Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book: The Shorter Catechism Activity Book

Today’s Book Review is brought to you by Cross-Focused Reviews, who provided a copy of the book in exchange for the review. They send the book and schedule the blog tour, and I write how I really feel about the book. Trust me, there’s not enough money in these print-run of specialty books like this to bribe all these bloggers :)

I am a Christian of the Southern Baptist variety, and so we do not have an official creed for our churches nor do we have a catechism for the teaching of basic doctrines. We’re a bit more random than that. While I would agree that we might need some changes in that area, this is not really the place for that discussion. Instead, I provide you with that information so that you know I do not come predisposed to a different catechism program or a preference for the one I grew up with, because I didn’t grow up. Or grow up with one.

The Shorter Catechism Activity Book by Marianne Ross looks a little something like this: The Shorter Catechism Activity Book 

So, now you know how it looks. It’s published by Christian Focus Publications. The author, Marianne Ross, is listed as a wife, mother, writer, and cup-cake baker. Unfortunately, no cupcakes were provided alongside the book and I am unable to evaluate the veracity of this particular claim.

The initial content of this book is the official Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC). This is a series of 107 questions and answers about Christian doctrine. The Westminster Standards are the doctrinal standards for many English-speaking denominations that trace their heritage to the English Reformation, especially the more Presbyterian-leaning groups. Given that the WSC is more than 300 years old, I will not offer an extensive comment here about its value.

This book is not intended to persuade you to use the WSC, either, though. Instead, this book is intended to help reinforce the teaching of that system. There are 107 activities in the book, one for each question of the catechism.

These are in the shape of various word searches, code-breaking games, fill-in-the-blanks, and crossword puzzles. Some of these would be beyond frustrating, but the first page after the table of contents is a code key page. That helps. A lot. In fact, by having this page, you do not find yourself in need of a specific answer key, as working out the answers becomes easy, if time consuming.

In all, the activities are challenging enough to keep a child working at them for some time. Certainly, if they already know the answers to a specific question, the puzzles will be easy.

The drawbacks I would find here are these:

1. I am not an education expert, but in my observation, sometimes puzzle-based learning activities help a student learn to solve puzzles, but not learn the material. That is not all bad, but it is something to consider.

2. You can count this as a drawback or not, but there is no source document on the Westminster Shorter Catechism here. If you do not know it or have a copy available, you’ll have to solve the puzzles to learn it.

3. The book uses the straight Westminster Shorter Catechism. Including “doth” and various other antiquated phrasings. While it falls to the churches to update the overall language, perhaps a minor paraphrasing would fall within the purview of a children’s book.

In all, though, if your particular view of Christianity encourages learning the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this book is a helpful tool in your arsenal. It is worth an extra look.

Free book, again, received from publisher in exchange for review.


  1. Doug,

    Thanks so much for being a part of The Shorter Catechism Activity Book blog tour. Parents would do well to pair this activity book with a copy of the shorter catechism. Christian Focus offers a compact edition titled The Shorter Catechism with scripture proofs and notes by Roderick Lawson. You can find this edition for just a few dollars. Looking forward to working with you on future blog tours.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews

  2. Shaun, thanks for the link to a good edition of The Shorter Catechism.


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