God's Word in Your Child's Mind
A few years ago, at the start of a new school year, I announced to the kids that we would be memorizing the book of James.
“The whole book?” one son asked, eyes wide with surprise.
“That’s the goal,” I responded.
“Impossible!” he declared.
Up to that point, my children had memorized single verses and short passages of Scripture. I thought it was time to take on something bigger.
Memorizing God’s Word
The word of God is a living thing (Hebrews 4:12). It is our life (Deuteronomy 32:47). It brings faith (Romans 10:17), changes and sanctifies hearts (John 17:17), and guards us from sin (Psalm 119:11). The Bible calls us as parents to teach our children the word of God. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
Our children need the word of God. They need to know who God is and what he has done. They need his wisdom to shape their heart and choices. They need to know who they are and what God calls them to do. They need to know where to turn in times of trial and suffering. They need an anchor for their souls.
One of the ways to help our children learn the word of God is to have them memorize it. What we memorize shapes us. The act of Scripture memorization helps imprint the words in the heart where it lies ready for when we need it. It is these stored truths the Spirit uses to prompt us when we need it most.
Scripture Memorization Strategies
While it’s easier for children to memorize things than it is for adults, they still need a memorization strategy. Start your child with one verse and as they master it, work up to longer verses and passages. Passages to begin with are those that sum up the gospel and point to who Christ is and what he has done such as John 3:16, John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and 1 John 4:10-11. If your children are learning the catechism, considering having them learn the verses that support the catechism questions. As you choose verses and passages for your children to memorize, ask yourself what truths they need stored in their heart for later access. Such passages might include those instructing them on their identity as an image bearer, on God’s wisdom, or passages on suffering.
Here are some strategies to aid in memorization:
- Write it out and post it in a place where everyone can see it.
- Read the verse aloud together several times a day.
- Have your child write it out. There are many printable tracing pages available online for Bible passages (both manuscript and cursive). The act of writing something out helps in the memorization process.
- If memorizing a long passage, have your child write it out on 3x5 cards, a few verses on each card. They can use the cards to test themselves.
- Write out the verse on a piece of paper and leave blanks for key words. Have your child fill them in.
- Write out the verse on cards, one or two words on each card. Mix up the cards in a pile and have your child arrange the words in order.
- For children who need to practice typing, have them type out the passage.
- Go around in a circle and have everyone in the family take turns saying a different word of the verse.
- Sing the verse. Music is an excellent tool for learning. There are a number of Bible verses various musicians have put to song you can play while in the car (Steve Green and Seeds Family Worship, for example).
- Have your child get creative and draw, color, or paint the verse. (One of my kids liked drawing his in bubble letters.)
- Older children might like using technology to aid in learning verses. There are flash card apps available, as well as Bible verse memorization apps, all of which do many of the same things as listed above, but on a phone or device.
Scripture memorization, like any labor, is hard. It’s like training for a sport or pursuing an educational degree or saving money for a big purchase. It takes time. It takes intention. A person trains for a marathon one mile at a time. We memorize Scripture one word and one verse at a time.
For our family, learning the book of James was hard. We got to the end of that school year having learned the first three chapters. My children were surprised at what they could memorize. I was surprised at what I could memorize! And each of those verses remain etched on our hearts, ready and accessible at any time, feeding and sustaining us with life-giving truth.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
Christina Fox is a graduate of Covenant College and received her Master’s in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She serves on the national women’s ministry team of the PCA and is the editor of enCourage. Christina is a conference and retreat speaker and writes for a number of Christian ministries including TGC and Ligonier. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish. You can find her at www.christinafox.com.