When I was younger, I used to play a specific videogame with my brothers. To this day, I can walk through every square inch of that game in my mind. In part, it’s because I invested so many of my early days immersed in this virtual world. There are things I wish I could remember now (like where I left two of my kids’ bibs—they honestly might be gone forever), but I can effortlessly recall all the hidden items in this game in case anyone wanted to know.
Now, imagine what would have happened if I would have invested the same level of mental energy in Scripture memory?
What’s the Purpose of Scripture Memory?
As a Christian adult who wants desperately to know God and walk with him, I now wish I could trade some of the worthless information in my head for something far more edifying. Further, the things I invested in during my childhood have far more impact on my current life than many more recent decisions.
Why do we cheer for certain sports teams? Why do we have a special affection for certain places? Where do many of our preferences and personality quirks come from? Childhood. What we learn in childhood ripples massively for the rest of our lives.
Don’t we want God’s Word to play the biggest role? If we believe this, then we will teach our children to memorize Scripture from a young age.
What Culture Gets Wrong About our Minds
Some fear that this is indoctrination. I agree; My answer is that we need to be indoctrinated. We are not morally good (or even neutral) beings that will flourish if only left to our own devices. That mentality permeates our culture; it is the reason people bristle at the thought of training a child in one, correct belief.
Contrary to our culture, though, the Bible teaches that we are sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5). This means that all of our desires, instincts, thoughts, and emotions are tainted by sin (Jer. 17:9). If left to our own devices, we will actually destroy ourselves and others (James 4:1-2). We need something outside of ourselves to train us to think correctly. We need to be taught and to rehearse “doctrine,” or absolute truth about God, to conform ourselves closer to the way he created us to be (Rom. 12:1-2).
So, Can Kids Retain Scripture they Memorize?
In this regard, children are at a tremendous advantage. Children have not had nearly as many years to be conformed to other ways of thinking. They do not have long-established habits and thought processes that need to be unlearned while they learn. In addition, their minds are taking in and processing massive amounts of information.
Think of the development any one of your children has undergone this past year. It’s incredible! So why do we think it incredible that a child could memorize Scripture?
How to Memorize Scripture with Your Child
At this point, even if you are convinced of the benefits of teaching your children to memorize Scripture, you might still wonder how to go about doing it. Here are some tips:
1. If they can talk, they can memorize
Children as young as two can begin memorizing simple truths about God (Ex. God is strong, God knows everything) and short Bible Verses (Gen. 1:1; John 3:16). Try working on one new verse each month until they reach kindergarten.
- Helpful Resource: The Foundation Verses
2. Establish a routine to build memorization into your children’s rhythms and for your own accountability. Wake-up time, mealtimes, and bedtimes provide natural moments throughout your day to build in memorization.
3. When children reach Elementary age, consider memorizing a weekly verse as a family.
- Helpful Resource: College Park Church’s features a weekly teaching based on the Fighter Verse Bible memory plan
4. Set the verses to music to aid in memorization. You will be amazed how often you will catch your family singing these songs throughout the week.
- Helpful Resources: Some musical artists already doing this well include Seeds Family Worship and The Verses Project. We like to listen to songs based on the Fighter Verses in the car.
5. In addition to memorizing the Bible, you might consider adding catechism to your routine. Christians throughout history have used catechism as way to teach truths about God in a simple question and answer format. Young children will surprise you with how easily they can pick up simplified versions of catechism answers.
- Helpful Resource: The New City Catechism (designed for children)
What Scripture Memory Is Not
Let me be clear: Scripture memorization does not ensure that your children will become believers. I am not implying that the key to a Christian adult is indoctrination from their youth. The Holy Spirit alone has to regenerate hearts and stir faith. But the Holy Spirit’s saving work only happens through the Word of God.
So, the most loving thing you could do for your child is build them a foundation on the Word of God. At worst, he or she will grow up having their instincts shaped and their consciences afflicted by the Word. Even if they reject Christ, it is likely that some of their actions and thinking will be shaped by the Word, and God will get glory simply from his ways still being seen in the world. In addition, the gospel will be preached to them over and over through the Scripture stored up in their minds. This might be exactly what God uses to bring them to himself when they are finally “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and driven to repentance.
At best, the Holy Spirit might bring your child to salvation from a young age. Then, he or she could begin building on the foundation of biblical truth—allowing God’s Word to undergird everything they think and do. This, in turn, would result in a life lived fruitfully and faithfully for God’s glory. And imagine how much more glory God could get from a life lived faithfully from the earliest age! Imagine how much more fruit you could have demonstrated if God’s Word had been more deeply engrained in your heart, helping you avoid some of the sinful pitfalls of growing up and their resultant, continuing consequences.
Parents, take advantage of these early years to build this foundation of truth. Then, marvel at the thought of what God might build on it.