How Important is Bible Memorization In Your Children’s Ministry?

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


Comments

  1. Susan DeLaney says

    I really appreciate this input. I have been doing one memory verse a week, and I usually type up a little homework paper that helps them study the verse over the week. Years ago, with another class I had, I had the kids repeat each verse for four weeks, until they had four verses, then drop off the oldest one. I get concerned because they often forget the verses as fast as they learned them. I also am looking for the best solution to test memory verses without taking too much class time; right now I pass out 1/2 sheets of paper and have the kids write the verse out.I have been wondering what other teachers do; having the kids say the verse, takes time, plus the other kids can hear it! I like your idea, Tony, of picking 10 verses that are reviewed regularly.

  2. Pat says

    I totally agree. Scripture memory is appropriate. Your list is so like mine! (it’s encouraging). I’ve added Psalm 91 or 34 to that list. I’m going to let our 5th graders choose which of the two they want to memorize.

  3. Debi says

    I agree completely; I think you have a good balance here. Where can I find the Wednesday night club program you use?

  4. says

    Tony, I love the article! God desires His truth to be fixed upon our hearts.

    “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” Deuteronomy 11:18

    ” Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .” Colossians 3:16

    God’s Word, from the page to the heart where it does its best life forming and transforming work.

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