In many churches, Bible memorization is an essential part of their Sunday school or children’s ministry. Most Sunday school curriculum options have some element of Bible memory. Programs like AWANA are built upon a high value for scripture memory.
But memorization is not a universal value in Christian Education. I am in a master’s level course titled Biblical Worldview and Educational Practice at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY. We’ve been discussing philosophies of education and how they have impacted local church ministry. The goal is to arrive at a more biblical approach to Christian education rather than just copying the latest educational trends.
As you might guess, traditionalism (more specifically Perennialism and Essentialism) highly valued teaching methods like drills and rote memory. Their approach was to promote the learners’ will power and train their mental capacity. In other words, traditional education approached schooling like physical training or even boot camp.
But a movement called Progressivism came on strong in the early 1900’s. Its advocates were strongly opposed to any passive learning by memorization of information. High value was placed on problem solving and maximum student involvement.
Historically, churches have been moving away from rote memory. Some of this has been good. Any veteran Sunday school teacher will tell you the value of active learning. But sometimes I think we’ve gone too far.
The Bible speaks very positively about scripture memory and meditation. If you’re not convinced, just read Psalm 119 or Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4. Knowing the Bible from memory is a great benefit for everyone.
Too often we confuse child focused teaching with low expectation teaching. It’s one thing to accommodate the developmental realities of childhood. But it becomes a problem when use “kids will be kids” as an excuse not to challenge children in Sunday school.
Our ministry has experimented with several ways of doing Bible memory. In Sunday school, our curriculum encouraged the children to learn one verse each week. In Children’s church I have a set of 10 verses we reinforce every week through drills and games. These verses rotate over time. We’ve also taught the children extended passages of scripture like Psalm 23, The 10 Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and Psalm 1. Our Wednesday night club program has children learn a 21 verse Gospel outline over the school year.
What do you think? Leave me a comment below to join the conversation. How much Bible memory do you expect from children in your ministry?
photo credit: culture.culte