Are you familiar with the concept of catechizing? It sounds like a very stuffy, old, and boring term doesn’t it? In reality a catechism is just a summary of doctrinal beliefs written in question and answer format, for the purpose of memorization. It is a very useful tool for learning the foundations of Christian theology, and has historically been used to teach children the truths of Scripture at an early age. Still sounds stuffy? Let me try to help you see past the terminology. Listen to the way Kathy Keller describes the process of catechizing your children:
“… you are furnishing your child with the mental foundation on which the rest of his or her spiritual life will be built. Or, to switch metaphors, you are laying the kindling and the logs in the fireplace, so that when the spark of the Holy Spirit ignites your child’s heart, there will be a steady, mature blaze.” -Kathy Keller
There now, that doesn’t sound boring does it? THAT sounds like something I want to do!
In fact, my husband and I have always planned to incorporate an updated version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (the one written specifically for children) into our family devotions. As we thought about our future family in those dreamlike dating and early marriage days, we had grand visions of what those times of Bible reading, singing, praying and catechizing would look like. All of our little children would be dressed, happy, quiet, and willing as they participated in this spiritually enriching process–at least that is how we envisioned it.
Fast forward to reality, and the process turned out to be much more grueling and “challenging” than we had initially thought it would be. The catechism just wasn’t happening. So we thought perhaps they were too young–okay, so they were pretty young at the time–and that we would pick it up again a few years down the line. Perhaps we had just been too ambitious to try to catechize a 2 and 3 1/2 year old.
But it wasn’t long after we had tucked away our handy 1st Questions and Answers book that I stumbled upon Dana Dirksen’s Songs for Saplings CDs. I was already familiar with her ABC album which is comprised of Bible verses that correspond with the alphabet, but had not yet heard her Questions with Answers CDs. Let me tell you, this series of albums is worth its weight in gold. I purchased the first CD for my boys and after just a few days of listening to the songs as we travelled in the car, my boys were singing the catechism to themselves. Yes, singing the catechism–questions AND answers–all by themselves without any prompting by me. My husband was flabbergasted at the ease with which they were able to recall the very same information we had so painfully sought to help them memorize only months before. Music, had helped them to commit these important and beautiful truths to heart.
Needless to say, I quickly ordered the next CDs in the series and my kids have been listening to them ever since. Dana’s songs are so well done, fun, and creative and do not shy away from big, theological words like many children’s songs. For instance, one of the songs asks, “What is sanctification?” and answers, “Sanctification is God making me Holy, in heart and behavior.” This might not sound like a very entertaining addition to your musical library, but Dana manages to pull off these deep theological truths in a fun and age appropriate way. My boys actually ask for these songs when we get in the car!
One of the things I appreciate the most about each song is that it includes not only the Q & A, but a supporting Scripture. I think this is brilliant because it roots their doctrinal beliefs in the Word of God and helps you (the parent) to know where to go in order to further study the doctrine being taught. Your children not only learn what the Bible says about a particular topic, but where it says it. See what I mean about gold? Yes.
As I have begun homeschooling my oldest, Elliot, I have been making a point to solidify his memorization of the catechism in a more tradition sense. After we have finished reading our Bible passage for the day, we walk through each question saying it and the answer out loud. This has been a breeze because he already has most of them memorized thanks to Dana’s songs.
There are 4 Questions with Answers CD’s so far: God and Creation, The Fall and Salvation, Christ and His Work, and The Word of God. That’s 80 songs. That’s 80 doctrinal truths to easily and joyfully teach your children through song! I heartily recommend this resource for every parent–even if you don’t intend to formally catechize your children. Just hearing and singing these fun songs will benefit them. And who knows, they might just get catechized along the way without you even knowing it!