We were sitting in church one Sunday morning when Jude was three. Our pastor was giving the message, and Jude was quietly reading books and munching on Cheerios. At three years old, we didn’t have the highest of expectations that he would grasp much of the sermon, but he had expressed to us a number of times that he preferred to be with us rather than in childcare (which we were glad about).
At one point in the sermon, John 3:16 was quoted, and Jude’s head shot up, looking at us with wide and excited eyes. “I know that one!” He said enthusiastically. Even once the service was over, he continued to mention throughout the rest of the day how he had heard one of the verses he knew. It then gave us an opportunity to explain a little bit more about the sermon and why the verse had been used. Even though it was a simple start, it was profound for our little guy as he put pieces together in his mind.
We see throughout the Bible that learning, meditating on, and memorizing Scripture is vastly important for someone who wants to faithfully love and obey God (Deut. 4:14; Josh. 1:8; Psa. 119:48). But why is it so vital for us to teach our children to memorize Scripture?
The foundational principle of this is summed up in Psalm 119:9, 11, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. … I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
The reason we are to help our children “store up” or memorize Scripture is so that they will know how to walk in obedience to God and not sin against Him. Young children are like sponges, and there is no better way to take advantage of that during the young years of their brain development than by filling their minds and hearts with eternal, life-giving Truth. As they grow, they will be faced with situations where they have to make a decision in a moment and won’t have time to come to us for advice or flip open their Bibles to find the truth that applies. It’s in those moments that they can rely on the Word of God hidden in their hearts to walk in a manner that is pure and upright before Him.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We must also remember that the Bible is not simply a helpful book of guidelines—it actually has the power to transform lives by God’s Spirit. As we are helping our young children memorize Scripture, we can trust that it is planting seeds in their little lives that will grow and leave an eternal impact.
I have heard stories of people who have grown up in Christian families yet decided to go their own way. Then years down the road, they heard something that reminded them of a verse they had memorized when they were young, and the Lord used that to open their eyes and bring them back to Himself. We must never underestimate the life-transforming power that Scripture can have in the lives of our children.
Helping your children memorize Scripture may seem daunting to you if this is something that isn’t your forte. But it’s never too late to begin! Here are a few things to help you get started.
1. One Verse at a Time
We have chosen to start with verses that are simple yet communicate the foundational principles of Christianity in a single verse. We started with Genesis 1:1 and would say it several times before bed until Jude could say it on his own after a couple of weeks. We have added quite a few more verses since then, and our two-year-old daughter, Jenesis, has also begun to memorize them with us. The neat thing is that as we are helping them to memorize verses, we are memorizing them, too!
2. Use Rhythm or Song
One helpful tool for us has been clapping a rhythm along with the verse. This helps it stick in their minds, similar to how a song would. In fact, I know other parents who have made verses into songs for this same reason.
One incredible tool for this is Steve Green’s “Hide ‘Em in Your Heart” albums. I listened to these all growing up and still have quite a few verses that I remember to this day through learning those songs. Along with the intentional times we have of teaching our kids Scripture, we also play these throughout the day as we’re doing our various activities.
3. Be Consistent
One very important aspect of memorization is consistency. So purposing to have a regular time each day when Scripture memorization is practiced is really helpful. For us, this takes place in the evening right before bed. But for others it may be that in the morning or right after lunch works better. The time of day ultimately doesn’t matter, but what does matter is that our children learn to recognize this as a regular and important part of life.
4. Use the Scriptures in Daily Life
I cannot count the times that we have brought up memorized Scripture as we’ve been going about our day. For example, one of the verses we’ve memorized together is Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” When one of them is having a hard time obeying, we quote the verse together and talk through what it means—that they are being foolish if they are despising our instruction. It’s amazing to see that very often they seem to really “get it,” and there are little (even if just momentary) improvements.
You can never go wrong if you are instructing your children straight from Scripture as it applies to that situation. This helps them see that memorizing Scripture isn’t something we do “just because” but that it actually practically applies to our lives every single day.
Teaching our young children to memorize Scripture takes time, and it isn’t always easy as we handle the short attention spans and busy schedules. But making this investment into their little lives will be an eternal one that we will never, ever regret. God will give you wisdom as you seek to lead your little ones to Him in the big and small moments of every day.
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