Vocabulary —Catechumen

FAQ: What does Catechumen mean?

The word “catechumen” comes from biblical Greek and literally means “one who sounds out something,” or “one in whom word echoes.” Merriam Webster

1a convert to Christianity receiving training in doctrine and discipline before baptism
2one receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Christianity before admission to communicant membership in a church

Images of people on squares arranged like ABC blocks with the words "Catechumens of all ages."


A Catechumen is a person who receives instruction in the Christian religion in order to be baptized into the faith. According to the New Testament, the apostles instructed converts after baptism (Acts 2:41–42). Also Christian instruction was evidently given to all converts (Luke 1:4, Acts18:25, Galatians 6:6). As the number of Gentiles in the church increased, instruction became more definite. In the 4th century, with the rise of heresy, detailed doctrinal teaching was given.

Mountains with lake in front and the words "Holy Baptism" with baptism sinking into the water.

General Baptism

But by this time the postponement of baptism had become general. (Constantine was not baptized until he was at the point of death.) Therefore, a large proportion of Christians belonged to the catechumenate. Most of them were merely “adherents” of the church, while others were under definite instruction for baptism. As infant baptism became general, the catechumenate decreased. The baptismal rites now used are adaptations of rites intended for the reception of adult catechumens.

Related forms of the word, very simply:

  • catechesis = instruction
  • catechize = to teach
  • catechist = teacher
  • catechism = textbook
  • catechumen = student


Luther’s Small Catechism (GermanDer Kleine Katechismus) was written by Martin Luther and published in 1529 for the training of children. Luther’s Small Catechism reviews the Ten Commandmentsthe Apostles’ Creedthe Lord’s Prayerthe Sacrament of Holy Baptismthe Office of the Keys and Confession and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is included in the Book of Concord as an authoritative statement of what Lutherans believe. The Small Catechism is widely used today in Lutheran churches as part of youth education and Confirmation.