I attended my first homeschool conference when my oldest child was only two years old. (Let’s just say I’m a little eager in the homeschooling department.) Anyways, I bought some CD’s of workshops given by Rick and Marilyn Boyer, who were featured speakers at the conference that year.  The Boyers, who have a double-digit number of children, spoke of how they use the Scriptures to train their children. I was truly inspired by what I heard and by how deliberately they applied the Scriptures on a daily basis in the raising of their children, especially with Scripture memorization. It was at that point I started regular Scripture memorization with my daughter (who is now 4 1/2) and I haven’t looked back since.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve started the same thing with my two-year old son.  A year ago, I also started working with my daughter on memorizing the Baptist Catechism and we have successfully memorized  almost half of it. (I say “we” because it’s inevitable that I will memorize it, too. We memorize what we hear over and over.)

For those who want to teach their little ones (and even some of their bigger ones!) Scripture memorization, I thought I would give some tips based on my own experience on how to be successful at it. I hope you find this helpful.

  1. It has to be important to you! If you don’t think memorizing Scripture has any real value, then your children won’t think so either. (And in case you don’t think it’s useful, here’s a good post on the benefits of young children memorizing the Scriptures.)You must have a passion for the Scriptures and let your children see your passion. Also, notice that I didn’t say it has to be important to them. Remember, our children are at best baby Christians and very likely they may not be regenerate at all. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the day when your child approaches you and says “I’ve been thinking that memorizing Scripture is a good discipline for me to develop. I want to hide God’s Word in my heart so I might not sin against Him. Could you help me get started?” In all likelihood, this is not going to happen. To be honest, I know very few mature adult Christians who undertake the discipline of systematic Scripture memorization. But as Lou Priolo says in his book Teach Them Diligently, you want your children to “catch your enthusiasm for the Scriptures”. So, what are we to do until that happens? See number 4 below.
  2. Give it a scheduled time in your routine. In other words, make it a habit. Our scheduled time is at breakfast. It’s understood by my children that this is what we do at breakfast. We eat. I read a devotion or a Bible story. We practice verses. We practice the catechism. We clean up.  I think it’s wonderful to do Scripture memorization together during a family worship time or Bible study time. It shows that Scripture memorization is important and necessary for every one in the family and not just them. Also, I’m sure our children would love to quiz us on their memory verses. 🙂 Other times that may work for your family could be after supper or during the ride to school.
  3. Have a plan of action. Of course, you don’t have to purchase a scripture memorization program for your child, but because the Bible is so vast, it helps to have a little bit of direction. We chose to start with Foundation Verses by Children Desiring God Ministries. My daughter has finished these, so now we’re working on the verses that go with Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman. The Sunday School program at your church may also have memory verses. Or maybe your child struggles in a particular area. Memorizing verses in this area would be a good place to start. Ephesians 6:1 has always been number one on our list! 🙂
  4. Be prepared for your child to say “I don’t want to do this”. Even though I don’t get much resistance anymore, I guarantee you that my daughter would rather be dancing around the living room in her tutu and big cowboy boots than be sitting at the table and memorizing verses. And I’m sure just about every other kid on the planet can think of at least one thing that they would rather be doing than memorizing verses. But there are many things that parents will make their children do even if they “don’t want to”.  For example, how many parents would let their children go for days without brushing their teeth just because they didn’t want to?  Is Scripture memorization any less important? When I hear the “I don’t want to do this” complaint, I have one short answer that I sometimes give: “I understand that you don’t want to do it. Sometimes Mommy has to do things she doesn’t want to do, too. But we’re still going to do it”. However, I often expound this a little when I’m dealing with Scripture memorization (or even listening to a devotion or the Bible  being read). I say “God created us. God loves us. He sent his own Son to die for us even though we didn’t deserve it. He gave us His Word so we could know who He is and how we can please Him. It is the sin in our hearts that makes us not want to take time to learn and read God’s Word. Memorizing God’s Word is important because it hides it in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him. Now, would you like to work on your verses or catechism first?””
