Scripture Memory for Kids: Teaching Little Hearts
What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.
I just typed this scripture verse from memory, the words flowing automatically, with no need to consciously recall any of them. This verse is, I think, the first I ever memorized.
As a fearful child, my dad lovingly spoke these comforting, Holy-Spirit-inspired words of David to me every night, tucking them into my heart as he tucked me into bed. Now, as a fearful adult, this is my “go-to” verse. As if on autopilot, I am reminded of this verse every time I feel anxious. My dad gave me a precious gift when he helped to impress this piece of God’s Word into my mind and onto my heart.
Through my growing up years, I memorized Scripture haphazardly for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and my school Bible classes. But it was only as a college student that I became convinced that memorizing God’s Word in chunks was a vital part of my walk with the Lord. Chuck Swindoll says it best:
I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends!
My attempts and resolutions have ebbed and flowed, but since my college years, I have memorized a few chapters of the Psalms, the first few chapters of Proverbs, the entire books of Philippians and James, and other scattered passages. I am currently memorizing Psalm 27 to help fight my fear problem.
This is all to say that I am passionate about hiding God’s Word in my heart!
John Piper says that as we let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16) the Holy Spirit uses the Word to:
- Make us more like Christ
- Triumph over sin
- Comfort and counsel our hearts (and the hearts of others)
- Better communicate the Gospel with unbelievers
- Commune with our God
If we are persuaded of this, we can’t help but get excited about guiding our little children in memorizing Scripture. Especially in these early years, when most children have brains like “sponges,” we should intentionally pursue the lofty goal of filling their minds and hearts with as much of God’s Word as we possibly can.
So…how? The old adage is right (if somewhat cliché): if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
I fail often but this is what I am planning to make sure that I teach my kids the spiritual discipline of Scripture memorization.
- Choose a portion of Scripture to memorize. My two oldest kids (4 and 2-and-a-half) are close enough in age that they learn the same portions together. We usually choose a passage (or single verse) that we really want to address with our kids (they are currently learning the chapter of Psalm 1.)
- Write the current verse on a notecard and stick it up somewhere visible (more to remind you than the kids.)
- Depending on the needs of your child, teach him or her only portions at a time, adding gestures to make it “stick,” and accepting what your child can do. For example, my 2-and-a-half year old “recites” John 3:16 by saying “God – loved- the world – gave – only Son – believes – perish – everlasting life.” That’s all he can do right now and I’m cool with it.
- Don’t stick too strictly to a timetable of memory completion. Try and go over the current verse(s) every day, but if it’s not going well…cut your losses and try again tomorrow. In the same way, if your little learner is really struggling day-after-day to commit a verse to memory, give it a break, choose something new, and try again in a few weeks. My kids pick up some verses in the blink of an eye, and some take f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
- Explain to them what they are memorizing. Learning words and sentences without having an inkling of their meaning is not very beneficial. There is no need to provide an exposition on the verse, just explain the gist to your littles.
- When your child is pretty confidently reciting the chosen verse or passage, choose another! Once a week, review previously memorized Scriptures to ensure that these stay fresh in your little one’s mind.
If you are like me, our attention easily diverts to some of the secondary benefits of our kids memorizing their “verse of the week”: throwing “Scripture missiles” at them when they are less-than-godly, showing off for the grandparents, completing the week’s target verse, and patting ourselves on the backs for being great moms.
But let us always remember to teach Scripture to our little people with this number one, ultimate, supreme motivation held high:
That they would know God.
This post was originally written as a guest post for Our Out-Of-Sync Life.