If catechism is unfamiliar to you, you shouldn’t be too surprised since it is not as commonly used in the Church today as it was in the past. The word catechism comes from the Greek word (katecheo), found in the New Testament, which simply means to teach, especially when the instructor is speaking face-to-face with the students.
The catechism's  question-and-answer format, with a view toward the instruction of children, was a form adopted by the various Protestant confessions almost from the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.
Tim Keller offers helpful insight into why we have chosen catechism as a primary means of spiritual formation in our After-School program. He writes:
Modern discipleship programs concentrate on practices such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism and can at times be superficial when it comes to doctrine. In contrast, the classic catechisms take students through the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer—a perfect balance of biblical theology, practical ethics, and spiritual experience.
The great J.I. Packer argues that because we have lost the practice of catechesis today:
…superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living—career-wise, community-wise, family-wise, and church-wise—are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today.[i]
The fact is, the kids we serve in Bonton not only have “blurry notions about God and godliness,” they have little to no framework for understanding the gospel much less receiving it!
Catechism is especially helpful with children because it takes advantage of a child’s unique capacity for memorization. Who doesn’t remember the children’s rhyme; “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? Every child that ever memorized that knows the basic facts surrounding Columbus’ discovery of the New World. In regard to catechism; the “facts” of God’s Word are similarly planted deep within their hearts and minds. As they mature, they will develop the intellectual capacity to not only understand the story but more importantly seriously wrestle with the implications of the gospel. This helps avoid the: “get saved every time the gospel is offered” scenario so common in children’s ministry.
Children need and want the truth; shallow answers will not suffice. Case in point: Rev. Williams, a Ministry Associate of BridgeBuilders and the pastor of Starlight Missionary Baptist Church in South Dallas, volunteers four times-a-week to lead our 6th thru 8th grade catechism class. Last week, one student, after a discussion on the nature of God, confessed that he “wasn’t sure that he believed in God.” This was a welcome revelation because it led to a lengthier conversation that addressed his doubts. Today, this eighth-grader continues in catechism class knowing that he is at liberty to express his doubts and ask questions. This is real and helps children wrestle seriously with ultimate truth, which reinforces the idea that the subject of God is to be taken seriously!
Want to help plant the Word of God deep into the hearts and minds of children who have little to no exposure to God’s truth? A $50 donation provides a Five-Pack of Catechism Books or a Five-Pack of student Bibles. Click here to visit the Donate page.
[i] Gary Parrett and J. I. Packer, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010), 16.