  5. Understand that it doesn’t take THAT much time. I think our entire breakfast time takes maybe thirty minutes. That includes the eating, the refilling of cereal bowls (a few times for my son), refilling milk glasses, making additional pieces of toast, preparing the baby’s breakfast, feeding the baby, asking my son “how are we supposed to be when mommy is reading?” and listening to my son answer “quiet” (repeatedly), the reading of our devotion, reviewing verses with my son and practicing a new one, ditto for my daughter, reviewing the Catechism, and practicing a new question with my daughter. Now understand that I do some of these things simultaneously. But I noticed this morning that in the time it took to make my daughter a third piece of toast, she had said all 15 of the review verses I wanted her to do today. She was finishing the last one when the toast popped up. It really doesn’t take that much time…..and that includes review. I would suggest just scheduling a time to do it (number 2 above). You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish in ten minutes!
  6. Application, Application, Application! We want God’s Word to be relevant to our little ones. We want them to see how they need it. It’s so important to apply it.  In fact, we want it to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Also, seeing how it applies to them will help motivate them to learn it. You may think that you don’t know God’s Word well enough to minister it to your children. Well, I feel that way sometimes, too. But you know what? We have to start somewhere and trust God to bring it to fruition. Remember His promise in Isaiah 55:11 :“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” We’ll all get better in the application department by the grace of God as we spend time in God’s Word. We can pray and ask the Lord to help us apply His Word daily in our life and our children’s lives. Actually, I’ve found that as we’ve memorized verses, the Lord has brought them to my mind at appropriate times to apply them in our day to day life. Wise Words for Moms is an excellent resource for application because it is organized by the problems that inevitably arise with children. Lou Priolo’s book Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scriptures in Child Training is also a good resource.
  7. Technical Considerations So, how do you actually do Scripture memorization? The Foundation Verses that I mentioned earlier have a picture associated with each verse that can be very helpful. Setting verses to music can also be useful. Here’s a post that lists a couple music resources. For a long time now, I have let my children listen to music Scripture CD’s at naptime and bedtime, and I can testify that music does work!  They can memorize effortlessly this way. However, I don’t let them listening to music be a substitute for me interacting with them with their memory verses. (See number 1 above about showing your passion for the Scriptures). I want them to know that learning their verses is more important than memorizing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” (or anything else that finds its way into their CD player). Scripture memory time and Catechism memory time with my daughter go something like this. I read the new verse (or question) a couple of times. I then take one section and have her repeat after me. We do this a few times and then we say that section together three times. She then tries it on her own with my help. We repeat this daily until she has it memorized. We always review verses she has already learned. Now, as we learn more verses, it becomes impossible to review all of them everyday. We usually review 10-15 verses per day. Right now, a verse gets reviewed every week and a half or so. Newer verses get reviewed daily. Sometimes, I’ll start a new verse and I find that she already knows it from one of her CD’s. We talk about it, it goes in our review pile and we start a new one. Now, for my 2 year old, things work a bit differently. He doesn’t quite have the concept of “repeat after me”. So I say the verse and he tries to say it with me. Eventually, we’re saying the same thing at the same time! I also stop sometimes and he will fill in the missing word. Once he can say the verse by himself, we move onto a new one. Let me add at this point, that you have to be patient. Kids learn at different paces, and they’re more attentive on some days than others. My daughter has greatly improved in her memorization skills the more we do it. I think this is probably the rule rather than the exception.  They eventually get the hang of it. I also think that as they learn that they can memorize, it motivates them to press forward and not be intimidated by longer passages or catechism questions.

I hope these suggestions will be helpful to someone. The task of teaching Scripture to our children must be bathed in prayer. Only God can change our children’s hearts. We have to pray that as we plant these seeds in their hearts that the Lord will make them grow!