Teaching Bible doctrine to young children
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Children ask the best questions. If God is everywhere, is he also in the loo? Does God the Father have a body? Why did God make the tree in the garden of Eden if he knew Adam and Eve would eat from it? How do we know what Jesus is doing in heaven when we can’t see him? Why didn’t God send Jesus to die straight after the Fall? Does God love non-Christians? If God can do anything, can he lie? These questions, all asked by children, are thorny theological questions which require us to be on our toes with our Bible doctrine knowledge.
So how should we teach the Bible to young children at home and in church? Is it enough to teach Bible stories? Church history shows us that previous generations thought catechisms were an important tool in teaching children doctrine. Catechisms can be traced back to the early church and grew in popularity in the Reformation, especially in the question and answer form. The Church of England produced a catechism for children in the BCP, and in 1559, Canon Law demanded that ministers gave weekly catechism classes to all children in the parish (and threatened excommunication if they didn’t do this job properly!). The BCP catechism revolves around the baptism promises, the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments. Many authors produced commentaries on the catechism, or their own versions of catechisms and looking at these texts can help us to see the importance of teaching doctrine to children.
1. It’s the parents’ job
Thomas Becon was a chaplain to Thomas Cranmer and he wrote to parents that we have been given the gift of children so that we can bring them up “in the doctrine and knowledge of his holy word”. He goes on to say that animals give their young food and shelter, and if this is all we give our children we are no better than a beast! As parents we should be concerned less for our children’s worldly studies than their growth in the knowledge of God. We are willing to make time for swimming lessons and homework; can we also make sure we set aside time and prayer to teach doctrine to our children?