“What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ….” It’s been twenty years since my Sunday school teachers required me to memorize Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer #1, but it still rolls off my tongue easily. The Reformed church in which I grew up incorporated the Heidelberg Catechism into both worship services and youth education.
As a teenager, I certainly did not enjoy committing huge swaths of a stuffy-sounding theological primer to memory. I envied friends at other churches whose much “cooler” Sunday school curricula involved skits and music. But those pieces of memorized catechism—particularly the wonderfully comforting Q&A #1 above—have been an encouragement to me ever since.
All this came to mind while reading this interview with Kevin DeYoung about the value of the Heidelberg Catechism at the Evangel blog. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a catechism, or if you are skeptical that a long theological treatise penned by 16th-century Protestants could possibly be relevant to your Christian life, give the short interview a read. Among other things, DeYoung describes the ways that the catechism is woven into the life of his church:
How do you use it at your church? And what are some other suggestions regarding how to use a catechism?
Kevin DeYoung: We use the Heidelberg Catechism in our worship. Sometimes we read it responsively. Other times I’ll work it into my communion liturgy. I’ll quote it in my sermons from time to time. I’ve seen the Catechism used effectively as Sunday school material. It’s best to have littler kids memorize parts of it and have older kids explore the nuances of the theology. We also have a section on the Catechism in our membership class and leadership training. And of course, my book on Heidelberg started out a weekly devotionals for my congregation.
DeYoung is talking specifically about the Heidelberg Catechism, but it is not the only catechism written to methodically introduce Christians (and particularly children) to the fundamental elements of Christianity. Depending on your denomination and theological leanings, there may be one or more catechisms written specifically to convey the Christian truths you hold dear.
What about you and your church? Does your church use a catechism as a teaching tool in sermons, Sunday school, or another part of church life?