Education has trends just like any other industry. Unfortunately, some of those trends hurt students more than they help them. Even more unfortunately, churches are often years behind the mainstream educational world in adopting new trends that are helpful and discarding those which harm our students.
Not too many years ago, the educational world abandoned memory work. The reasoning was faulty and eventually the anti-memory idea was mostly abandoned. Yet, most churches no longer encourage students to memorize parts of the Bible. Those who do still ask students to memorize only encourage a last minute short term memory of a very short weekly Bible verse.
To understand how to make memory work of Bible passages meaningful, we need to understand why we want kids and teens to memorize scripture. Life happens quickly. Decisions must often be made in a few seconds or less. Sometimes those decisions can have consequences that will follow our students for the rest of their lives. They don’t have the time or probably the inclination to stop and search their Bibles before making those choices.
The best gift you can give your students is to have those passages burned into their long term memory. As they are faced with decisions those passages will be in their minds and on their hearts to remind them of what God would want them to do. In that split second of deciding, they are armed with the knowledge of God’s plan for them and can more easily make a godly choice.
The key to putting scriptures into long term memory is two-fold. The passages need to be long enough to require the student to repeat them multiple times in order to memorize them. The passages memorized should also be read and recited multiple times even after mastered.
Giving student longer passages to memorize, in a world where it is difficult to get parents to encourage them, means you may have to be creative. We have had success by assigning points based on the length of the passage. Those who accumulate enough points by the end of the term go on a special field trip with us – usually to a museum nearby that has biblical artifacts (with fast food lunch or ice cream as part of the deal).
Presentation can help. One summer I used balloons students could pop once they memorized a passage. In each balloon was a slip of paper with their reward for memorizing the passage. Normally, I am a huge fan of the idea of the knowledge being its own reward, but in the case of Bible memorization, I am willing to look past the ideal to the reality and encourage you to do the same. It may be unfortunate children must be given incentives to memorize God’s Words, but hopefully over time your students will begin to realize those scriptures are making their life easier and better.
So pull out your Bible and find some appropriate longer passages for your students to memorize. Vary the length a bit so they are long enough that students have to work to memorize them, but not so long they give up entirely. Usually two to fourteen verses work best. I avoid one verse memory assignments because bright children can “memorize” them as they walk into your class. This short term “memorization” will leave their brains as quickly as it entered.
Giving your students the gift of memorized scripture in their brains and on their hearts can make a radical difference in how they live their lives. It’s worth the time, money and effort it may take you to help make it happen.