Memorizing Scripture With Kids

One of our family’s biggest goals is having our children memorize lots and lots of scripture. We used to do single verses (and start with the excellent ABC Bible verses when our kids are preschoolers), but Anna told me several years ago that her family was having success learning bigger chunks together. Since Anna and I actually memorized some pretty great chunks together in college—Proverbs 31, Ephesians 1, Romans 8, a few Psalms—I figured we’d try it with T, too. After working through some Psalms, my husband decided we should tackle a Gospel. We memorize in the ESV, as we find it to be readable and accurate, and most of the churches we’ve been a part of have made the move to the ESV. Currently, my son and I are memorizing the gospel of Mark, just finishing up chapter 6. Since my oldest daughter joined us for formal school this year, she jumped in with us on the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter in 5.

What we do is simply take a new verse every school day and repeat it until it is memorized. On Fridays, we cycle through and review the previous chapters we’ve learned. It’s simple, but a few of you have asked for more details. Here’s what we do.

I have written out each verse in our school planner, so after we’ve started our day with prayer, I read it out loud to the kids several times. If there are any new words they don’t understand (last week, it was “overhearing”), I stop and explain the meaning to them. Once they feel comfortable, they start saying pieces of it along with me. Then we break it up and say phrases back and forth to each other, taking turns. Then we do one word at a time, with me pointing to each of us when it’s our turn to say the next word. Once we feel pretty confident, we lock it in by saying it in different silly voices: cowboy, princess, pirate, lego micromanager, robot, British accent, lion, mouse, Valley girl, opera singer. On days when they have the sillies, I have them clap each syllable as we say it. Or we sing and dance each word. Or hop or skip or march each word. Often, if it’s a bit convoluted (“to Caperneum, and Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon”), we’ll use hand or finger motions to help keep the phrases straight.

Finally, we put it in context, backing up a couple verses in the chapter and adding our new verse to the end. If the verse breaks off mid-sentence (or if it’s so long that we needed to divide it up between two days), I’ll finish by reading what’s coming next.

All in all, it usually takes less than 10 minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, we’ll often to ESV verses set to music (Seeds Family Worship or Fighter Verse songs) or just to You’ve Got the Time (an audio version of the NT, read aloud with some sound effects in 30 minute podcast segments). We don’t formally work to memorize those verses, but it’s amazing how well they get hidden in our hearts, too.

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