North Star Catechism: An Interview with Jared Kennedy

Jared has been writing a lot about using catechisms over the past month. So I wanted to give him an opportunity to answer some questions about the one he's had a part in developing, The North Star Catechism. Here is my interview with Jared. 

Jeff: Who are you? 

Jared: I am the husband to Megan and dad to three girls--Rachael, Lucy, and Elisabeth. I lead SojournKids as Pastor of Families at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. I also blog here at

Jeff: There are several different catechisms out there why create your own? 

Jared: We'd been using catechism with our kids at home and with our church community for quite a while. At one point in the past, I simply updated the language from the Catechism for Boys and Girls and added memory verses from the New Living Translation. But the North Star Catechism came about at the initiative of our lead pastor, Daniel Montgomery. He'd been working on a 28-point theological vision for our church and church planting network. The 28 points teach key truths about God’s glory, the gospel, the church, and God’s mission in the world. The vision is holistic and action-oriented. That is one of the key advantages of what we've put together. Much of the devotional material for other catechisms we're familiar with focuses merely on memorizing doctrinal knowledge. Our desire is to develop tools for our families and church planters that empower them to put their faith into practice. 

Jeff: What is your hope for the North Star Catechism? 

Jared: Our kids need to have their faith firmly rooted in doctrine that has weathered the centuries. My friend, Sam Luce, has described it this way, “I know that I find myself drawn to cleverness and cutesieness when what our kids really need is to understand the doctrine and the truths many early Christians gave their lives for.” For thousands of years, travelers have been guided on their journey by a fixed point in the night sky: the North Star. While other stars appear to shift with the passing of time, the North Star remains anchored. This gift allows travelers to know where they are and where they need to go. Like its celestial namesake, our prayer is that the North Star Catechism will like be a faithful guide for the next generation. We want to root kids in the deep truths of the faith and empower them to live out that faith in the real world. 

Jeff: What about catechisms do you believe help you form your kids in discipleship vs other methods? 

Jared: What I like about catechisms is that they give us a basic outline for learning Christian doctrine-- a basic reference point to go back to when there is a need for clear definition. To be honest, learning the catechism isn't nearly as inspiring as telling a great story. I don't think that catechism is a great method for discipleship on its own. But a catechism provides us with clear, simple definitions that help the stories make sense. When a child arrives at a concept or term in the biblical story that is confusing, a catechism often gives clear definition.

Jeff: What does it practically look like for your family to sit down and do the catechism? 

Jared: We try to review a question per day at the dinner table. We keep a chalkboard nearby to write the verse up. I let our daughters (who are able) read it to the family. Then, I'll either turn the board around or erase a word at a time and keep reciting it until we've memorized it. We do something similar (except with a PowerPoint slide)  in our worship assemblies with the kids at church. Our daughter Lucy who was diagnosed with Autism at age 3 reviews the questions daily as part of her ABA therapy routine as well. I'm not always as consistent as I'd like to be at dinner time. Recently one of Lucy's tutors asked me if I'd been reviewing the catechism lately, because it seemed like Lucy wasn't as quick during her therapy times. That was really convicting to me, and it reminded me tools like this are a lot more meaningful when they are used as a part of a shared experience with your family or church community. 

I'd love to invite all of our readers to check out The North Star Catechism. There is a free PDF download on the website, and there are flash card and Scout book resources available for order as well. 

Best Catechism Resources for Families

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I believe catechism is still a useful tool for teaching kids the gospel. And last week I wrote out some tips for using a catechism. But one of the first steps is picking a good one. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:

1. My First Book of Questions and Answers by Carine MacKenzie. Carine's catechism was one of the very first catechisms I was exposed to in children's ministry, and it is the first one we used with our children. It's based on the Westminster Shorter catechism and Willison's Mother's Catechism. I'm thankful for Carine's heart for teaching the deep truths of the faith to kids and her ministry through Christian Focus Publications

2. New City Catechism by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas. This is a  joint adult and children's catechism consisting of 52 questions and answers adapted from the Reformation catechisms. The New City Catechism is completely free and has truly excellent web-based tools and a great iPad app study. Each question and answer has an adult version and a child's version. And each is paired with a commentary, video, and prayer.

3. The North Star Catechism by Daniel Montgomery and Jared Kennedy. The goal of The North Star Catechism is to be a faithful guide for the next generation. It adopts the basic framework of the classic evangelical catechisms--beginning with a summary of the gospel, reviewing the Ten Commandments and ending with the Lord's Prayer. But it is different. Our catechism (yes, this is a shameless plug for a tool I've worked on myself) sets the traditional doctrinal content within a missional framework - focussing on how the whole gospel shapes the whole church for holistic mission in the world. Follow the links to find a free PDF download as well as flash cards and Scout books for purchase.

4. Truth and Grace Memory Books by Thomas K. Ascol. I'm a big fan of Ascol's age-graded set of memory books that teaches children and students the Catechism for Boys and Girls, the Heidelberg Catechism as well some of the most important Bible verses and old hymns for memory. For those who really enjoy learning Heidelberg Catechism, you should also pick up Kevin DeYoung's excellent devotional, The Good News We Almost Forgot.

5. First Catechism by Great Commission Publications. For those who are from a Presbyterian background, I should mention this  excellent version of the Catechism for Young Children and the accompanying devotional, Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan and Richie Hunt. GCP is one of my favorite publishers of children's literature, because I think they really understand a holistic view of Christian education. And they've done an incredible job with their catechism material. While I'm doctrinally Baptist, I reference their simple teaching tools for young children often. 

What are your favorite tools for teaching catechism? Leave a comment below and let us know.