not gonna be able to block out every Disney movie with his messages.
Even if you really tried hard, somehow it still comes through, I don’t know how it still comes through every top 40 song, it’s just not going to be an option there. Someone will catechize your children, my encouragement to you is to not outsource it. Don’t outsource it to everyone else. But the people who love your children the most, which are the parents, which are you as the parents or as children’s ministers or whatever capacity you’re in. Don’t be so naive to think they won’t need it. Take the responsibility yourself. And of course, it’s a good sign that you’re here today, learning about what this looks like. All right, let’s get into more of the nuts and bolts of what this looks like. You’re probably never going to hear a talk on catechesis. That doesn’t start anywhere other than Deuteronomy six, four to nine.
I’ll give you the context on Deuteronomy six, four to nine the Hebrews have been wandering as a result of their sin, Moses is preparing them to enter into the land, though due to his sin, He will not be able to enter Canaan with them this land that’s flowing with milk and honey. Moses has already given them the 10 commandments that he’s received from God. And by obeying the law, the Hebrews will grow and prosper in the land that God has given them. And then we see what is the most significant, most famous theological and ethical formulation and all the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament is Deuteronomy six for tonight, and I’ll read it now. Here, O Israel, the LORD our God, the Lord is one.
You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and all your soul and all your mind. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house. When you walk, by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise, you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. You know, it’s fun for me to imagine Jesus being catechized by Joseph and Mary, in obedience to this command. He would of course, himself build on this ethic in His earthly ministry summarizing the law with two commands Love the Lord your God and love the neighbor Love your neighbor as yourself. We also see in this passage is a combination of formal and informal catechesis.
Formal and informal catechesis to catechize just means to instruct by word of mouth to instruct by word of mouth. And we see that here in writing on the doorposts. And writing on the gates, with reminders on the hands reminders between the eyes. So you can see there very much is a formal structured process of this kind of catechesis. But there is also an informal expectation and informal expectation there, because opportunities to catechize will come, as you’re sitting in the house. As you’re walking, as you’re traveling here and there all the time you spend in the car, all the time you spent shuttling back from different locations. So I would describe catechesis as a plan. And as a lifestyle. It’s a plan, and it’s also a lifestyle. It’s something that you orchestrate you, you have to work this out. But it’s also something you are. It’s something in your nature, it’s something that you are, it’s something that you force your kids to do, or that you use in a church program to instruct, it’s something you force your kids to do, but it’s also something you wait for, as opportunities arise.
But I promise you, it’s very much like evangelism. If you’re praying for it, and you’re looking for it, it just magically happens. If you’re not praying about it, you’re not looking for the opportunities never seem to arise. So if you’re looking from there’s always opportunities, and it’s amazing the kinds of things that you can, you can spin back as an opportunity to talk, talk about God. In fact, I was I was taking my son recently to, to baseball practice. And he was telling me about school that day, he’s just in kindergarten, he said, they were reading the ugly duckling. And, by the way, this is what happens when your dad is a pastor, basically. So so. So if I’m an ugly duck, and I say, what’s the lesson of the ugly duckling and he says, be nice to people? Okay, it’s kindergarten lesson, I suppose.
Be nice to people. And I went into from there, I went into a whole thing about the ugliness of the cross, and how God redeems that into the most beautiful thing. Like I said, it’s what you get. The beautiful thing, though about, especially if your kids when you’re catechizing are young, is they don’t know any better. They’re too young to realize how weird you are. They’re too young to realize this isn’t what everybody is doing on their way to baseball practice.
This is that you don’t realize that now, of course, I know a time is coming sooner than later. My kids are in public school or will be in public school, I understand this, there will come a time sooner than later when they realize just how weird it is. But do you think we have the option to be faithful and not be weird? Today, you’re not you don’t have the option. If you and your children and the children in your church are going to be faithful to follow Christ in this culture, they will be weird. I don’t mean weird in sort of like the traditional, you know, way of making fun of Christians weird, necessarily, maybe in terms of how we dress. But how we go against many of the basic assumptions and basic values. Sometimes that will be okay.
And we’ll agree with everybody about bullying being bad, for example, then sometimes when we stand up to different trends, just we’re going to not necessarily get along with everybody in those in those cases. One of the basic elements that we see in Deuteronomy about catechesis is I see catechesis as an act of rebellion against the world, that tells us that only what we see and what we touch is real. It’s an act of rebellion against that. And keep in mind, what I just described right there that only what we can see and touch is real. That’s catechized. That’s a belief system that is reinforced and explicitly taught both in formal classes as well as in cultural, cultural monuments and cultural messages. That is a catechized message you don’t just naturally believe naturalism. You don’t naturally believe, believe naturalism, you are taught that outlook on the world.
