Tips for Memorizing Scripture as a Family
Recently, one of my students shared her frustration and discouragement about not being able to recall Bible verses that she recently committed to memory. I assured her that this happens to the best of us. For starters, remember that while some people are more naturally gifted at memorizing, it is a skill that can be developed. What is the prize? Having God’s Word stored away in your heart so that it is easily accessible in times of need. For example, Psalms 119:11 reads: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (ESV). This one verse suggests that memorizing Scripture, among other things, is intrinsically connected to the sanctification of the whole person (body and soul) which no doubt involves resisting sin for God’s pleasure and our good. It can and ought to play a vital, joyful, and formative role in the spiritual life of each individual, family, and church.
Memorizing Scripture as a family has reinforced something that I have always believed: anyone can do it. Our oldest is eight years of age and our middle child is four. We homeschool our oldest and include our four-year-old due to the natural integration of education with our daily life in the home. We learn as a family, convinced that education is not something that is only reserved for scheduled and structured times. In our morning time that my wife leads, Scripture memory is a staple. While my wife takes the lead in our son’s education, leading our family Scripture memory time is one of my roles. In what follows, I want to share a few tips that can make a significant difference.
Memorize from the Same Version
First, memorize verses out of the same version of the Bible. If you switch back and forth, you will soon get confused, possibly a bit anxious, and discouraged. Also, memorizing from different versions of the Bible unnecessarily complicates the process, which for children can be a ticket to failure.
Read and Memorize from the Same Version
Second, memorize verses from the same version that you like to read from. For example, I enjoy reading devotionally from the New International Version (NIV) although I will use other translations when studying. My wife also reads from the NIV. Thus, we as a family memorize out of this version. The consistency is helpful and refreshing because we are not quoting different versions of each verse when we go around the table. It is paramount that parents do the hard work of thinking through these matters so that there is a natural flow and ease to the process so that our children will want to continue. We want our kids to enjoy storing God’s words in their heart. If they associate Scripture memory with a can-do attitude, family fun, and encouragement, then it is likely that they will continue this live-giving and transformational practice throughout their lives.
Use the Chunk Method
Third, use the chunk method when memorizing. For example, my family and I just memorized Acts 4:12. It states, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (NIV). We broke this into four parts: (1) Salvation is found in no one else, (2) for there is no other name under heaven, (3) given to mankind, (4) by which we must be saved. On the first day, we started with part one. I read the entire verse and then we all went around and said the first part. On the second day, I read the entire verse, quoted the first and second part to the family, and then had everyone go around one-by-one and say both phrases. We help each other as needed but don’t rush in to save. It is okay for someone to struggle a bit if the overall atmosphere is encouraging. We continue adding a part of the verse until we have memorized the entire verse. Also, and this is important, we don’t move ahead to the next verse too quickly. Once each person can effortlessly quote the entire verse from memory, we usually start a new verse within 2–3 days.
Fourth, REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW. Right before we memorized Acts 4:12, we memorized John 14:6. Hopefully you can see a theme: salvation is only attainable through faith in Jesus Christ. In our pluralistic setting, this belief is radically at odds with the various messages in our postmodern culture. Thus, we are tactfully choosing themes that I want to emphasize so that our children know what the Bible teaches on matters that will be challenged more than others. Concerning review, every person in the family has to go around and quote John 14:6 (yes, I make them say the address as well) before we work on Acts 4:12. This aids in etching the verse into long-term memory. While we are focused on Acts 4:12, we are briefly rehearsing John 14:6 each morning. When we move on to the next verse, we will rehearse Acts 4:12 every morning and then move to rehearsing John 14:6 only once or twice per week instead of once per day.
The world around us is aggressive in trying to teach our children ideas and ways that are not in line with God’s truth and will, so if we care about our children’s spiritual life, then intentionality and effort is required. Memorizing is one of the many ways that we can love and glorify God with our minds. As the Scripture commands, “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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5–9).