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How do you teach memory verses in a fun way?
Let’s back track a little. I mean – er – WHY are we teaching Scripture memorisation in the first place? Doesn’t it all feel a little cult-ish and brainwashed?
It’s certainly a contentious issue amongst church folk.
There’s the camp which wants their kids to know fifty Psalms, a gospel and the whole of Romans by the age of 5. Then there’s the camp which shies away from teaching anything at all, anxious that their child may learn by rote rather than know God in their heart.
The “brainwashing” idea looms large in our minds sometimes, doesn’t it? We want to raise independent thinkers, kids who love the Lord with their hearts, and think about their faith really deeply – not kids who have just been taught to think one way and nothing else.
If I’m honest, it has been this fear of indoctrinating our kids that has kept me from doing much Scripture memorisation in the home. And so, although Al and I teach our kids the Bible at home, although we pray for them and encourage their spiritual disciplines, learning Scripture has not yet been one of those disciplines.
But as our family grows up, I’m seeing the need for memorized Bible verses more and more. Here are three reasons I think it’s so important:
Firstly – the poor state of children’s mental health is one of the biggest parenting concerns of our generation. Referrals to mental health services are on the rise in children and teens. Because much of our mental health is based on the messages we receive from others about our identity, wouldn’t it help just a little for our kids to have some TRUE statements about themselves and their relationship with God locked up in their brains? A bit of ammunition in the fight against the lies fed to them by social media, school and peers?
Secondly – memorizing Bible verses enriches our prayer life. They give us springboards for prayer, language we can use when we’re all out of ideas, and a clearer understanding of God’s will. Children don’t always find it easy to know how to pray or what to pray for – a few stored-up Bible verses can give them confidence in this area, which can in turn deepen their personal relationship with God, making it less about our intervention, and more about them and God together.
Thirdly – remembering odd Bible verses here and there helps us when reading other sections of the Bible, as we’re more likely to be able to connect different passages, or have lightbulb moments as we read one bit and are reminded of an appropriate verse that we already know which helps to unlock that section for us. As we’re teaching children to read and apply Scripture for themselves, this discipline will be enriched and supported by the learning of Bible verses.
The good news is that a fun and sensitive approach to memorizing Bible verses doesn’t have to put them off Jesus for life! Done well (in the context of Bible reading, prayer and open faith-based discussion), memory verses will support, uphold and enrich a child’s faith journey – not reduce it to a rote-learned pile of irrelevant information.
So – how do you teach memory verses in a fun way?
How to memorize a Bible verse in a fun way
First, you’ll need to decide on a verse to learn – the Bible’s kind of a big book, so finding ONE verse may be easier said than done. What you choose depends on where your family is at right now.
Does your child need to hear affirming statements about their identity in Christ like 2 Corinthians 5:17 (“I am a new creation”)? Do they need to hear affirming statements about God’s identity like Psalm 46:1 (“God is our refuge and strength…”)? Do they need clarity on what the gospel actually is like John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world…”)?
I’ve done the hard work for you, and put together a whole list of 100 foundational Bible verses for kids – just click through and browse the different sections to find a verse which would be good for your family to learn right now.
And once you’ve made that decision – how do you teach memory verses?
1. Learn it gradually
It’s not a race! Take your time, and build up the verse if you can. In other words, if you can split it into shorter phrases which make sense on their own, do so. Learn a different bit every day, or every few days. For example, Philippians 4:6 could be broken down into:
- “Do not be anxious about anything…” (day 1)
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition…” (day 2)
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving…” (day 3)
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (day 4)
2. Use repetition
It may sound obvious, but whichever game or gimmick you use, the hands-down best way how to teach a child to memorize Bible verses is through repetition. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
So once you’ve decided on your verse, you do need to stick to it. Doing it once then forgetting for a fortnight won’t help anyone – and believe me, that has been my (unintentional) approach on many occasions. So PLAN for there to be lots of repetition.
The easiest way is to say your memory verse with another regular activity, so that there’s always a space for it to happen. This could be a meal time, bedtime, teeth-brushing – whatever. Do it a few times, and it will soon become a habit.
3. Sing it
This is probably one of the most popular responses to the question “How do you teach memory verses in a fun way?”.
It’s because singing is FUN. There’s a shared purpose as we lift our voices, and it lifts our spirits too. Plus: we remember song lyrics much more easily than if they’re spoken. So grab a few catchy songs to sing with your children.
The best ones (IMHO) are those which include the Bible reference in the song – but with the notable exception of Seeds Family Worship, sadly these don’t seem to be so common anymore.
As a child, I sang loads of Ishmael songs, many of which are foundational Bible verses which DO include the reference – you can still find them on his Ishmael’s Songs YouTube channel! The vids are rough and ready, so not really for playing in a big church meeting, but if you’re just wanting to learn some memory verse songs to sing at home with your kids, you really can’t do any better than Ishmael!
Then – for just general Bible verse songs – check out DumbRocks (we LOVE them – and their song Because of God’s Great Love IS a random example of a 21st century memory verse song which DOES include the Bible reference!) and also Slugs and Bugs who are great fun to listen to in the car or at bedtime, even if they don’t usually include the Bible refence!
4. Paper your home
How do I teach my child memory verses? I surround them with Scripture, making sure it’s in a number of visible places around our home.
Once you’ve chosen your verse, and have started to learn it, paper your home with it! Pick the places where eyes will naturally be drawn: the wall/door opposite the loo is a good one! As well as doors, cupboards, mirrors, clocks, kettle…get creative!
