As you turn your attention back to school and to the important rigors of education, I hope you will seriously consider if Catechism Club and Candychism might also fit into your schedule.
In his excellent book, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children (P&R, 2000), author Donald Van Dyken says:"Catechizing is a particular method of instruction historically used by the Christian church. To germinate the idea we can imagine ourselves on a ship looking for a submarine. The submarine hides deep below the surface of the ocean. Our ship is equipped with sonar, and our operator sends out sharp sounds into the dark waters. Those sound waves travel down through the water until they hit something. When those sound waves bounce off the hull of that sub, the sonar device picks up the echo. From that echo the operator can get a fix on the submarine's position. To catechize is to "sound down," to speak to someone with the objective of getting something back as an echo. Catechism sends a sound to probe a student's understanding."
Our Catechism Club will make use of this method for all students as we teach the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
Catechetical teaching, Van Dyken carefully explains, is not a lecture like preaching, even though it greatly helps children hear preaching. Catechetical teaching is fundamentally a probing by questions (the Greek word literally means, "a sounding down") into the heart and mind. The immediate benefit of this method is twofold: (1) children immediately gain competency in the material this way, to their own joy and, (2) the teacher immediately gains understanding of where a child is at. The long term benefits, on the other hand, well, those require a whole book like Van Dyken's to explain.
My goals for this year's Catechism Club, should the Lord graciously grant them, are as follows:
- That God will fill the mind of your children with His truth, establishing them firm in the faith.
- That students will begin to memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism, some even going on to memorize all 107 questions and answers.
- That students will receive me as their pastor not just formally but organically as I spend time teaching them.
- That parents will see the ignorance that is within their children overthrown and the kingdom of Christ more established.
The late John J. Murray said in his essay, Catechizing - A Forgotten Practice: "Scripture attaches great importance to knowledge and gives a foremost place to the mind and understanding. Ignorance and error are the effects of the Fall and it is upon them that Satan's kingdom is built. Knowledge and truth are the grand weapons by which it is overthrown and Christ's kingdom established in the individual and the world."
May the Spirit be pleased to give all this and more!
Questions and Answers:
1. When will Catechism Club begin?
We are tentatively set to start on Wednesday, September 24, meeting after school at 4:00pm. Catechism Club will be over by 5:30pm and there will be all the usual weeks off due to holidays and such. The possibility of an evening club, after dinner, has not been discarded. If after dinner is the only time that works for you, please let me know as soon as possible.
2. How will Catechism Club be different than what use to be called Kid's Club?
The main differences will be (a) the curriculum will always be the Westminster Shorter Catechism, (b) I will always have some role in teaching all the children, (c) the music will always include songs related to the catechism question of the week. Other than that, I do not foresee other differences. If the Lord provides a large enough staff, we will have game time, snacks, singing and catechism lessons.
3. What ages does Catechism Club target?
The main curriculum I am using is for ages 7-13. I also have a curriculum for younger children, ages 3-6. I am thinking that children older than 13 would attend the Youth Group with Greg Linse and Steve Schmidt where they are beginning lessons in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
4. Why does the pastor want to teach all the kids?
It is not that I wish to teach all the kids all the time, I wish to teach all the kids some of the time. According to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church the pastor is charged with the responsibility for "catechizing by teaching plainly the first principles of the oracles of God to the baptized youth and to adults who are yet babes in Christ." Not only is catechizing the pastor's ministry of the Word among the flock, but it is also a significant way in which young children come to receive him as their own pastor. With this in mind, I will at the very least catechize the kids in a large group setting before they go to smaller classes. If the Lord does not give teachers, I will gladly teach the youth all together and have plenty of fun along the way. It my service to you before Him.
5. What is Candychism?
This is an idea I picked up from an OP church in North Carolina. Children who are memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism will be encouraged to recite the week's lesson to me by memory on Sunday nights before the worship service. This gives Catechism Club kids another weekly goal. Those who do recite on any given Sunday will receive a very excellent piece of candy. Candychism will officially begin at 5:45pm each Sunday evening we gather for worship - a 15 minute period for kids or others to meet me at the pulpit. Those not in Catechism Club but who are memorizing the catechism - child, youth, adult - are also welcome to participate. I will not, however, be held responsible for dental problems or weight gain. Smiley emoticon.
6. Is this just for Apple Valley families?
Not at all. This is for all families in the Fox Cities who would welcome such discipleship for their young ones. You are welcome to invite other families from other churches, your own grandchildren, or unchurched children. All children, however, can only be here with the permission of their immediate adult legal guardian(s).
7. What if my child does not want to come to Catechism Club?
I would be glad to personally invite him or her if that would help. Just let me know. Granted, some kids will think such a thing is for little children and they will wish to steer clear. One suggestion is to encourage them to find a friend or two from school or the neighborhood to bring along. You could even make the extra sacrifice of doing pick-up and/or drop-off for those kids. Nothing good comes easy. If in the end they just don't want to come and you do want them to, then start catechizing them at home with the same curriculum we'll be using (www.catechismforkids.com). This way they can still participate in Candychism and keep up with their peers in one arena that doing so is always good.
8. How can I help?
You can help by praying. Only the Lord is Lord of the heart, mind and will. You can also help by working in one area or another - games, snacks, teaching, or music. Cathy LaFrombois has already agreed to work on music but she could use an assistant.
And in conclusion...
One of the strong themes running throughout Van Dyken's book is that Christian discipleship is not achieved through haphazard well-intended disorder. Discipleship is not placing a child in the bottom of a row boat, letting them wobble and flop around as someone else rows onward for years hoping the child might one day suddenly rise up and master the oars.
Van Dyken describes a better way, a way he even sees making a comeback:"Tiring of feel-good, man-centered worship and sensing that feelings do not generate truth but that the truth can generate reliable feelings, many people seek to return to ordered worship and ordered living, hallmarks of a doctrinally stable church. Many Christians are weary of antinomianism and understand that God did not move from a law-orderly Old Testament to reveal a disorderly Christ."