Q: What is Catechism?
A: Catechism is a suite of resources created by Feed to empower you to invite your youth into conversations around the basics of the Christian faith and the pressing cultural issues of our day through the dynamic lens of God’s Word.
The Church in America is facing a problem, one that you on the front lines of youth ministry know all too well: the great disaffiliation,the rise of the nones, apatheism. It’s not just that a new, unreached generation is growing up outside the Church. It’s that church kids are growing up and leaving the Church in record numbers.
We all know the stereotype: church kid goes off to college and loses her faith. Out of the insulation of her home community, surrounded by diverse friends, wrestling with new ideas, the specter of deconstruction finds easy prey. We tell ourselves, “She never stood a chance.”
But friends, what if we’re wrong? What if she did stand a chance, or, at least, could have if only we’d prepared her differently?
Our challenge as Next Gen leaders in the Church is to empower young disciples to navigate the murky waters of a post-truth culture as they follow Jesus. It’s a tall order, especially considering most teens are fully immersed in those waters and unaware of the powerful currents that are sweeping them along.
How are we supposed to teach young people to think deeply and critically? How can we help them out of the currents of culture so they can become swept up in the cosmic narrative of the Gospel? How can we train them to see reality through the lens of God’s Word rather than seeing God’s Word and reality as irreconcilable opponents?
These are the kinds of questions that brought the Feed community together, and they sparked what has been one of our core innovations: Catechism.
You may be thinking, “What’s catechism?” It sounds vaguely old-school. Maybe you grew up in a tradition that used one. Perhaps you’re still stuck on the pronunciation; here’s how: ka·tuh·ki·zm.
A catechism is a set of questions and answers that systematically teaches the core truths of the Christian faith. But it’s more than that. Catechism is derived from catechesis, the ancient Church practice of instructing new believers in the faith and preparing them for baptism. Catechesis was more than just memorizing a set of Q&As. It was training. It was shaping worldview. It was forming individuals into the corporate and distinctive identity of the people of God.
This formation took anywhere from one to three years. The early Christians knew that it took time for an individual to unlearn the ways, frameworks, and sensibilities of the dominant culture and to learn from scratch Jesus’s strange, countercultural way of perceiving, evaluating, and just generally being in the world.
Obviously, we do things differently nowadays for various reasons, but our ancient brothers and sisters were on to something. They recognized the need for a long-term and intentional pathway of distinctively Christian identity formation if a new believer was going to stand a chance in a culture that tries its hardest to get us to assimilate.
We see that need too. In the great disaffiliation, we recognize the Church’s struggle to transmit a durable faith identity to the next generation. It’s a struggle to engage the hard questions teens are asking, to make space and time within our communities for them to wrestle with the core truths of Christianity. But the struggle is worth engaging because it’s only through this wrestling that youth will come to conclusions they can claim as their own—conclusions with which they can identify.
So, we took a page out of the ancient Church’s book and revitalized it for our own ministry context. The result, which we are pleased to share with you, is Feed’s ever-growing suite of Catechism resources.
First Up: The Catechism Itself
At the center of Feed’s Catechism resources is The Catechism: 70 essential questions that cover the core truths of the Christian faith. While there are many catechisms already out there, ours is unique in two respects: First, rather than tailoring it to a particular denomination, we centered it on core biblical convictions with which the majority of evangelical protestants would agree. Second, rather than crafting our questions around doctrines, we crafted them to follow the metanarrative of Scripture. (The metanarrative, after all, is the only context within which our doctrines make any sense.) You can check out The Catechism here.
Next: Catechism Conversations
If you’re wondering at this point, “What exactly am I supposed to do with a list of 70 questions and answers?,” we get it, and we’ve got you covered. We have an ever-growing collection of small group series that will invite your students into open and honest conversations around these core questions, the Bible, and the pressing cultural issues of our day.
All of them will create space for your students to wrestle with their questions, engage deeply with Scripture, and practice cultural discernment as they are formed into a community around the shared pursuit of truth.
Bonus: Leader Training
You’ll notice when you check out our series that they are full of open-ended questions that were designed to invite your students into dialogue. One of Feed’s core values for youth ministry is open and honest conversation. We believe, and research has shown, that young people want to wrestle with hard questions as they explore their faith. Catechism is about making space for them to do that in the context of the Church so they’re not forced to do it elsewhere.
But we realize that facilitating these conversations can be tricky and intimidating, especially if you’re used to a more sermon- or devotional-centered approach to youth group. So, we created a video series to empower and encourage you and your leaders to facilitate small group discussions. You can check it out here.
By walking your students through Catechism series, you and your leaders will give youth agency in their own faith formation. Rather than just telling them what to believe, you’ll have the chance to model how to believe, ask good questions, challenge cultural narratives, and study Scripture as they follow Jesus.
- The Feed team would love to connect with you as you seek to lead others! Reach out to us at [email protected] to find out how we can partner with and support you in your ministry.