This is not good.
Luther’s Small Catechism is the only catechism in Christendom that can also be prayed. No one considers the 2865 statements of the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church as a devotional aid. The Heidelberg Catechism has almost 129 questions on various points of doctrine.
In contrast, Luther’s Small Catechism takes up only nine pages in the hymnal. It is patterned around the two major teachings of scripture: Law and Gospel. It relates everything regarding the faith of the Christian to the life of the Christian. Luther even gives us the pattern for praying the catechism in the explanation to the Lord’s Prayer.
God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
How then do we restore this prayerful and devotional approach to the catechism? It seems to me that a part of the problem is the way we teach. Instead of following Luther’s devotional and prayerful outline, we use a more academic system. The synodical explanation has 306 questions, with 975 bible passages of support. By resolution of the 2012 synod convention, those numbers will grow. It is certainly a fine encyclopedia of what we believe, teach, and confess. But it is hardly a prayerful approach.
Teach These Things follows Luther’s more practical and prayerful approach to catechesis. It uses larger narrative sections of scripture, telling the story of salvation history. Using the lives of the patriarchs and saints of Scripture, the catechumens see God’s grace in action as he brings salvation to sinners. It also follows Luther’s outline for explaining the catechism. It is the first catechesis to contain the Large Catechism in outline form. This is not just an added feature, it is the backbone of the catechetical method.
None of this is to say that other curricula do not have a devotional or prayerful approach to theology. I have not looked at every curriculum out there – between the various official, and numerous unofficial curricula, I doubt that anyone has. This is the method that has worked in my parish, and in a few others. The pastors that have used it find it is more interesting, more devotional and prayerful, and gets the catechumens into the text of holy scripture more effectively. Instead of just proof-texts to show why what we believe is correct (which does have its time and place) this actually teaches them how to read and understand scripture according to the catechism.
The catechism is treated as the handbook for understanding scripture, and as the pattern for our daily lives of prayer centered in that Word. If this sounds good, check out the samples, and then come back on June 15 to download (or order) the complete catechesis.