I even came across a great idea the other day for putting a verse in a ziploc bag and taping it to the wall of the shower!
5. Sticky head game
We’ve all played that game where you have a post-it on your forehead and have to work out which famous person you are, right?
Well – how about dividing up your memory verse into the number of people in your household, and use the same principle to learn a verse? This could work really well during a meal. Obviously you can’t read yours, but others can so they fill in what you can’t see as you say the whole memory verse together. Then, one by one, individuals remove their post-it so eventually you’re saying the verse without any prompts.
6. Balloon burst
For when you have a bit more time, try blowing up a handful of balloons and writing a word or two on each. (Don’t forget the Bible reference!) Hold the balloons – you may need one in each hand depending on the size of your family and the length of your chosen verse – then take it in turns to pop each balloon as you learn the verse by heart.
7. Nerf gun tin can alley
This will take a little setting up, but once you’ve collected enough tin cans, it’ll be a quick replacement job each time.
Gather together some tin cans, peel or soak off the label, wash them out thoroughly and ensure no sharp bits (or tape over them with some heavy-duty tape like masking tape or gaffa tape). Write out your verse onto sticky labels, then attach these to the cans. Line up the cans, side by side, and take turns to shoot them down with a Nerf gun, repeating the verse after each can goes down.
Learning a new verse? Simply stick a new label on each can!
8. Egg smash
This is a bit more labour-intensive and sadly won’t be reusable – but it IS lots of fun!
Collect old egg shells, rinse them out then put them back in a large egg box. Use a Sharpie to write a word or two on each shell, including the reference. Say the verse together, then take it in turns to smash the eggs, repeating the verse after each smash.
Memory verse games for non readers
How do you teach memory verses in a fun way to non readers?
As long as you have SOME readers, most of the above games and methods should work with non readers, as they’ll simply listen and copy what they hear. You’ll be amazed how quickly kids can remember things!
But if ALL your kids are non readers, or you’re doing memory verses in a younger Sunday school class, or teaching kids with additional needs, you may like a few ideas of memory verse ideas which don’t rely on the written word. Here are some suggestions of what you might do.
(And all of these activities will be super-fun for readers too!)
9. Act it out
Assign an action to each word or pair of words. Small words like ‘of’ or ‘the’ could simply be signed by making an ‘O’ or ‘T’ shape with your hands. Nouns like bread, light or world could be drawn in the air or symbolised in some way (e.g. flickering fingers for ‘stars’). Verbs or other words denoting action could be acted out – e.g. ‘walk’, ‘go’, ‘send’ ‘press on’. Numbers could be indicated with that number of fingers being held up – and so on.
We learn things so much better when we DO them, rather than just SAY them!
In this game each child has a word or two of the Bible verse to say, and you go round the circle (or table) saying your words in order. Take it in turns to press the ‘mute’ button on certain children (you could even use a remote control to make it more realistic!) – when it gets to that child’s turn, they’re not allowed to say their word, but the others are challenged to remember it for them.
Eventually, everyone will be muted on their own word – but able to say everyone else’s words together. Boom! You’ve just learnt a Bible verse.
11. Use pictures
If children can’t read, they may respond better to pictures than words. You could draw a simple picture to represent each of the main words in the memory verse. Or, if you’re a better artist than me (not hard), maybe you could draw one picture which sums up the entire verse?
For children who can recognise numbers, you could even number different bits of the picture to show which order you need to look at the pictures in.
12. Use props
If you’re not using written words, how about using props? This can be as complicated as choosing a prop for each of the main words or as simple as choosing one prop to represent the entire verse.
Recently, our kids’ worker taught us “I am the bread of life…”. As it was an all-age service, she had a mixture of readers and non-readers, so she typed out the words on paper which she stuck onto loaves of bread – bingo! Even the non-readers will remember the bread aspect to the verse she taught them.
If you’re using a prop for each word, you could get creative. How about something which rhymes with the word in question? Or something which has a family in-joke which will get you all laughing?
13. Doodle verse
If we remember more of what we do than what we say, then teach your memory verse while encouraging children to doodle. They may come up with a picture or pattern which helps them to remember the verse (even if it looks NOTHING LIKE ANYTHING to your eyes…).
To make it special, put out mark-making tools you don’t normally use – like paint pens, chalk markers or watercolours.
14. Use a fiddle toy
Fiddle toys or fidget toys are incredibly popular among children who struggle to focus – but they can be a de-stressor and a regulator for any child (or adult). Why not encourage your children to do a new action on every word?
Perhaps they could pop a poppit on every word of the Bible verse, or flick a switch on every word, or see if they can say the whole memory verse with Bible reference on one spin of the fidget spinner. Use what your child already enjoys playing with, and add a verse.
15. Say to a beat
If you can’t sing the memory verse, you can always say it to a beat. Simply tap/stamp your feet or clap a steady beat – or, if you want to raise the bar, use a more complicated rhythm, like the “stamp-stamp-CLAP” of “We Will Rock You”.
Learning to say the words to a particular rhythm will have a similar effect to learning to sing them. Sure, you don’t have a melody which helps you remember the words, but you do have a way of saying them which will get lodged in the brain.
I hope this post has given you some ideas on the subject of how do you teach memory verses in a fun way?
If you’re looking for a good Bible to use with your child/ren, why not check out my post on brilliant children’s Bible recommendations?
If you’re looking for a daily devotional to do with your child, I have a post on that too: best Bible devotionals for children and teens.
And if you’re looking for a way in to Bible reading with your family, don’t miss my family devotional recommendations.
Over to you – How do you teach memory verses in a fun way to your kids or Sunday School group?