Tommy came home from the neighbor’s house where he had been playing. “Mom, is Grandma an angel now?”
“Why do you ask that, Tom?” his mother replied.
“Well, Daniel said that his mom is an angel now.” Daniel’s mother had died in a car accident last year.
“Oh, I see.” Tom’s mother selected her words carefully. “Grandma is in Heaven with the Lord and His angels, but she did not turn into an angel, dear.” Whispering a prayer for wisdom, she continued explaining.
We’ve all faced moments like that—maybe with different questions, but similar moments. If your child is too young to ask such questions now, be assured that those opportunities will come.
And those teachable moments are prime opportunities, but let’s not depend solely on teachable moments to impart truth to our children. As we’ve discussed before, our children need a deep reserve of Bible knowledge in their hearts and minds as well as day-to-day discipleship in “real time” as situations occur. If you haven’t already read that article, you can find it on our Web site.
Today let’s talk about some ideas for intentionally building that reserve of Bible knowledge—Bible doctrine. Don’t panic. “Doctrine” simply means “teaching.” We want our children to have a clear understanding of what the Bible teaches. Here are some tested and tried ideas for endowing our children with that knowledge of Bible doctrine.
Memorize a Catechism
Many families in past generations taught their children a catechism. A catechism is a summary of Bible doctrine written in question-and-answer form. Many catechisms have been written, with just as many variations in wording and teaching. The trick is to find one that represents your beliefs accurately. You might ask your pastor for his recommendation.
Once you have found a catechism you like, you can memorize it just as you would go about memorizing a Scripture verse. Ask the question and help your child memorize the answer. After you have memorized it, continue to review it as you add the next one. Lots of families use this Scripture Memory System to review the questions and answers (along with other Scripture memory passages) throughout the month.
Another activity that can help a child become familiar with a catechism is to have the child copy the questions and answers in his best handwriting. Please don’t make this activity a punishment. Simply set the timer for five minutes and have the child give his best effort for those few minutes. When the timer goes off, put the paper and pencil away for the day. Then do it again either daily or three times a week or whatever. Just remember that the goal is not to see how quickly the child can copy it; the goal is to help the child slow down to pay attention to the words (and to develop within him a habit of giving his best effort in his assignments). You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much progress those consistent concentrated efforts will produce.
Create a Doctrine Notebook
While memorizing someone else’s summary of Bible doctrine may be a good start, ultimately, we want to train our children to recognize and remember doctrine themselves as they read or hear the Bible. A great way to encourage that habit is to compile a doctrine notebook. You can easily create one as a family. Or you might want to have each of your older children make his or her own notebook. Here’s how it works.
Some scholars in days gone by have categorized Bible doctrine into ten main areas. These ten categories can be helpful as we teach our children:
- the Bible,
- Jesus Christ,
- the Holy Spirit,
- angels (including fallen angels and Satan),
- the church,
- future events.
Grab a three-ring binder and insert lots of paper and ten dividers. Label the dividers with the ten doctrines listed above. Then just start reading the Bible. As you find a verse that teaches something about one of those ten doctrines, flip to that section of your notebook and record that truth (along with its reference).
For example, if you began reading in Genesis 1 you would discover a doctrine teaching in verse 1 about God. You could record “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1)” as the first entry in your notebook in the doctrine of God section.
As you continued reading, you would discover a teaching about the Holy Spirit in verse 2 to record in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit section.
From verses 3-25 you could record all the specific things that God created, or you could simply summarize that first chapter of Genesis by recording “God is the creator of everything (Genesis 1:1-25)” in the doctrine of God section. It’s your notebook; you decide what to write.
Verse 27 could be recorded in the doctrine of Man section since it teaches us that mankind is made in the image of God.
You can record doctrine discoveries from personal devotional reading, sermons, family devotions—whenever and wherever Scripture is read or heard.
As a bonus, once you or your child has read through the entire Bible, looking for and recording doctrine discoveries, go back and read through all the truths in one section of your notebook and try to summarize them on a separate sheet(s) of paper. If you write summaries for all ten doctrines, you will have composed your personal doctrinal statement.
As you have probably noticed, the doctrine notebook is not a quick project. It can be a multiple-year, if not lifelong, pursuit. But what a great habit to instill in our children: keeping an eye out for and systematically recording Biblical truths as they read and hear Scripture!
It’s easy to make your own doctrine notebook, but if you would prefer a ready-made one, two versions are available at our sister site, Simply Charlotte Mason.
The e-book version will give you professional-looking pages that you can print from your computer and put in a binder. You can print as many copies as you need for yourself and/or your children.
The printed version is ready to go, with a professionally designed cover and sturdy spiral binding (so it will lay flat for easy writing).
However you decide to do it, take advantage of one or both of these simple ways to intentionally teach your children Bible doctrine: the catechism and the doctrine notebook.