So we’re commanded as parents and as children’s ministers and as, as pastors, we are commanded to teach our children that one, God is one. That to his name is Yawei. His name is the Lord. And number three, he compels us to love him with all of our heart and soul in mind. That’s the plain message of Deuteronomy six. That’s our privilege and our invitation to be able to teach that to children. Get your you don’t naturally believe those things, they have to be taught against all kinds of alternatives then and now. God is not a part of the material creation. That’s part of what’s embedded in Deuteronomy six, God is not a part of the material creation. Thus, we’re not pagans. That’s the message there. The essence of our relationship with God is best understood as love, not submission.
That means that we’re not Muslims, and that God is three in one and that he has sent His one and only begotten Son Jesus, which, of course, is our belief that makes us not Jews. In terms of religion, it’s possible that maybe you lived at a time or you still live in a place now where those explicit Christian messages are reinforced by the culture. That’s possible that it comes up in holiday celebrations, casual conversations, Public Instruction. I mean, for me growing up in rural South Dakota, that was pretty commonly reinforced still, in many places like Christmas celebrations and the songs that we’d sing even in the public school. For those parts of Bible Belt, Birmingham, where I live now are still that way, today. But here’s my point. No matter where you live now, because of the pervasive influence of online media and content, it you might as well be living anywhere. This is what I started off with the cross pressures, no matter where you are today, these assumptions simply will not come naturally. And never before in history, have the alternatives to this teaching been so readily available to you. And of course, to your children, as they especially get older. But probably typically at ages that would surprise you.
I don’t think as Christians, we need to be fearful, though of this kind of pluralism, because catechesis has historically thrived in contexts where Christian theology has been highly contested. You don’t find a golden era of catechesis that happens when? Oh, right. Everybody already believed all those things. And then suddenly, it became a golden era of catechesis. Now, the whole point is that people didn’t believe these things. And that’s what God used during that time to build a golden era of catechesis. It’s an apologetic medium. The question answer approach is inherently defending and articulating the faith by asking the answering the questions that the world is asking, or that is, is confusing right now. In contrast to Christianity, we see this in the early church, the first catechumens learned theology in preparation for baptism, sometimes in a multi year process.
Baptism of course, as you would know, as a public act, that entailed often estrangement from family and other community. So baptism was not you typically a snap decision, a sudden decision for people back in the early church. And so there was a long series of preparation to be able to for baptism, and that’s where catechesis came in. Two play. Another way to think about catechesis is simply systematic theology for the masses. It’s systematic theology for the masses. In learning Christian theology and ethics for the early church, there was a whole lot to unlearn. That’s another thing that catechesis is especially good at doing is on learning things that you just have taken to be assumed in that culture. You think about the early church with elements of Jewish understanding or Roman paganism, its pantheon of gods, a lot of things that you had to unlearn there as well jump ahead of the Reformation. 15 1500 odd years later, again, contested circumstances.
The problem wasn’t just that Roman Catholic theology needed to be unlearned. It’s that learning altogether had languished at a popular level due to a lack of preaching, and a lack of access to God’s word especially in the vernacular languages. Protestant theology would never have taken hold without a major catechetical effort simply would not have been possible otherwise. Protestants in Wittenberg, Geneva, London and various other points in between, became as a result major advocates of public education in general as a means of not surprisingly Learning and spreading biblical theology. That was I mean, if everybody needs to learn every class male and female to be able to understand the Bible for themselves, it led to this huge outgrowth of learning in general.
And a lot of that was catechetical as well. So, I worked with Tim Keller to be able to produce and bring the new city catechism into print. Back in I think 2017 is when we did this, we owe much of the new city catechism itself to borrows from the Geneva catechism of 1541, the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563. And the Westminster shorter and larger catechisms of 1648. So this isn’t particularly original, we’re trying to grab the best of the reformational catechisms and put them into a 52 week format, with some shorter answers specifically for children. Okay. So since then catechesis, it’s remained relatively common in Dutch Reformed Presbyterian Lutheran churches, I would say not so much in my experience among the more emotive or pilotis or populist churches, especially Baptists and Pentecostals, I would say, if you’re in a church, and you’re running into a lot of strong resistance to catechesis, I would probably guess that you live by a near you live nearby a large population of Roman Catholics.
So if you have a number of people, we found this especially publishing in Spanish languages, with the new city catechism, we had a lot of resistance to the very concept, because it was seen as synonymous with Catholicism, which again, I just find ironic, but it was part of the Catholic Counter Reformation. The Protestants were so successful in it, that the Catholics borrowed it. That’s sort of the history there.
