Thursday, January 14, 2010

Scripture Memorization and Catechism as tools for training up our children

In my last post in this series on the family-integrated church, I argued that family discipleship is of paramount importance for the spiritual formation of our children. I thought a logical next post would deal with the content of family discipleship. I believe that Scripture memorization and instruction using a good catechism are foundational for training up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

So, according to this, the Bible should be our primary training manual. Both for us and our children! It’s a little surprising then that the Christian bookstores are so full of self-help books, is it not?

And I love what the Lord tells Joshua before he leads the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

But my all-time favorite Bible passage that touts the merits of Scripture memory is Psalm 119. Here are a few of the greatest hits.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” v. 11 “With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.” v. 13 “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” vs. 15 & 16 “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.” vs. 97-99 “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” v. 148

Even after you become committed to practicing Scripture memorization in your home, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. Your church may use a particular Bible memory curriculum that you like and you can use this with your kids at home. Or you may choose to work through a memory plan together as a family. We use Truth and Grace (T.A.G.) Books which contain a Scripture memory plan along with a catechism. There are 3 volumes of T.A.G. books so as your children grow they are challenged to memorize larger passages of Scripture along with a longer and more in depth catechism.

Another good resource for Scripture memorization is a little book I learned about from a friend of mine called The Well-Versed Family. Its author, Caroline Boykin, spends several chapters bearing testimony to the importance of Scripture memory and then fills several chapters with memorization tips, tools, and games and activities. The Well-Versed Family also includes 80 pre-printed memory verse cards to get you started.

I also choose verses from the Bible that I think we especially need to work on. We seem to really struggle with our words to one another, so we have memorized the end of Ephesians 4 and first part of Ephesians 5 dealing with words and behavior that are appropriate. The kids and I have also memorized 5 or 6 verses in 1 Cornthians 13 so we can keep in mind what true love looks like. For Christmas, we memorized Isaiah 53:3-9 and my plan is for us to add to that next Christmas. You also need to have some kind of plan in place for reviewing the verses you memorize. Kimberly at Raising Olives does a fabulous job of explaining the Charlotte Mason method of using a memory box. Whatever method you use, the main thing is to be consistent in working with your kids and to review often.

A good catechism can be another wonderful tool to help train your children. If you grew up, like my husband and I did, in a church or family that didn’t use this method of instruction, you might be wondering what in the world a catechism is and what it’s supposed to do. A catechism is simply a series of questions and answers about Bible doctrine. They can range from very simple to pretty long and involved. Calvin gave two purposes for catechetical instruction. First, it should serve as an introduction to the teachings of the Bible. If you didn’t grow up in the church, but became a Christian as an adult, the first sermons you heard probably sounded a lot like Greek to you. The idea of beginning with a catechism is to provide a frame of reference for the believer so that they will better understand Biblical preaching and doctrine. Secondly, a good catechism should provide a solid foundation in Biblical truth so that error can be discerned. One who has been schooled in the teachings of the Bible is less apt to be led astray by strange doctrine.

I mentioned before that we use T.A.G. books. Volume 1 contains an introductory children’s catechism consisting of 135 short questions and answers (a few of the answers are long, like the 2nd and 4th commandments). The main themes of the catechism are creation, fall, covenant, the 10 commandments, redemption, offices of Christ, the Lord’s prayer, and the church. I found a very similar beginner catechism that is free and printable at and used it prior to our purchasing T.A.G. books. In the next year or so my two oldest kids will move on to the second volume which uses the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Many of these questions and answers are similar to the ones they’ve already learned, since the introductory catechism we use is adapted from the Westminster Shorter. This will make it a little easier than starting from ground zero. And when they complete volume 2, which will probably take 3 or more years, they’ll move on to volume 3 which uses the Heidelberg catechism. My husband and I can hardly wait!

I look at it like this. When you help your children to memorize Scripture, you’re giving them many different pieces to a magnificent puzzle. Instructing them in Bible doctrine using a catechism helps them to put those pieces together so that they can begin to see the glory of who God is and what He has done. None of us sees it perfectly. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 13, “Now we see through a mirror dimly”. But God has revealed so much of Himself to us and we’re responsible for heeding that. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29 A catechism can never take the place of the Bible, for it’s only a work of man, but it can help to build within the believer a foundation of Biblical doctrine upon which the rest of life can be built.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you wrote about this, because I have been wondering if i should get something(like the T.A.G books) to help me in a more structured scripture memory. Right now, we only do verses I think will the kids "need" to hear :)
    I will look into those.



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.