Helping your children to memorize scripture is a gift you can give your children that will yield blessing - both immediate and years to come. The discipline of scripture memory can build intellect, shape hearts, and clarify God's Word in the soul of your child. While many of us know to teach children John 3:16, the Lord's Prayer, and maybe even Psalm 23, scripture memory can be so much more. Children have a great capacity for memory work. Unlike adults, their minds are these wonderful blank maps in which loving believing parents can etch Biblical pathways that will yield blessings in the lives of their children for years to come.
I've discovered that many parents don't feel successful with regard to Scripture memory in their homes. It seems like a daunting task, a time consuming task, or maybe even a task they feel ill equipped to handle.
But it doesn't have to be!
Helping your children to memorize verses from the Bible is a good thing and I'd love to share a few tips for making it a habit in your home that will bless you and the hearts of your children.
1. Pick passage of Scripture that YOU want to learn.
The easiest way for your children to start the habit of Scripture memory is for you, the parent, to memorize Scripture with them. So pick a passage you want to learn!
2. Build your memory muscle bit by bit.
Success in any new habit happens best by starting small but staying consistent. Many times when we want to start a new habit we bite off more than we can chew. Don't start off with the goal of memorizing the Lord's Prayer, for example, in one week. While it's totally possible to do that, the better option would be to focus on a couple of verses a week and learn the passage of Scripture slowly. The verses will eventually all be covered, but more importantly, the habit of memory will be more ingrained from starting with an amount of information and time commitment that's sustainable.
My boys, currently ages twelve, ten, and six, have memorized Romans 12:1-6, Philippians 2:3-16, 1 Corinthians 13, in the last year and we just started working on the book of James! My two older children memorized the entire book in their senior year of high school so I figured I'd give it a go with my littles too. It's a project that will take us the whole year to complete but little by little we'll get it done. You can do it. Your children can do it.
So go ahead and set some goals for passages you want your children to commit to memory. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what great things little minds can accomplish!
3. Say it where you see it.
While anyone can take a Bible, read a verse or passage, and then memorize them, it is so much better for children (and for adults) to put the passage to be memorized where it is highly visible - dry erase board in your kitchen, a computer printout of the verse in a large font size tacked to the wall, or affixed to the refrigerator with a magnet, or even notecards taped to the bathroom mirror. Currently our "M.O." involves writing the verses to be memorized on poster board and taping it with packaging tape to one of our living room windows. We naturally see those verses multiple times a day and are therefore reminded of both the message and the fact that we need to take the time to look at those verses, read over them, and hide them in our hearts.
4. Engage the senses.
Scripture memory is no different than any other type of learning in that it is best learned when as many senses are engaged as possible. While you could read the Scripture silently and commit it to memory, it is so much better to say it out loud, thereby hearing yourself say it, and feeling your lips producing the words. Taking the time to write the Scriptures you are learning helps too in ingraining those verses in the mind.
I stand daily (or at least 4-5 times a week) with my children in front of that window. We say the verse three times, out loud together. When the passages of Scripture seem to be getting a little long, we may only repeat the most recently learned verses three times but then say the entire memorized portion one time from beginning to end. I have taught my children to say the verses clearly, audibly, and with great inflection so that the "sing-song" rhythm of the words more easily sinks in. Sometimes we even add in hand motions or body movements that match the words. If you are musically inclined you can even set the words to rhythm or music! We have made up a beat and kept time by slapping the kitchen table many times. The kids loved it, had fun, and most importantly we still memorized the verses. Every little thing helps to make this time work for you and for your children.
5. Celebrate the accomplishment.
Every month on first Sunday's my family gathers for dinner after church. My children, along with my nieces and nephews know that every first Sunday they will have the opportunity to share the Scripture they've memorized with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. It's a big deal. Until they are to tall to do it, they stand on a chair as their grandfather puts his arms around them and they say their verses for all to hear. Not only do they look forward to it, they are motivated by it.
As a family, we have participated in AWANA Clubs over the years and my kids have loved it. The regular celebration and recognition for accomplishment is fantastic. However we do not depend only on those verses for our memory goals, nor have we depended only on the AWANA awards for recognition.
Find a place or an occasion to personally celebrate the accomplishment of your child's memorization efforts. Ask another mom at your church or in your community to join you in the effort and set a date to have your children recite to each other. Say the scriptures for Dad over Sunday dinner as a special tradition your family enjoys right before dessert is served. Another great idea?Videotape the recitation and send it to family that may not live close by. Your kids will love the idea of their recordings being send to family or even posted to YouTube for viewing and those recordings will make your kids smile as they get older. Punctuate the celebration with a meal or by doing something fun together as a family. Show your children how important you think Scripture memory is by taking the time to recognize the work they have put in to build the habit of memorizing verses from the Bible.
Scripture memory does not have to be daunting. Bit by bit, verse by verse, it can be one of the most important gifts you give your children. The verses they memorize in their youth can stay with them for a lifetime, and more importantly, you will give them the habit of spending time reflecting and meditating on God's Word.
And who knows... you might also build the habit of Scripture memory yourself as you seek to build it in your children!
Chrystal Hurst, ChrystalEvansHurst.com