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Could the Heidelberg Catechism be on the cutting edge of youth ministry after all these years, capturing today’s youth culture in its first question? I think so!

I am currently reading through a very interesting book entitled Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto by Mark Oestriecher. It’s an interesting book that talks about the ever changing history of youth culture. If you have not read the book, I would encourage you to do so. It’s not a huge book but it does provide some interesting information. 

After reading the book, Chapter 2 stands out to me. Mark goes into some detail explaining the progress of youth culture from Identity (Who am I: 1960’s) to Autonomy (How am I different, unique: 1970’s) and ends the chapter by making a proposal that 21st century youth are looking for Affinity – Where do I belong and to whom? 

As you ponder Mark’s findings you must agree that this is a very interesting transition in youth culture! Belonging – don’t we all struggle with that question at some point and time in our lives? As we look at youth culture we can be assured that the youth in our various groups and schools are asking this tough question – “Where do I belong and to whom?” Youth want to belong to something and to someone – sports, gangs, boyfriends/girlfriends, clubs etc. 

It seems to me as I reflect on this that in 1560 when Zacharius Ursinus and Casper Olevianus were asked by Frederick III to write the Catechism, the question of belonging was key to their culture as well. The Heidelberg Catechism opens with this question: 

“What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

Talk about going for the jugular! These two fellows don’t mess around! This question is talking about where people belong and to whom--exactly what youth in today's culture are looking for! Zac and Casper are asking the tough questions of life as they begin writing the 52 "Lord’s Days." 

In their research they came up with a brilliant answer that is so biblically based that it is hard to argue with. The first 22 words of the answer cut to the chase and tells the reader exactly where they belong and to whom! Here it is: 

“I am not my own, but BELONG, body and soul, in life and in death,

TO my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”

Youth today are looking for a sense of belonging. We have the answer – or shall I say the Heidelberg Catechism provides the answer from Scripture for today’s youth? It’s time to take out the Psalter Hymnal, blow off the dust, turn to page 861 (grey hymnal) and begin looking at this once-old document made new by today’s youth culture. 

Faith Alive Resources has some great studies for you and your youth to delve into, such as "The HC and Me." Don’t be afraid to teach the Catechism. It’s a wealth of knowledge to help us understand the Bible from a Reformed perspective. It’s a document that’s rooted in the truth of Scripture and it deals with today’s youth culture perfectly. 

It seems that over the years, myself included, we have shied away from teaching the Catechism to our youth. It seemed outdated for the culture of the day. Did it address Autonomy? Perhaps, but it didn’t seem relevant to where the youth were at within their culture. I don’t think any of us had any ill will towards the Catechism, but we were trying to reach the youth with the transforming power of Jesus Christ in a way that was relevant to them. A 1560’s document just wouldn’t do. (At least so we thought.) I think we were doing the best we could with the knowledge we had. 

But times are changing and youth are looking for Truth more than ever. They are tired of drifting back and forth wandering in a culture where a different version of truth can be found on every billboard, internet site, radio and TV. It’s time to reclaim TRUTH for our youth and it begins with you, their youth worker. There is no excuse anymore for not knowing what to teach or not having up-to-date material that deals with youth culture. In the Reformed denominations we've had it sitting under our noses since 1560. 

Where do your youth belong and to whom? He or she belongs to Jesus Christ. Talk about affinity! 

Teach it boldly.


Jolanda Howe on April 7, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great point! It's a shame that the word Catechism sounds so heavy--I think many people just assume it won't connect with today's youth. But studies like Questions Worth Asking are so creative and engaging. They draw teens into discussions about foundational questions that speak to belonging.

Thanks Marcel for posting this blog.
Yes, the three sections of HC: sin, salvation, service are very solid foundations of who is God, who we are, and what are expected of us as people saved by grace. We need solid Biblical church education materials for our youth. I think there is an older version of the HC, is it entitled, "The Church?"
Keep up the good work! 1 Cor 15:58.

To amplify your point, Marcel, I saw this posted today:

Interview with Kevin DeYoung  on The Good News We Almost Forgot in the Heidelberg Catechism

(Kevin DeYoung is the pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, co-author of several books (Why We Love the Church and Why We’re Not Emergent), and author of Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Kevin kindly agreed to be interviewed about his new book, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism, which is on the Heidelberg Catechism.)

Glad to hear our churches are taking the HC seriously again. I've heard it has been particularly useful in outreach to Latinos as so many of them come from a nominal Roman Catholic background where young people are expected to learn "Catechism".

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