The ultimate aim in memorizing the Word of God is to know Him more and to know how to live to please Him. We want kids to love God and love His Word and want to commit it to memory. The greater treasury of God’s Word we can store up in our memories, the greater the scope the Holy Spirit has to remind us and bring them to mind when we need them.
The Bible teaches in Ephesians 6 that we are in a battle as believers in Jesus, and the one offensive weapon we have is the Sword of the Spirit - the Word of God. Just as parents wouldn't knowingly send their children into a sports game without the proper safety equipment, we need to similarly arm and equip them with the truth for the much more serious spiritual battles.
What are our own truth-treasure reserves like? How can we help kids build up their own reserves while they are young?
How to Memorize?
Many people struggle with rote learning, so sometimes, we may need a multi-learning-style approach to helping kids remember God’s Word. Here are a few strategies:
- For many, embedding Scripture in songs or to a beat can be a great help in having God’s Word sink deep into their memories.
- Repetition is a tried and tested learning aid as kids say the words out loud together as a group each week or individually at breakfast or bedtime with a parent.
- For others, having spoken words accompanied by actions/motions can be very helpful. Or even acting out the verse(s).
- A quick search on YouTube and a growing number of Bible reading apps provide ‘bedtime’ selections of Bible verses that kids can listen to as they fall asleep. You could record and create your own too. What a great way to end the day drifting off to truth, whether spoken or sung!
- Tried and tested word elimination games work well, whether popping balloons or eating a word on a cupcake until kids can recite the whole verse.
(If you’re shooting for the whole Torah, this approach may not be the best!!)
- For some kids, an appropriate element of competition, whilst not the ideal sole motivation, can add a helpful dimension to memorization! As can rewards!!
What to Memorize?
Even very young children can be taught and encouraged to memorize Scripture.
As teachers of the Word, it is our job to explain what a verse teaches and simplify things in an age-appropriate way but stick with wording that may be a little or a lot over their heads. We can give children new vocabulary. The danger is to water verses down so much they can lose their meaning and beauty. Let’s move our expectations of kids’ ability upwards rather than downwards. As they grow they will come to understand and appreciate the truth they have learned.
This brings us to the question - which version of the Bible should we use? We all have our favorite version but there are definitely some versions that whilst beautiful and nostalgic for many, present another layer of difficulty for kids! We need to shoot for simple, accurate, and concise in equal measure. It need not be a kids’ version for the reasons stated above. The verses below are taken from the NIV (pre-2011 edition).
Which Seven Verses?
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”- John 3:16
Without a doubt, the most well-known Scripture reference and the precious gospel in a nutshell. This is what we want all children to understand as it shouts God’s love.
- Jesus answered, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”- John 14:6
Jesus the only way to God the Father and the source of truth and life.
This verse flies in the face of the idea that all religions ultimately lead to God. Jesus is the only way to be saved, and this is why people need to know about him.
- “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”- Romans 3:23,24
We need to be aware of the problem of sin in order to fully grasp God’s love in rescuing us from its consequences. We often stop short of verse 24 but again, what a great opportunity to talk about ‘falling short’ and being ‘justified’ and of ‘redemption’ through Jesus. Treasure indeed!
- “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” - Ephesians 2:8,9
How important for kids to realize the gospel is all about what Jesus has done and not about trying to be good enough. What a great protection for kids against the moralistic therapeutic deism that suffocates the faith of many young people. This verse provides an opportunity to teach about and give definitions for faith and grace.
- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correctingand training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3:16
Why is the Bible important for us to read? Here’s the answer for kids. God inspired it for us! A great lesson for upper elementary would be to look at the five different uses and how the Bible does each of those things for us.
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”- Proverbs 3:5,6
What a great practical verse for everyday life for kids. Involving God in every aspect of life rather than boxing him up for Sundays. It’s worth noting with kids, too, that it doesn’t promise all will go great and that life will be problem-free. Those straight paths could be straight up a steep hill, but they will get you where you need to be!
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:3,4
How much do children learn from us about the hope with have in Jesus for the future? There may be a variety of eschatological views and timelines within the church, but we all agree ultimately we will be with God, and he will make everything new. These verses give us a great description of something of what that will be like. Something children can grasp a hold of and anticipate.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list but perhaps seven to consider starting with and adding to. Above making scripture memorization a school-like drudgery for kids, let's share with them our own love of God’s truth and ask him to help us have a contagious enthusiasm and love for his Word.