As Christians, we share a passionate love and a high regard for God’s Word. We gather regularly to listen to sermons that explain Bible principles. We recognize the value of spending time in personal study of Scripture to better know and follow God. We make great efforts to teach God’s Word to our children. And we memorize Scripture—hiding it in our hearts—to deepen our understanding and our faith.
But for many of us, and especially for children, memorization is the most dreaded part of Bible study. While none of us would doubt the value of being so familiar with the Bible that we can quote from it, many Christians aren’t so sure about the value of the methods traditionally used to memorize Scripture. To many, Scripture memory seems boring—a meaningless, ineffective, rote process that turns people, especially children, away from the church and away from God.
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In too many cases, Bible memory work becomes a competition between children, a divisive force that creates enemies ready to one-up each other instead of the encouraging, loving, tightknit body God wants. In too many churches, Bible memory becomes a test for children, who must prove they can recite a verse perfectly before they’re allowed to participate in the fun. And too often, memorizing God’s Word becomes not a way to know and love God but a way to obtain a prize, whether it’s a toy, a shiny ribbon, or a new Bible.
None of these experiences foster a deep love for Scripture or an understanding of God. And most of the time, these “learning” experiences don’t even produce the results they were intended to. While children may memorize a verse, they don’t understand what the verse means and they can’t apply it to their lives. Plus, very few children remember their memory verse for an extended period of time. In fact, most children would be hard-pressed to remember even two or three of all the verses they’ve been asked to memorize in their entire lives.
So what’s the secret to helping children memorize Scripture in more effective, more fun, and more lasting ways? How can we create a setting in which children could memorize God’s Word without fear and competition? And how do we have children memorize Scripture, not because of a piece of candy but because it’s relevant and meaningful—because they want to learn God’s Word?
Here’s the secret:
- Incorporate the verse throughout each activity. First, explain the verse to children in a way that’s thought-provoking and life-relevant. The children don’t just learn the words of the verse. They discover what it means, and they figure out how to apply it to their lives. Come up with activities that help kids experience the verse. Rather than just having children parrot the words, incorporate the verse throughout each activity so the children are working with and repeating the words of the verse. By the time the activity is over, the children are so familiar with the verse that they have memorized it.
- Hear it, read it, say it, draw it, touch it, sing it. Second, help all kinds of learners make intellectual connections with Scripture. According to Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, people are naturally strong in certain ways of learning. Some of us are visual learners; others learn best by doing. He called them intelligences, and you can discover more about them here and here.
According to Gardner, children learn better when they’re taught through activities that cause them to use their preferred intelligence, or as we call them, their preferred smart. For example, the body smart child will more easily learn when he or she can use body skills to help reinforce the material (think hand motions), and a music smart child will find learning easier when he or she can use music as a tool (Scripture set to a rhythm). By using a variety of activities, you’ll be sure to have something that strikes a chord with every child in your ministry.
Scripture is one of God’s best gifts to us. It is God’s revelation of himself to his people and the world. It is the authority that defines our faith in terms of what we think about God and creation and also how we behave in relationship to God and others. In the Bible we find comfort and hope, challenge and admonition. As leaders of children in the church, you’ve been given an exciting and sacred task—to encourage children to love God and cherish his Word. Scripture itself encourages us to use every opportunity and every method available to teach our children well.
How do you help kids memorize Scripture? Let us know using the comment section below!