By Jessica Udall, Crosswalk.com
When I was part of a Bible-memory program through my church as a young child, I was motivated by prizes. The small closet full of bubble gum, chocolate coins, small dollar-store toys, and costume jewelry was a powerful incentive for me to blow through my memory verse booklets, spending time at home drilling myself and then reciting long passages from memory at lightning speed. Though I would have called myself a Christian, those hours of memorization were not for the purpose of knowing God better or following Him—my effort was in pursuit of candy and trinkets!
Nevertheless, as I grew in my faith and got older and went through hard times—living through stressful seasons, dealing with loss and uncertainty, and going through the haze of sleep-deprived new motherhood—those very verses I memorized as a child came back to me, like a balm to a weary soul, like water in the desert. I’m living proof that one can reap the reward of Scripture memorization (even done with mixed-motives!) for years to come.
When Should You Start Reading the Bible with Your Child?
The best time to start reading the Bible with your child is when they are in the womb. The second best time is today! We have been known by God even before we were born and were created to know Him. The Psalmist says:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
Throughout our lives, we are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). One of the best ways to do that is to interact with Scripture, because: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Directly before these verses, Paul tells his young disciple Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
20 Bible Verses for Kids to Memorize
Kids will benefit from memorizing any portion of God’s Word, whether or not they fully understand it at the time (remember my example of memorizing for candy but remembering those Scriptures later in times of adult trials!). But here are some tried-and-true places to start:
6 verses that articulate the good news about Jesus:
It can be helpful when having ongoing conversations about the gospel with children to reference keystone verses that articulate essential truths about what Jesus has done for us. An example of this might be the verses included in the popular evangelistic model “The Romans Road.”
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23
"For the wages of sin is death" - Romans 6:23
"but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 6:23
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
"If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9
"for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13
6 verses that address a particular struggle they are having:
As your child goes through life and has trouble with a particular challenge, consider incorporating God’s Word into ongoing conversations regarding their struggle. Simply google “What does the Bible say about ____” and you will find topical articles directing you to many helpful options to discuss and memorize together. Here is a starter-pack of sorts with some verses addressing commons struggles:
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“My son, if sinners try to lead you into sin, do not go with them” (Proverbs 1:10)
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
“Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9)
3 verses directed toward children:
The Bible has many verses that are about children or are directed towards children. In fact, the entire book of Proverbs is directed towards young people in order to give “knowledge and discretion to the young” (Proverbs 1:4), and Paul exhorts Timothy—the one who he said had known the Scriptures since his infancy! ”Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). A few more to start with in this category are:
Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”
Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”
Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’”
Verses and passages used in church:
Think about the church your family attends and what Scriptures are used regularly within the service. For example, do you say the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10-14) together when you gather for worship on Sunday? Consider memorizing that together at home and perhaps praying it at night before the kids go to sleep.
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’" (Matthew 6:9-13)
Or you could start with the slightly shorter Luke 11:2-4, “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’"
Alternately, you could decide to memorize verses from the book of the Bible through which your pastor is preaching or verses that are references to the mission statement or core beliefs of your congregation.
4 verses that are set to music:
Melody is a powerful memorization tool. Take advantage of the fact that there are many musical offerings that set Scripture to tunes that make it easy to hide God’s Word in one’s heart. There are options for nearly every musical taste. If you are wanting upbeat music that young kids will love but the whole family won’t mind hearing, check out Sing the Word from A to Z from The Harrow Family (Example: “Do to Others” is a word-for-word marching tune for Matthew 7:12), Seeds Family Worship (Example: “Walk in Him” is an energetic word-for-word rendition of Colossians 2:6-7).
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 7:12
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." - Colossians 2:6-7
There are also many word-for-word Scripture songs by artists who don’t specifically cater to kids but have songs that can help people of any age memorize Scripture while enjoying good music. For example, Fernando Ortega’s “Let the Words of My Mouth” incorporates the entirety of Psalm 19:14 and Philippians 4:8.
"May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." - Psalm 19:14
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:8
Why Should Kids Memorize Scripture?
It may seem like unnecessary work to help your kids memorize Scripture. Why not just read the Bible to your kids, or encourage them to read it? The Navigators has a helpful illustration that helps us to understand the importance of Scripture memorization. A teacher invites someone to try to hold the Bible with one finger. It’s impossible. In the same way, it’s impossible to truly be shaped by the Word if one is only hearing it. Then the person tries to hold the Bible with two fingers: this illustrates hearing and reading. It’s easier, but still nearly impossible. Three fingers represent hearing, reading, and studying. But it is the easiest to hang on to the truths of the Scriptures if we are incorporating our whole hand: hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating. Memorization makes meditation (that is, dwelling on Scripture throughout the day) easier because we don’t need to continually refer back to a Bible. The Psalmist says to God: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
In Proverbs, a father urges his son to: “Bind [my teachings, God’s truth] on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:3). God’s Word can guide young in living well, for: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: (Psalm 19:7). Exposing our children to God’s word is unleashing a powerfully life-giving force that will affect them for good: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
If you decide that you want to encourage your kids to memorize Scripture, you can also reap the benefits! Choose to memorize chosen verses with them, so you can share the experience and be shaped by the same truths. Remember that the goal isn’t primarily to master God’s Word (focusing on word-perfect accuracy or reaching a certain number of memorized verses) but rather to be mastered by it. Through internalizing Scripture and being changed by it, our kids and we ourselves will be able to follow the command to “not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Memorizing Scripture together will create memories in the short-term and will set your kids up for a lifetime of being guided by biblical wisdom!
Navigators.org, 'The Word Hand'
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Anastasiia Stiahailo
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.