Children memorize many things word for word without realizing it. They know the words of hundreds of songs on the radio, many which are not worth memorizing. Children memorize jingles from commercials on television and radio, hours of exact dialogue from their favorite Disney movies, and the biographies and statistics of players from their favorite sports teams. How do they do it? Repetition! It works.
However, the memorization of Scripture seems to be falling out of fashion. It may be that some people no longer understand the value of committing portions of the Bible to memory.
God tells us in the Bible, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Learning concepts and facts from the Holy Scriptures is certainly valuable, as the Holy Spirit uses the very words to work faith in our hearts. But putting important verses of Scripture to memory is vitally important to remembering what we’ve learned.
The Value of Memorization
Knowing verses of Scripture by heart comes in handy when sharing our faith with others, defending the truths of the Bible from mockers, or refuting false doctrine and humanistic teachings in school or the workplace.
A preliminary step for students starting in first or second grade is to learn the books of the Bible in order. This will prevent much fumbling while locating Bible passages throughout Sunday School and into adult Bible study. It is also helpful to memorize the book, chapter, and verse reference along with the words. Then we can look up the verse, even if we can’t quite remember all of the words.
Many of us know the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles and Nicene Creeds and parts of liturgy by heart because we repeat them each week in worship. I have often seen family members find comfort at Grandma’s death bed from watching her lips moving to the Lord’s Prayer or the Twenty-third Psalm. Perhaps her body is shutting down, but her faith is alive and well, and her heart is joining in with the words that she’s known since she was a young girl. Many adults and children have—through repetition—learned the Lord’s Prayer, the creeds, and parts of the liturgy by heart. In the same way—through repetition—memorizing Scripture can become a lifelong devotional tool.
Practical Ideas for the Classroom
Most Sunday School curricula have a recommended Bible memory verse suggested for each lesson or group of lessons. These could be a starting place for your students. A reasonable goal might be for a Sunday School student to learn one hundred Bible verses by the end of the sixth grade. Progress toward this goal would be worth tracking throughout the student’s Sunday School years.
Here are some memorization techniques that have worked for others. Adapt them according to the age of the children you teach.
- Read the verse aloud together several times at the beginning and end of class. This will especially benefit auditory learners.
- Write the verse out on the board, erase one word at a time and read the verse together after each word disappears until there are no words left. This is effective with visual learners.
- Write the words of the verse on slips of paper or index cards. Mix them up for the student to unscramble. This method will be especially helpful for kinetic, hands-on learners.
- Put the verse to music! Find examples by searching the Internet for “memorizing Scripture.” Concordia Publishing House offers recordings of several Bible verses at each level each quarter, as well as a CD and songbook of sixty favorite Bible Words songs. The teacher can simply play the CD at the beginning and end of class.
- Have the children recite the verse aloud from memory, either in private or in class, one child at a time. When each child repeats the verse in class, those who recite last benefit from hearing the verse several times.
- Ask the child to write out the verse on paper word for word.
- Create a “fill in the blanks” worksheet for students to complete with most of the verse printed out but missing some of the significant words.
- Create a similar worksheet providing just the first letter of each word.
- Arrange the words of the verse in a word search puzzle. This can be done for you automatically at Internet sites like www.puzzlemaker.com.
- Discuss and emphasize the meaning of the verse. Have the child can explain the verse in his or her own words.
- Hold a “Bible Bee,” challenging contestant to say verses from memory; offer prizes such as religious trinkets and jewelry or Bibles.
Practical Ideas for Parents
Be bold! Ask the parents of your students to support their child’s memory work. Here are some other techniques parents can use.
- Ask your child to read the verses aloud three times to a parent each day at supper or before bed. By the end of the week the child has repeated the verse enough times to have memorized it! So perhaps will have the parents. A double bonus!
- Have the child write out the verse on paper and attach it to the refrigerator.
- Print the verse on paper or self-adhesive notes. Attach it to the child’s bathroom mirror. Challenge the child to read and mentally recite the verse each day while brushing teeth.
- Remind the child of the text in several different ways each day. Make it the screen saver on the child’s computer. Send it as a text message to the child.
The key to memorizing anything, including the Bible, is repetition! After thirty years of sharing Scriptures with God’s people in hospitals, homes, prisons, and Bible classes, I have memorized about a dozen entire psalms by heart, and hundreds of verses of Holy Scripture. As my eyesight fades with age making it more and more difficult to read, I will have much of the Bible tucked away inside of me, learned “by heart,” to recall whenever I need it.
Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best to young Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14–17).
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Teacher's Interaction.