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Why Just Having a Doctrinal Statement For Your Church, May Not Be Enough

When I was a kid, my parents made me memorize the Heidelberg Catechism, 129 questions and answers. Memorize the whole thing! You couldn’t get kids to do that today at gunpoint!

The catechism was the framework for understanding a reformed, covenantal, biblical worldview. As a 12-14 year old, I couldn’t have cared less. When I asked my parents “why,” they said they didn’t simply want me to know what Christians believed, but why we believed it. What a novel thought! But even now, 50 years later, what I learned way back then, the Holy Spirit still uses to remind me why I have the confidence I do in God’s truth.

Every church has a Statement of Doctrine. But half dozen years ago, the elders at my church felt we needed more than a statement of what we believe. We came under conviction that with biblical truth under attack everywhere, our people needed more context. They needed to know why we believe, what we believe! “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15

So a team of us developed a 3-5 page explanation for each of the seven major doctrines of our church. Our doctrinal statement is entitled What We Believe, however, the teaching program is called, What We Teach. (You can request a copy by emailing me at claredegraaf@gmail.com).

Here’s how we intend to use this material to develop additional curriculums for various groups in our church, to expand theological literacy;

  1. Develop a children’s curriculum In the next year, we hope to begin writing a shorter, more kid friendly version of What We Teach. Our hope is that it would be geared to 5th or 6th graders. It will be their first introduction to systematic doctrine.

  2. Develop a high school curriculum We believe it’s critical that we build on the children’s curriculum and reinforce that again in high school. At the high school level, many kids are really questioning why Christians accept, “by faith” accept the things we do. By having a curriculum that’s user friendly, in a little less “doctrinal” language, we hope to better prepare our high school students for both college and life.

  3. Small Groups We hope to either require or request that all adult Sunday school classes and small groups teach What We Believe and What We Teach every three or four years. As part of that, we also hope to provide some teaching tools to encourage parents and grandparents to discuss these ideas with their own children.

So, my question is, what is your church doing to help your students get greater confidence in the basic truths of Christianity? It may not be enough to simply teach them what you believe. As good as our high school pastors are, the elders realized that it is our responsibility to set the bar higher!

So, here’s your assignment; ask one of your elders what is being taught to your high school students. I’d be surprised they know (a few years ago, we were clueless ourselves). Then discuss this blog with them. It very well be your denomination has some great materials already. If so, are they “kid friendly?” In any case, it is our job to prepare the next generation “to give an answer for the hope that” they have.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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