One of the areas of research closely followed at Teach One Reach One Ministries is memory. Young people not only have to know and understand what God wants them to do, but they need to remember it in real life situations under pressure. Could encouraging kids and teens to memorize and regularly review key passages of scripture improve their memories of those verses and by extension their ability to live them?
It’s a complicated question, because faith and obedience are mainly about the heart. How many times, though, have young people made poor choices or sinned, because they honestly didn’t remember what God wanted them to do?
We have been unable to find anyone who has done an empirical study on the topic (Are you listening Barna?!). The book Walking on Einstein by Joshua Foer has a couple of quotes that may begin providing some insight. Fore’s research found that reading in ancient times wasn’t done as we do it today – for mere pleasure or skimming for nuggets of information. Rather, reading of old involved meditating, discussing – dwelling in the words and thoughts of the author. Memorization was an important skill taught to everyone and there are stories of unbelievable feats of memory regularly performed – even during the Colonial era of the U.S.
The Italian poet Petrarch said, “I ate (read) in the morning what I would digest in the evening; I swallowed as a boy what I would ruminate upon as an older man. I have thoroughly absorbed these writings; implanting them not only in my memory, but in my marrow.” He thought about what he read so deeply and so often, it literally became a part of who he was.
Even more interesting is that Augustine supposedly spent so much time reading and thinking about the book of Psalms that it seemed he could no longer write without referring to them in some way! Wouldn’t it be amazing if our young people were that steeped in all of God’s words?
It’s not going to be easy. It’s counter cultural not only in our secular world, but in the church. It’s going to take educating parents and helping young people become passionate about scripture. We can’t do memory work in the old ways and expect young people to embrace it. This is truly about becoming passionate about having God’s words engraved on the hearts of all of God’s people.
We have many past posts on encouraging memory work and making it easier and more impactful. Take some time and use our search function to read those previous posts. Read the section on memory in our free ebook Effective Ministry to Children. Use those best practices. Share any new ideas you find that work with us, so we can share them with others. Until we have empirical data that proves otherwise, we need to assume memorizing scripture – or at least the essence of it – is one of the critical keys to helping young people be obedient to God.