I don’t think there’s any reason though, there’s nothing inherently Catholic about the process. And thus, I don’t think there’s any reason for Protestants to be afraid of it there. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in returning to catechesis, we’re getting back to our Protestant roots. And I would even say, of course, the early churches roots as well. And I mean, what, when you’re wondering about this, or you faced resistance in your church, or in your community, or people are, just find it very strange to be doing this. I just wonder, what could be more spiritually edifying than being able at the tip of your tongue at the hardest moments in life, from your earliest memories, if you’ve had that privilege, or to give that privilege to children today, your children or children in your church today, than to be able to in their hardest moments all the way to their dying breath? To be able to remember this?
You may recognize it from the Heidelberg Catechism Question one, what is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer that I am not my own, but belong body and soul in life and in death, to my faithful savior, Jesus Christ. These are not divinely inspired words, in the sense that they’re biblical. But they’re such a beautiful articulation of biblical truth, much like hymns as an example, that stick with us in those difficult moments. I’m not saying to supplant Bible memory. But these are considerable aid to that kind of, by that kind of natural recollection that comes to mind by the Spirit when you’re in those difficult circumstances. So I think if we don’t, if we don’t, catechize we’re still in the duty section of this, if we don’t catechize what we’re left with essentially, is family allegiance, I’m going to be a Christian, because that was my family.
We’re left with some youth group messages for them to hang on to a few uncon texturized Bible verses for them to try to string together, maybe a couple summer camp confessions, or conversions to be able to carry the freight of their spiritual health, heading into very difficult context, especially at times like college and into young adulthood. And I simply don’t think that kind of preparation for our youth is going to hold up at this time in our culture. I don’t see that as being strong enough to hold them in the Spirit can do what he wants. But I think what the Spirit wants us to do is to catechize our children.
So with the last 10 minutes here, let’s talk about the delight delight of catechizing our children just give you an example of a little bit of what we do, and this doesn’t mean that you have to follow this exactly. This is a classic example of how you do it the best way that works for you. And don’t worry too much about conforming to somebody else’s standard. But it’s more important to try and do it consistently than to only do it when you have everything figured out. And everything perfect. Okay, so we do family worship before bed. That’s what works well, for us. That’s the pattern that we’ve gotten into. We do family worship before bed, like I said, we got smaller kids. So it’s easier to do that with smaller kids.
Okay, I recognize that were there bedtimes are basically the same. I have two kids going on three, my wife is in the home, she’s not working outside, we’re married. Of course, this is understandably much harder. If you’re both working outside the home, or a single mother or a single father, there are a lot of variables here, I’m not trying to impose some kind of standard that makes people feel really bad or guilty about the things that they’re not doing. This is just an invitation to try to learn about the privilege of being able to do this, okay. I didn’t grow up in a context where we were catechizing, as a family, my wife did not either. So this is something that was, it’s not like I have something to fall back on that has a lot of that model. But here’s, um, here’s what I think. I also want to one last caveat on this, I mentioned at the very beginning, that this is not like a guarantee of spiritual superpowers that are going to come eventually, from your kids. I talked about catechesis years ago, one time with a mother who had walked all of her kids through Westminster really intense. And she was just in tears with me, saying, I did it and it didn’t work at all.
But that’s not a reason why you wouldn’t do it. And in fact, I would argue that when you ingrain these things so deeply within your children’s imagination, it’s exactly those things that the Spirit uses down the line, no matter what happens, to be able to revive that faith or to bring that prodigal home, and to reignite that discipleship at a later point. So even if you do this faithfully, and your children wander way off, it is not too late for them to be able to come back and to remember those moments. And to remember those very words. I would much rather in that situation of having done that, and then have them, you know, run off than to have them run off and say, well, at least we didn’t waste a lot of time trying to categorize them in the youth. Okay. I would much rather have that, that situation.
So when Tim Keller talks about catechesis, I think he puts it really, really well. You actually borrowed it from Archibald Alexander, the late Princeton theologian in the 19th century, he likened catechesis to firewood in your fireplace, you lay the logs, that’s catabasis, you lay the logs, and you plead with God to send the Spirit to ignite that wood into flame. But both elements are key. You don’t have the fire without the wood. But the wood is dead without the flame. That’s the way to think about catechesis of what you’re trying to do there as well. One of the best things I don’t know if anyone out does anyone out there, use our app and use the songs for the new city catechism? Yes, thank you. Okay. One of the best things we’re able to do is put all 52 children’s answers and questions for this. It’s available, you can go you can look up the new city catechism on your phone, you can download that app. Go ahead and get all those yes to make sure you’re in children’s mode.
