"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."--Psalm 119:11 This year, I have made a lofty goal for myself---memorizing the book of Ephesians. (Good luck with that, right?) I will have to say it has been years since I have disciplined myself to memorize any Scripture at all, but I have been amazed at how God has used that book to shape and guide my thoughts throughout the day.
As I wrote yesterday, memorizing Scripture is something we are attempting to work into our children's hearts and minds. Kids are at the perfect age for this. Their minds (unlike mine) absorb information rapidly. According to classical educators, the early childhood years to about late grade school years (a.k.a. the "grammar stage") is the best time for kids to learn all kinds of facts---including Scripture. However, any age, including...um, (cough cough) 40-somethings, can benefit.
One of the ways we have found very helpful for little ones is music. Steve Green has two excellent "Hide 'Em in Your Heart" CDs (shows our era, I suppose!). They are also available for all you hip parents on mp3. Each has 20 or 21 songs, with a total of 41 verses.
We played them for our babies and toddlers as background music. When they got to preschool age, we used them at appropriate situations. For example, if they were afraid of the dark, we sang "When I Am Afraid" (Track 5 from Vol. 1). We really like these because they are straight from the Word of God. He even sings the reference for many of them. This is one way to use these resources directly. I'm sure you can think of others!
What Do We Memorize?
As our kids grew older, we began to do more formal Scripture memory. I found a couple of websites with free memory verse cards. This one has pictures. This one doesn't. Each of these have different verses so once you finish a set, try another! Ministry to Children has ten memory verses with coloring pages. Learn the verse, then color the page. Post them around your home and review them regularly with your kids. If you like that list, they have 30 more, but without coloring pages.
With kids under the age of 6, it is probably best to do this with them. If you are not in the habit of memorizing Scripture yourself, I encourage you to learn alongside with them. Both of you can benefit!
Long Term Retention
Memorizing Scripture is great but what is important is remembering it. I have been guilty of cramming/quizzing my kids on their memory verses on the way to Sunday school. If they were asked next week what the verse was, they would be sunk! That is why I have been trying to work review into our kids as well. It's a work-in-progress for sure! This is what I have learned:
1. Have your kids memorize Scripture that would be a help to them in everyday situations.
Think about your kids. What 500 Scriptures will they need? Younger kids may start with the more "practical" ones. Older children may need to learn Scriptures that help them stay strong in their faith.
2. Use some type of review system.
There are many ways, but this is one way to do it. I like this because after awhile, it's hard to practice 50 verses a day! This rotational system helps them to focus on the new ones while reviewing the older ones less frequently. It gives variety and can be done in about 10 minutes a day. I started this with Matthew when he was 10 years old and he is still doing it today. If this method doesn't work, design one for your kids that does.
If your kids enjoy using the computer, iPod, iPad, etc., you may wish to consider MemLok, which focuses on long term retention using word pictures. Of course this is a little more spendy than a card box, but your whole family, including you, can use it. This program allows you to select the version and the verses you want to focus on. I don't personally use it, but wanted to share it in case it may work for your family. The Motivated Homeschooler has her personal review on it, if you want to read a testimonial.
The point is, however you do it, just do it.
The Big Picture
Let's face it. Scripture memory can be dry at times. It's not always fun. But if we want our kids to stand strong, think true, and withstand the enemy, they need to know their Bibles. It's not optional.
Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, has said, "If I had it my way, every student would know 500 verses word perfect." That's about 35 verses a year for kids from age 5-18. I personally am aiming for those 500 verses Dr. Hendricks talks about before my kids leave home. Even if I can't get that far, 100 is better than nothing.
This goes for you too, moms. If you're still not convinced, check out this video from Dr. John Piper about why this is crucial. Then jump in and get started! It's so worth it...for them and for you.