Traditionally, Christians went through a process known as catechesis. There are still many groups that put young people through such a process, but it seems to be falling from favor and being given much less importance than in ages past. Why are we losing this historical, orthodox practice? What can we do to restore it?
What is Catechesis?
Catechesis is the foundational teaching of the Christian faith. Whether you are young or old when you’re converted to Christ, the foundational truths that ought to make up your faith are the same. As catechesis becomes less important, so do the foundational truths that should serve as the basis and bulwark of a Christian’s life.
What Happened to Catechesis?
Myriad opinions exist about why catechesis is no longer important, but there seem to be at least three major changes. First, as catechesis is an important historical aspect of Christianity, those who choose to remove themselves from groups like the Roman Catholic or Orthodox branches of Christianity may inadvertently remove things important to the faith. Not everything that is historical in Christianity is necessary (or even correct), but certainly being historical doesn’t automatically make something dismissible. New is not always better, especially when it comes to an ancient faith like Christianity. As the prophet said, “Ask for the ancient paths…” (Jeremiah 6.16).
Second, youth training has turned into the “youth group”. We’ve lost the conception that youth need to be trained, not entertained. “Entertain them and they will come” is the mantra of many churches across the world; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Youth need to be catechized not pacified. They need to be taught not bought with pizza, foosball and theme parks. Young people need to be given a foundation of doctrinal instruction that allows them to stand firm against the flaming darts of the evil one or they will fall when Satan attacks. The exodus of youth from church across America (and the world) isn’t because they aren’t entertained enough; it’s because they aren’t trained enough.
Third, genuine catechesis has been replaced with workbooks and traditions. Genuine catechesis must come from the word of God and be focused on the teachings that come from the creator. There is no reason to be afraid of the Biblical text; there is no reason to keep young people from it, either. Rather than using workbooks about the Bible, open the book of life. Crack the cover to the Scriptures and read them, study them, memorize, teach them, speak them. Put the words of life into the hearts of young people so they will not sin (Psalm 119.11) and may speak from the good treasure they have stored in their hearts (Luke 6.45).
Catechesis is important. It may be the most important thing you can do for the young people in your life. They desperately need a solid foundation to resist Satan and his schemes. They need to be taught good information so they can give an answer for the hope that lies within them. Without proper catechesis, life is harder and faithfulness is nearly impossible. If you want to be more than a cultural Christian, then you need to make sure you have a solid foundation for your faith.