Unpacking LWGFC: The Curse of the Memory Verse

I have seen more poo flung over whether children should be forced or invited or rewarded or coerced to memorize verses of Scripture. I have seen entire children’s departments lose their ever-loving-minds over this issue.

So I’d like to start off by taking a nice, long, deep breath. Inhale… Exhale… There.

One more if you need to. That’s better.

Children learn in various ways. Some learn through observation, others must touch everything.  They connect with others in various ways as well. Some need to be hugged and held, others need constant words of affirmation.

There isn’t really a “one size fits all” mold of how children will grow in their life with God. Likewise children will not encounter Scripture in the same way. 

Some children will thrive on Scripture memory, pursuing every jot and tittle will encourage and thrill them to no end. They might see their success in memorizing as a commentary on their relationship with God, which it is not.

Some children will be turned off by Scripture memory; they will see their struggle to memorize as a commentary on their relationship with God. Which it is not.

The ability to memorize is not a reflection of a child's connection with God. 

However, memorizing not only molds the mind, but also the soul. The Scripture that children commit to memory will stay with them for a lifetime. Scripture memory is encouraged, even commanded. Psalm 119: 9, 11, Joshua 1:8, 2 Tim. 3:16, Deut. 11:18, Psalm 1:1-3, Col. 3:16… and so on.

What do we do with this tension? We live in it. In Life with God for Children we decided to embrace both positions. Yes, Scripture memory is profitable and necessary. Yes, memorizing it word for word is not for every person. 

Here are a few tips to live in the tension.

1.     We provide a focus verse, which is a verse from the reading that is a reminder of the story at hand. It is a place to hang our hat, to jog our memory.  Focus on this verse, talk about it, unpack the meaning, act it out, chant it. In short-- Engage with this verse. This verse in some instances can be used as a memory verse. When it is not as helpful for memorizing we have provided an alternate.

2.     Make memorizing a game. In the introduction we’ve included a set of memorization games. Use them. Have fun. In addition you can copy them and send them home as something fun to do with parents.  

3.     Skip the rewards. The fact is if we label some as winners, some will be labeled as losers. Memorizing can be fun and engaging, but it should never be equated with worth. Worth is embedded in extrinsic rewards, so just steer clear. 

4.    Be aware. There are going to be some children who struggle to memorize. Meet these children where they are. Ask them to tell you what they would like to try. Let them be the guide. 

5.    Embrace freedom. Do what is best for your class. Remember we are teaching children, not curriculum. 

May God bless us all with his living words of life. 

May we have the ears and hearts to hear.