Tips for Enjoying Scripture Memory (with kids or kids at heart!)

The kids and I have memorized lots of scripture together. The key for us has been keeping it simple and enjoyable.

Why do it at all? Because life throws hurdles and darts, and God says that His word is many things for us:
power-giving, direction-setting, wisdom-finding, life-sustaining!  

Memorizing doesn't have to be a chore. It doesn't even have to be work--it can be enjoyable! Really!

Here's how to keep scripture memory simple, enjoyable, and effective:

1. Select a passage rather than individual verses.

Things are not only easier to understand in context, they're easier to memorize because you're putting more meaning to the words as it flows from thought to thought. Choose a short passage (a dozen or so verses) in a translation with easy language. If all you have is a King James Bible, select the same passage at BibleGateway.com in either NIV or ESV translation. (If you don't have a passage in mind, I will make a few suggestions at the bottom of this post).

2. Read the passage aloud together during a meal.

Adding scripture to this time serves you in 3 ways--1. It makes an already enjoyable time even more meaningful, 2. It changes perspective--memorizing isn't a task, it is something that can be done socially, 3. It ties the memorization to something that is naturally in your schedule already, so it is easier to be consistent and not forget.
[If you're not in the habit of dining with others, I encourage you to start. Eating together is a foundational way to bond relationships--whether family or friends.]

3. Recite aloud one verse. 

After you have read the passage aloud, then re-read the first verse. Repeat it phrase by phrase and then again in its entirety. If there are any words that you don't know, look it up quickly. You will remember it better if you know what it means. If the verse sounds confusing, sometimes I restate its general idea more plainly. (This carries the added bonus of upping everyone's literacy! Yay!)

4. Repeat #2 and #3 each day. 

On the next day, do it again, but this time reciting the next verse in succession and so on each day. The process takes less than 5 minutes, but this simple daily exercise will render a memorized passage in a couple of weeks. Easy and stress-free!

5. Keep saying the previous verses.

To be sure you're retaining the scriptures you've already repeated, keep saying them. This again doesn't have to be a chore. You can do it a couple of ways--when you're reading the passage initially, you can try to say the previous verses from memory. Or you can make it like a game, "Who can say yesterday's verse?" "Who can recite all of them?" Reward if you choose--sometimes we reward with smiles and claps, sometimes it's a mini-marshmallow, haha, you choose how. 

Pro-tip:

Your attitude is everything! Stay relaxed, stay smiling. If you're doing this with your kids, sometimes they may groan (rarely do we have a groan-free activity when kids are involved...why do they still groan when we say "brush your teeth"--haven't they come to expect this by now?), so be prepared for that and respond accordingly. If you respond with harshness or demands, then you're turning scripture into a chore instead of a shared activity. If you let their complaints dictate whether you do it, then you're letting them be the parent instead of you. Don't let their initial criticism deter you. Let their complaints bounce off of you, and say with a smile, "This is what we're doing as a family." And keep going. After a few days (and a few mini-marshmallows) they will accept the new activity. We rarely receive groans regarding this anymore. They have grown to like it! 

For parents of really little children:

A question I get often is "when can you start?" Start now! All 3 of my kids could recite Galatians 5:22-23 at 2.5 years old. Honestly we weren't doing it in the ways I've mentioned above. We just read the Beary Patch Bears before bed everyday, which has Gal. 5 on the last page. One day I realized they could say it from memory--just from hearing it repeated! Even if your child isn't verbal, they can still absorb and retain things that they hear you repeat. Even if they don't comprehend all of the words, they will comprehend your care for them and your love for God's words! What a gift to give them!

Ramp up the fun activities (options for extending the experience):

Get Artsy: This summer, we got each of my kids an inexpensive notebook and they wrote the day's verse on a single page. My daughters like to write in fancy fonts and add cute doodles or drawings that help express the meaning of the verse. Another benefit to having this notebook is that sometimes the entirety of the Bible can be overwhelming for them to dive into. When they are upset--mad at their sibling or us, or sad or scared, we encourage them to turn to scripture, and having these small notebooks has been a great resource.

Get Musical: We have friends who make up their own tunes to the scriptures they're learning. Seeds Family Worship also has scripture to music. Anything you learn to music will stick in your head for your whole life. Think about that commercial jingle from your childhood. ;) 

Get Theatrical: Another family we know likes to act out the passage they are learning. Everyone plays a character and they move about the living room saying the words on cue. Scripture isn't boring--it's alive and active! Keep it out of the classroom and bring it into the playroom! 

Any other ideas? Leave them in the comments here!

Long-term memory: 

We revisit passages that we've previously memorized. After we've completed one, we try to recite it about once a week for a month--we usually do this while riding in the car. After we've completed that, we try to recite it once a month. Again I keep it casual, usually while driving, "Let's say John chapter 1!" 
I can't tell you how invaluable it has been! When I have these words stored in my heart, I can access them at any moment. They counsel me, and they also help me counsel my children. It's doubly beneficial when they know them too. It's not just me preaching to them--they remember that there was a context to these words. They know there are larger forces at work. I can see them internalize these truths. Fear or anger melts away, and their faces physically change as God moves their heart from the inside out! It's a beautiful thing, and something that I can never accomplish for them. 

I can guide their hearts, but I can't change their hearts. Only God can do that. But I can help them learn His words, so we do that as simply and enjoyable as possible!

Suggested passages to get you started:

Proverbs 3:1-12
1 John 4:7-16
Philippians 4:4-9
John 1:1-14
Psalm 20
Ephesians 6:10-20
Deuteronomy 6:3-9

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