2023 Lent Newsletter Excerpt

Catechism Revisited

By Tym Berger, Congregational Member

I’m old. I get that.

I remember what church was like when I was a high school student, and it was fairly different from what our students experience now. I had catechism every Tuesday night and youth every Sunday evening after the evening service. Catechism was usually taught by one of the elders or by the pastor. We studied the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession (I never had a class that dealt directly with the Canons of Dordt, but we sure did have to learn about “TULIP”). Youth was run by our own elected youth council and, on occasion, an elder would visit and observe.

Fast forward to when my children were in our church youth program. They had youth every Thursday evening. Youth was usually a mix of fun activities and some form of a lesson or discussion. However, my children never studied the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church in any kind of detail.

If you ask any of my four children about the doctrinal standards of our church, they probably could recite part of question and answer one of the Heidelberg Catechism, but that is about it. And, when I ask them what makes Living Hope different than, say Northview, they really do not know (aside from perhaps the fact that Northview has adult baptism, and we baptize babies).

There is something unifying in this; my children see the Christian church more in terms of the “holy catholic church” mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. However, there is something missing from this too. The Christian Reformed Church has a long and distinguished heritage as a denomination of scholarly, biblical hermeneutics, and my children never really experienced this.

Don’t get me wrong, they did receive a lot of Bible study through the Christian School and the church’s youth program, but they did not gain a sense of our church history or the depth of the doctrinal standards of our denomination. I own much of this as a parent, but I do also feel like we have let our children down by not also sharing with them a more focused study of the creeds and confessions.

So, when Pastor Ben approached me about the possibility of helping to lead a high school catechism class that will work through the Belgic Confession (to start), I was excited about the idea. Now, I look forward to working through one of our church’s confessions on Sunday evenings and helping with youth on Thursday evenings. A little reversal of my experience growing up but, as the old expression goes, “everything old is new again!” 


The word catechism traces its origin back to the Greek word katecheo which simply means to teach, especially when the instructor is speaking face-to-face with the students.