Scripture. Sunday school. To memorize or not to memorize ... it can be quite a controversial question. And for some Christians, it’s a very uncomfortable question! Learning to repeat and reflect upon scripture has been done for so long that no one usually attempts to question it, but some don't feel right about it ... at least the repeat part.
For example, some education specialists, such as a Mr. Smith, author of Insult to Intelligence, declare that “learning by rote is the hardest and most pointless way to learn.” However, God’s Word itself features the psalmist’s words: “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” And how The Message puts it is particularly a good memory verse for children:
"I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt." Psalm 119:11 (MSG)
Isn’t that a worthy goal? I certainly don't consider it pointless, do you?
I have hidden your Word in my heart.
Filling verses into a child's reservoir seems like a great shortcut to ensure they become REALLY familiar with God's word and hopefully familiar with His character. But we DO have to be careful as Sunday school teachers, that we don't speed kids from one verse to the next without focusing on application or life-maintenance. That could be detrimental to a child's spiritual maturity.
Christian growth has more meaning than rote memory and should have a 'deeper education' than a 'duty education.' We also shouldn't force them to memorise adult-language versions of Bible passages; learning to repeat scripture at their own level makes it easier to connect the principles to their own daily lives.
Just as God is not tedious OR obligatory (He says so!), their faith should not be either. Nor should we require performance-oriented memorisation, but if we use this attitude, something else is at jeopardy - an intrinsic motivation to continue in God’s Word. You know as well as anyone that if you make kids memorise without reason, the more you turn them away from the Scripture, and the more they’ll learn to hate it!
And that would be bad ... right?
But here is some good news! The Scripture Scout's Sleuth for the Truth utilises a MEMORY PROGRAM THAT WORKS. It uses short, simple, age-appropriate Bible passages and important truths that make memorisation so exciting and fun children will want to do it. Teachers are encouraged each week to emphasise a particular scripture's concept, yes, but not always its exact wording. Rephrasing the wording into kids’ language so that it applies to their lives is totally in line with hiding God's Word in their hearts. We do have multiple versions to choose from, don't we?
The SftT method also appeals to each of the three types of learners-visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Here are some suggestions:
Project the verse somehow on the wall,
say it aloud together, or
encourage role-playing about the verse.
Some of these kiddos are going to be comfortable or actually prefer rote memorization and they should be allowed to do that (given that teachers also ask about the passage’s meaning after each recitation)!
Each human being has a different perception at different ages, and it would be helpful to provide a level of challenge that will never shame them or leave them behind. We can't force kids out of their own memorisation pace. Each week, the Sleuth for the Truth curriculum reviews the previous weeks' verses and also encourages parents, siblings, and the entire church family to model those core verse.
In short, with the marriage of these three types of learning styles and the basic core value we have as believers ... we are just challenging ourselves to CONNECT WITH REAL LIFE. Plus, if scripture is lived our in front of them and they also see other people they trust memorize, kids will want to do it too. Why? Because YOU are proving through your life that you love it too!
Here is what is written on our LIFE LESSONS (memory work) section of the teacher's manual of the Sleuth for the Truth Sunday School curriculum: "I will always remember to teach my students that Jesus is the real reward & He is always Lord! I will teach them these life lessons so that they will always remember that He is always with them ... NO MATTER WHAT. I pray that it will grow their love for God while they understand that it is God's command, but that it will also heal and comfort them in all sorts of life situations, and that it will saturate their hearts with truth. "
Any Scripture study builds a foundation for Christian living. When you start immersing children in God’s Word at a young age, they DO keep growing in it. Scripture memory, when pertinent to children, equips them for difficult situations they will encounter as they grow up. It also gives them loving support and direction in making decisions and ultimately ... sharing it.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.