As Christians, I have tried to include a family Bible lesson in our homeschool day for many years. What that has looked like has varied, whether it is using a structured Bible study book or simply reading and discussing a chapter straight from the Bible. But until this year, one thing I have never made a priority during this time is putting Scripture verses to memory. One reason for this was that our kids already attended Awana, a program where they worked on memory verses. But since our girls started to age out of the program, and then the pandemic finally killed it at our church, our family has done very little in the way of Scripture memory.
This summer we found ourselves on the lookout for a new church, and my husband and I agreed that the inclusion of an Awana program was a priority. We did find such a church, but I realized that though my boys would now be in Awana, my girls are all too old for it. I wanted something that would challenge them, too. I also saw some unhealthy attitudes and behaviors in my children, and I knew Scripture memory would help them to keep words of truth and wisdom more readily available in their minds (Isaiah 55:11). Thus, we have begun making memorizing Bible verses a part of our regular family study.
Benefits of Scripture Memorization
Memorization is a skill that has fallen out of favor with the education world in recent years, with skills like critical thinking taking precedence. With the advent of Google and smartphones, we have worlds of information literally at our fingertips—why memorize it? Yet if we rely too much on our phones, we are not storing that information in our minds, and we cannot critically think from a position that lacks information. As an article from Education Week puts it:
“[C]an you imagine a world where you have to look up the answers to everything you ask during any given day? Our time would be much less efficient, and we would not be any closer to solving complex problems that rely on memorization and understanding of more simple information. For example, if students do not know their multiplication tables, how can we expect them to complete any math problems requiring that understanding as a base?”
The same argument can be applied to Scripture memorization. If you don’t have verses already planted in your mind, they cannot offer words of wisdom and truth in times when they need to be applied.
I have always tried to make sure my children are grasping the concepts behind the verses we read, but I have not always tried to ensure that they remember the verses themselves. Proverbs often speaks of wisdom and understanding, which are arguably superior; but it also speaks of knowledge, which is a prerequisite of the other two. Teaching our children to memorize not only keeps their minds filled with the Truth, but it gives them sharper weapons to use in the battles of life.
Where Do We Fit It In?
If you do not already have Bible time incorporated into your school day, I highly recommend it. Our typical time allotment is about 30 minutes. As for the memorization portion, I simply include about 5 minutes or so at the end of our study to work on the verse together. When the verse is first introduced, we read it over together, and I take a few extra minutes or even the entire study time to discuss the meaning of the verse. Then for the rest of the week (or two), we practice our memorization.
Memorization Tips and Tricks
The main trouble with memorization is that the process tends to be boring. To avoid this, I try to use a variety of different strategies, mixing them up to keep it interesting. Here are a few tips for memorization that I have found to be effective over the years.
- Simple repetition. This one is obvious (and the most boring), but it does work! Have you ever read the same book to your preschooler so many times that you memorized it without even realizing it? There you go!
- Keep it visible. Some people like to put the verse on a sticky note or an index card and leave it in a highly visible place. Recently, I have written the verse(s) out on a white board, which I leave by the fireplace in the living room. Then we can view it not only during our Bible study time, but anytime someone walks into the room.
- Write it out. Writing something down forces you to think through it more slowly, taking in every word. Some families opt to use Scripture journals, where each student writes out the passage on the day they learn it. The beauty of this option is then you have a journal with all the verses you have memorized in it!
- Illustrate it. My parents had a tradition of having my siblings and I recite Luke 2:1–16 (the story of Jesus’ birth) every Christmas season. My mom drew a picture on an index card to represent each verse to prompt us. I can still remember what many of them looked like, and I have tried to replicate them as I’ve passed this tradition on to my own children.
- Put it to a tune. My youngest son loves to sing, and since his Awana leaders taught him his first verse in song, he now wants me to put every one of his verses to a tune. He sometimes remembers them better than I do!
- Put it to a rhythm. If you are not particularly musical, you can still find rhythms in the words of a verse to make them more memorable. Certain words can be emphasized or said in a different pitch. It may sound silly, but it helps! I still remember the exact inflections my dad used to teach us certain verses in childhood.
- Add hand motions. This one is especially useful to make memorization more interesting for young children.
- Use mnemonics. A technique or device to aid in Scripture memory, this is especially valuable for Scriptures including lists (like the fruit of the Spirit).
- Phrase by phrase. This is my current favorite for use during family memorization time. First we read the verse over, and then we try to recite it one phrase at a time, taking turns. This way, we all hear the entire verse, but we only have to remember one or two phrases at a time.
- Word by word. This is a strategy I’ve often used with my kids (and younger siblings, back in the day) to get the verse “word perfect” once they are already mostly familiar. Again, we take turns, each saying one word at a time. Then we switch who begins, until everyone has said every word of the verse.