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How Not to Bribe Your Kids to Memorize Scripture

How Not to Bribe Your Kids to Memorize Scripture

I was bribed to memorize Scripture as a child.

That might sound bad, but let me explain. When I was around nine-years old, my grandma told her grandkids that if we memorized Psalm 91 she would get us a brand-new Bible with our names embossed on it. Well, that (and a little healthy competition between my cousins) was enough to get all of her grandkids to memorize the psalm. I still have that Bible, and it’s one of my favorites.

Around that same time, my family started attending a new church that had a great program for memorization. Each verse we memorized counted for two dollars toward our tuition to a Christian summer camp. Each year my goal was to earn my whole way there, so I did my best to rack up 100-150 verses.

You might call these “incentives”, but yes, technically I was bribed to memorize Bible verses. As an adult now, I am thankful for that every day.

I didn’t know at the time how much of an impact memorizing verses would have on me. Can I recite hundreds of verses by memory now? Unfortunately, no… my memory isn’t what it used to be! But I do know that every time I am facing a problem and I pray to the Lord for guidance, one of those verses invariably comes to mind.

All that time trying to commit verses to memory accomplished much more than just the goal of getting me to summer camp. It got me in God’s Word, searching for the most beautiful passages to memorize. It gave me familiarity with the pages of my Bible. It helped me discover the words as not just beautiful language, but as beautiful truth. It gave me ownership over those verses, like they weren’t just written for anyone, but they were written for me.

Memorizing scripture helped me love God’s Word.

There are other ways to help your kids to know their Bibles aside from memorizing verses, but I wanted to tell a little of my own experience first to encourage you.Don’t underestimate the impact memorizing Scripture can have on your children. It’s one of the best ways to get your kids to really learn Scripture, to understand it, and Lord willing, accept the truth of it.

(If necessary, I even recommend bribery incentives.)

If you want to take it up a notch beyond memorization, here are a few ideas.

Memorize in context.

I think we do our kids a great disservice when we have them just memorize a random verse here or there. Not only is it harder to memorize this way, but much theological or doctrinal error can result when we don’t consider verses in their context.

Talk about the passage you are memorizing, and what it means.

This could be a great way to incorporate some family Bible study.Memorize a passage of Scripture together, while talking about what it means. Do a little research on the passage and help your children understand it as they memorize it.

Talk about (and memorize) Scriptures that apply to real-life topics or situations.

We try to do this not only for situations in our children’s lives, but also for information they get from the news or from school. When a subject seems to be confusing and foggy, we can help them to see it with clear eyes by searching for what the Bible says about it. When we show our kids how the Bible is applicable to their real-life and real-world, they’ll remember that (and hopefully go back to God’s Word the next time they have a question).

Encourage kids to read through the Bible on their own.

Hopefully they’ll come to desire this themselves, but if not, we can find ways to encourage our kids to read the Bible cover-to-cover. When I started reading through the Bible by myself (around that same time I was memorizing verses), it gave me a much better sense of where to find things in the Bible, the order of the books (even before I could recite the names of the books of the Bible in order), and it helped me understand how everything fit together.

Love God’s Word yourself.

What is the end goal of wanting our kids to know their Bibles? It isn’t for some intellectual knowledge, is it? We want them to know their Bibles so they will come to love God’s Word. The thing is, love for God’s Word often isn’t taught as much as caught.

What is your attitude toward the Bible? Do you read it regularly? Do you search the Scriptures in prayer as you face big decisions? Do you believe everything it says is true, or only some of it? Does it make any impact on your life?

We are dreaming if we don’t think our kids will notice the answers to these questions and take note. If we want our kids to love, and know, and respect God’s Word, and find it worthy of loving and respecting and knowing, we need to make sure we are taking a high view of God’s Word ourselves. When our kids see us taking it seriously, they’ll take it seriously, too. Let’s spend some time in prayer, praying for God to give our kids (and us!) a true love for His Word and a desire to know it better.

I don’t think it would have occurred to me as a child that the Bible was worth reading if it wasn’t for one simple thing – my mom’s Bible open on the table every morning when I came up for breakfast. And, I’m pretty sure her time was spent not only reading her Bible but praying for me. I am hopeful that through faithfully reading and studying the Bible, I can give my kids the same good example that my mom gave me, and I pray that a love for God’s Word will sink into their hearts too.

(Though as a mom now, I’m still working on that “Bible open when the kids get up for breakfast” thing. I might have to wait until they stop waking up before the sun. In the meantime, I’ll shoot for having the Bible open when they wake up from nap time!)

If you’re looking for a great place to start with helping your children (and yourself) memorize scripture, check out the upcoming book 100 Favorite Bible Verses for Children, now available for pre-order.

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Your Turn

Is scripture memorization something you do regularly? Is it something you try to instill in your children? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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