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How I tried to teach HC Q & A 1 creatively

It was my first church, first catechism class. The list of expected students, 9 teenage boys, seven of them cousins to each other.

Seven of them spilled into my study, boisterous yet cautious. They were likely wondering just like me how this was going to go. I was determined to make this as engaging as I could, and not inflict on them the kind of catechism training I had received.

That first night my goal was to have them know I was on their side, that I was willing to engage them at their level of life.

I started the lesson by saying “When you get picked up later, your parents might ask you what you learned in Catechism. I want to give you an answer that will satisfy them, and once you all understand a couple of ways of answering that, we can talk about whatever.”

So, very quickly I taught these willing listeners “Sin Salvation Service” and Misery Deliverance Gratitude.” and they all within a few minutes could repeat them and some even could explain a bit more when pressed “that is the pattern of explaining that the Heidelberg Catechism follows” or something like that. They were eagerly learning and cooperating to gain their goal, to not talk catechism. It worked. Each time we met after that, they could answer what the pattern of the Catechism was, because it stuck in their brains because they were willingly participants.

They did not know that in the ‘free-for-all’ conversation we had for the remainder of the class I was gathering info on their interests and their struggles, so I could find relevant connections in the Catechism for later use.

The next week was a chilly, late fall evening. The sun was setting as they arrived in the Study. I asked them to keep their coats on, because as soon as we had reviewed the thing we learned last week, we were going on a ‘road trip.’ We reviewed Sin Salvation Service, and then jumped into my van. I drove to the graveyard. They fell silent as we arrived after one said “Pastor Pete, you are freaking me out here!”. I drove up to the grave of a 57 year old man from the congregation who had been killed setting up highway construction zone cones a few weeks before. I knew they had liked the man, because he was one of those guys who could walk over to them after church and have non-awkward conversations with them. I had asked the widow’s permission to use his grave in this way, and her answer was “Dick would be honoured to know you were doing this, he cared about those kids.”

The conditions were perfect, like a movie set almost. Just a bit of dusky light still lingering, whisps of mist were forming about five feet above the ground and drifting away slowly. It was spooky.

I handed out some flashlights for those who wanted one, and asked them all to find a gravestone to sit on where they could still hear me. They grumbled but did it. I asked them to sit in complete silence for as long as it took me to speak again. When my butt was very very cold, some five or more minutes later, I said “By now you are likely very very uncomfortable. You are sitting on cold stone. That is uncomfortable. This is a place of death, and you knew some of the people here. That is uncomfortable. I also know that at your stage of life you don’t often think about this stage of life, but reality is that coming to a place like this to be burried is inevitable. I brought you here to tell you that the main theme of the Heidelberg Catechism is “Comfort” and thought this would help you remember that theme. What will comfort you when you come to the point where this place is your next step? The Catechism testifies that belonging to Jesus is the only meaningful comfort to be found in that day. It is my hope you will come to understand the meaning of that comfort sooner rather than later.

Then we went back for hot chocolate. We needed it.

My hope is that those boys never forgot… But much as I wanted to, I could not find a way of teaching the whole Catechism in that kind of hands on interactive way.

For a printable version follow this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/u75pmp2pqzh6atm/How%20I%20tried%20to%20teach%20HC%20Q%20%26%20A%201%20Creatively.pdf

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