They’re also all on YouTube. They’re also at the New City catechism, calm or just new city catechism, calm. They’re also at the gospel coalition’s website as well. So we go through one of those questions and answers every single night singing the song. The other day Jen Wilkin was teaching and I think afterward I guess she put me on the spot. I can’t remember Jen, if you’re out there. But she, she was like, Can you name all the 10 commandments in order and I was like, You shall have no other God before me. I’ve done it. I’ve done it many times with the kids. That’s the only way I do know it. Only way I do it is through singing that with my kids over and over and over again. Because of the music, my son was able to start memorizing about age three. Again, it’s the music. It’s the magic behind the music of being able to do that. Even by one he was just enjoying listening to the songs. It was a very beautiful thing to be able to do there. i To be clear, we also do a little bit of Bible Memory. We also do we also do singing and we also do prayer.
Prayer is a bit of a challenge because I find the younger the kids the more likely when you ask them to pray it’s usually grandma and grandpa and grandma me and Poppy and I pray for lamp and I pray for you know bench and I pray for sort of stuff. So that’s not always the most helpful thing. But I do think it is beneficial in prayer to model your catechizing through your words, they are learning to pray through you, when the most important things you can do catalytically is to pray for other people, and to pray biblical prayers, to pray for the things that are modeled in the scriptures for us to pray for. Because if you don’t do that, you end up in the situation that we often end up in, which is, God, please help us to have a good day. Please help us to sleep well.
I mean, hey, those are sweet little prayers for a little kid. And God does not despise those prayers. But to set a model for them to pray for other people to be thinking of other people to pray for God’s word to go forward, to go forth, you know, around the around the world to be thinking those God sized prayers is a very important catechetical element there as well. Another element that we include that I personally recommend is to use a hymnal. Okay, so we’re in a church that does contemporary music, and I love contemporary music, the kind that we’re going to be able to sing and worship together with here at this conference. But here’s the advantage of hymnal, my children, they they have a family legacy on my side that actually goes all the way back to the Calvinistic Methodists of the first Evan Jellicle awakening in the first half of the 18th century.
Now, it’s not like our family has always been faithful to live out all of those Methodist Methodist background, but to be able to use an old Methodist hymnal and be able to sing through some of those old Welsh tunes is a way of conveying to the children or helping children to avoid what my friend and mentor Timothy George often warns about, which is, he says is about Baptists says Baptists need to understand that something happened between Jesus and their grandmother. It’s very true, specially so what the hymnal does is it helps to convey to our children, that there is a long legacy and line of faith in their family.
That is a special heritage and a special blessing for them. So you can see I don’t mind you singing those contemporary songs. But there is something about Holy, holy, holy that lodges in those kids brains at such early ages, or like my son, every single time what do you want to sing Carter lose all their guilty stains? It’s not what it’s called son. But I’m glad the Lyric is stuck with you. There is yeah, all their guilty stains. That’s what he always sticks with there. I just love that. That legacy of him being able to pick that up. And I don’t know what the next 50 years hold for him. I don’t know that God has not given me some kind of promise. Just because I stand up and I talk about these things for a living. Doesn’t give me that promise.
But I do know one thing, I will be shocked. I will be shocked at the end of his life. If he doesn’t remember those moments. He doesn’t remember those songs. He doesn’t remember those questions and answers. He has remember those that time as a family, whether he’s believing whether he’s not, I will be very surprised if he doesn’t. last a couple things to mention here is in terms of resources for us. For those of you online, you can go to our store store, I got the gospel goshen.org Those of you here in Indianapolis, you can run right downstairs and pick these up. If you’ve got older kids or you want to do this in your church, and if at catechism devotional. So short, sort of like basic systematic theology. For especially in this works well for teenagers for younger adults, or anybody just looking for basic theology and go pick up the new city catechism devotional. It’s got essays from Don Carson.
Tim Keller, a number of other people here. Last one I want to mention, very excited about this came out a couple of years ago, such as the New City catechism curriculum, works really well for Sunday school works really well in the home if you’re doing homeschool in particular, or if you are just amazing catechesis parents, if you really want to go to town, this is what you do. So it’s like the mega package here also can really work for Christian schools as well. We put a lot of work into that Mel lacy there to be able to help you in all these different ways. If you have any questions afterwards, you can come down here and talk with me. But thank you again for coming out. I’m going to pray here. Thanks, everybody for tuning in on the live stream as well. Let me pray here to be able to close this guy. Thank you for the privilege of calling us into your family by faith. We pray, Lord, that all of the children represented in this room, in our churches in our homes. We pray God that you would take the feeble efforts of our catechesis as the logs to ignite by your spirit into the Flame of Life Long, faithful obedience, with you for Your glory in the power of your gospel. We pray that in the powerful name of Jesus on behalf of these children we so dearly love. We pray that in Jesus’s name, Amen. Thank you