Westminster Shorter Catechism Flash Cards

I can memorize better than you! Caw! Caw!

Download flash cards here.

In my denomination (PCA), ministerial candidates must memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  It came as a surprise to me that Presbyterians use “catechisms,” since I grew up thinking that those were for Roman Catholics and maybe Lutherans, and that they are old stodgy religious tools of a bygone era.  I’m sure glad I discovered that catechisms are not outdated and are still very useful for learning basic Christian teaching.  It’s a shame that the churches that I grew up in didn’t encourage my parents to give us catechetical instruction.

So what is a catechism?  It is simply a list of questions and answers that are useful for learning and instructing.  A catechism doesn’t have to be religious in nature.  It is just a form or genre used to convey information.  The following is a catechism:

Q1. What is your name?
A1. My name is ____.

Q2. Who are you?
A2.  I am a [last name].

Q3. What are [last name]’s?
A3.  [Last name]’s are proud, strong, honest, humble, and gentle.

You get the idea.  A catechism can be written and used to instill values, convey information, confess truth, etc.  It is a very ancient form of instruction that is particularly effective for use with children.  Children are mimics and readily memorize spoken language.  They love it and are good at it.  Therefore drilling children with question and answer is a (mostly, haha) enjoyable way of instructing them.  Catechisms have also proven to be excellent ways to instruct adults in basic Christian doctrine.

Many Reformed and Presbyterian churches adopt the Westminster Standards (Confession and Larger and Shorter Catechisms) as their official statement of faith.  Originally, ministers were required to memorize the Larger Catechism (which is considerably longer than its Shorter sister), while the Shorter Catechism was reserved for instructing the youth.  I mention this since it is interesting to me that ministers are now required to only memorize the Shorter Catechism.  I wonder if the Larger just became too difficult for people to memorize in modern times, what with all our busy schedules and massive entertainment options for endless distraction?  Nevertheless, the Shorter Catechism is a beautiful, symmetrical, and succinct summation of basic Christian doctrine.  Although its origins are in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, it is still recognized as a valuable teaching tool for Christians in other branches of the Church.

To help memorize the Shorter Catechism, I created a set of flash cards that can be printed.  Included in this flash card set is my outline of the Shorter Catechism, which I found helpful for memorization.  Here are some tips for using and memorizing the catechism.

  1. For your own study, memorize the question, answer, and the sequence number of the question.  Memorizing the question number helps to remember what comes next.
  2. For teaching children, just require them to memorize and recite the answer when prompted by a question.  (For teaching very young children (perhaps younger than age 9 or 10), consider using the Catechism for Young Children or the First Catechism.)
  3. Study and memorize only once per day.  Develop a routine during your study time.  Perhaps go for a 20-30 minute walk.
  4. Recite the question and answer out loud.  Hearing the words will facilitate memorization (even if you only whisper the words to avoid looking weird in public).
  5. Try to memorize only a few questions at a time (and do that phrase by phrase instead of trying to swallow the whole question at once).  On the next day you practice, try to remember the questions you studied the previous time.  Keep on reviewing those until they are easily recited without peeking at the flashcards.
  6. Occasionally review all previously memorized questions from the beginning.  Don’t try to review from the beginning every time or you will get stuck somewhere in the middle of the catechism and have a difficult time making progress.
  7. Create mental “hooks” or memory keys to help you remember the numbers of the questions.  These tend to be highly subjective and personal; what works for me may not work for you.  Examples include:
    • Jesus Christ is introduced by name in question 21, so there are 20 “B.C.” questions.
    • The Lord’s Prayer begins with question 100 (a round number), and there are 107 total catechism questions, so there are 8 Lord’s Prayer questions.
    • The “Seventh” Commandment begins with question 70 (7 and 70 go together).
    • The three offices of Christ (prophet, priest, and king) are balanced around question number 25 (another easy number to remember); so the “prophet” question is number 24, the “priest” question is number 25, and the “king” question is number 26.
  8. Resist the temptation to memorize a modernized language version of the catechism.  If you do so you will be cutting yourself off from the solidarity experienced when you memorize and study the same catechism as your Christian forefathers.  Besides, many people find that memorizing language that is considered archaic is actually easier.

Printing tips:

  1. To print the flash cards, it is best not to print them using the duplex feature on printers.  The front and back of the cards tend not to line up when printing this way.
  2. Do a test run by printing the first page of the cards (the questions side), then reload the sheet and print the second page of the cards (the answers side) so that the card borders line up when you cut them.  One way to see if the card borders line up is to hold up the printed page to a light.  You may have to experiment with the direction you reload the sheet until it works properly.  The text on the cards is meant to be printed upside down on the reverse side so they can be “flipped over” on the horizontal axis of the card rather than just turned over on the vertical axis.
  3. Once you have successfully printed a double-sided test page, print the flash cards on 8.5 x 11 stock paper that is the same weight as index cards.  You can find this paper at a stationary store.
  4. When printing on card-stock quality paper, print the odd pages first, then reload the sheets (in reverse order; this is the way it works on my printer) and then print the even pages second.
  5. Cut out the flash cards using scissors or an office-style paper cutter.
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18 Responses to Westminster Shorter Catechism Flash Cards

  1. Viki says:

    Dangitbill, your work here is much appreciated. Thank you for
    putting the catechism into a flashcard form and making it accessible
    to all who are interested.

    Viki

  2. Nate says:

    I cannot tell you how thankful I am for this. Thank you for thinking of others! Lord bless you bill!

  3. mmxwa says:

    You are welcome to use my WSC flash cards, which you may prefer. I do not ask for any acknowledgement whatsoever. These are for 3×5 index cards printing from PDF format. Located at http://www.geocities.com/mmxwa/

    • mmxwa says:

      October 2009 Update — since Geocities shut down all their sites, this link no longer works. If interested, please e-mail me to get this alternate version of WSC flash cards. mmxwa@yahoo.com . Or, I’ll send it to anyone who wants to make it available on their site.

      • mmxwa says:

        December 2016 Update — these are still available. Also included is a quality version of Fisher’s Catechism in PDF, and other WSC materials.

  4. I like the way you formatted the text on your flashcards and categoried the questions. Thanks for the link.

  5. Doug W says:

    Thanks for the PDF of the cards. I had some like this that I bought commercially a while back. I’ve now lost them so I was looking to buy another batch. But thanks to you I don’t have to!

  6. Mike Barber says:

    Brian,
    I just released a site called iCatechize.com. I’m wondering if you would mind if I put a link to this in the resources section?

    -Mike Barber

  7. Becky says:

    Thanks for sharing your work. I just printed it to use it with my 7 yo daughter.

    Blessings!

  8. Bryan and Jean Coyer says:

    What a wonderful thing to do! I was searching online to buy flash cards and found your website. Thanks so much. God Bless you.
    Jean

  9. Anonymous says:

    thank you very much, God bless you more and more…
    darlene

  10. Charles Graves says:

    This might help. It’s an interesting app that you can certainly use to help you memorize Catechism questions.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.g2.quizification.lite

    It’s worth checking out.

  11. Josh Skinner says:

    Thanks so much for this. It is a blessing!

  12. Bud Hemans says:

    First off, I want to thank the mediator(s) of this blog for offering a clear and succinct, authoritative resurce. Second, I want to pass along a tid-bit of assurance to my fellow blog readers: make the effort to read this post and the associated articles – they are dead on.

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