Memorizing Scripture: Tips for Memorizing Longer Passages
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Today's question says, "Can you give a few tips on memorizing longer portions of Scripture? I would love to memorize full chapters or books with my children, but it seems impossible. What tools can we implement to make Scripture stick for adults and kids?" Join Elizabeth Urbanowicz as she dives deep into the world of Scripture memorization and equips listeners to instill a love for God's Word in the hearts of their children.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Now, today's question is one that I got really excited about because it's a topic that I really love to talk about, and today's question says, "Can you give a few tips on how to memorize longer portions of Scripture? I would love to memorize full chapters or books with my children, but it just seems impossible. What are some tools we can implement to really make Scripture stick for adults and for kids? Thanks for your help." Well, I'm excited to dive down deep into this question today because I think Scripture memory is something that is vital and it's also something that we don't do often enough.
But before we dive down deep into answering this question today, if you have a, sorry, not if you have a podcast, but if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that question by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast. Also, if you found the content of this podcast beneficial, please make sure that you like and subscribe so that you don't miss any future episodes. And also, please consider investing the time writing a review or if you're watching on YouTube to comment. These things help more people discover our content so that we can equip more kids to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.
Now, as we think about memorizing Scripture with our children, something that's important for us to know is that our children, particularly those who are eight and under, will be able to memorize Scripture or memorize anything much more easily and much more quickly than we can as adults. Just with the way that God has designed the child mind to work, that children as their brains are just continuing to build and use the different connections, the different synapses in their brain, they're able to retain so much.
I remember when growing up when I was in fifth grade, I had to memorize all the states and capitals and my mom was teaching me the states and capitals through a song, and one day all of a sudden my sister, who at the time was four years old, we didn't even know she had been listening to us, but all of a sudden she just opened up her mouth and was able to sing all of the 50 states and capitals, and we were like, well, where did you learn this? And she had just been listening to me practice this. Also, my mom discovered, I think when my sister was three that it was back in those days when the internet had just been invented. So there wasn't a whole ton of online shopping. So my mom would call to order things in catalogs and she would have to verbally give her credit card number, and my sister at the age of three years old had my mom's credit card number memorized, which my mom quickly tried to have her forget because you don't want your kid walking around spouting off your credit card number.
But young children, with the way that God has designed their minds, they're able to retain so much. Now, if your child cannot retain a lot and their ages eight or younger, you're really going to want to check how much time you're letting them on screens because screen time, what it does is the way that most video games and shows are produced is that they're produced to be very fast moving and have lots of flashing colors and quick changes between scenes, and all of these things actually harm children's brain chemistry. They circumnavigate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain we're reasoning and critical thinking take place. And what they're doing is they're just creating lazy habits that our brain, the more times we do something, we're actually creating these deeper, more ingrained neurological pathways in our brain. And any neurological pathways that are not utilized a lot, our brain just naturally prunes away.
So all this to say, our children eight and under should be able to memorize huge portions of Scripture. If your child cannot memorize things, first thing you're going to want to do is you're going to want to check to monitor screen time that your child should not be on a screen if they're eight and under, they really should not be on a screen for more than a half hour a day, and it should not be fast moving content. Think of like Mr. Rogers. I know there are very few shows produced like that, but Mr. Rogers is what is best if we're watching a screen. And then you can also check if your child really has trouble memorizing, that can be an indication that they might have a learning disability. I say all this to say, children should be able to memorize large portions of Scripture. And so just some ideas for memorizing larger portions of Scripture is you really have to figure out what works best for your mind and for your kid's mind.
Because everybody's brain works a little bit differently just as different people in school have different study tricks that help them. There's going to be different study tricks and techniques needed for memorizing Scripture. But two things that I think are vital as we're thinking about memorizing longer passages with our children is consistency and motivation that we really need to be consistent, and we really need to make sure that we have good motivation because anything that we're not motivated to do, we're going to do half-heartedly and we're probably not going to accomplish very well.
So first, we need to make sure that we're consistent. So to be consistent, the best thing that we can do, and I learned this tip from my friend Amy Hall, who is an amazing apologist at the ministry stand to reason, and she has many books of the Bible memorized that to be consistent, we need to attach Scripture memory to something that we already do every day because if we attach Scripture memory onto some activity that we already do every day, we're going to be more faithful at memorizing Scripture because we do that activity every day.
For example, for myself, a time when I do Scripture memory is when I'm brushing my teeth because I brush my teeth every morning and every evening. So those are just natural times in my day when I know, oh, I pick up my toothbrush. So I'm also working on my Scripture memory. For those of you who are working on this with kids, teeth brushing probably is not the best time because one, it's hard enough to get a young child to brush his or her teeth, and you're usually not doing that as a family, but you can do it with an activity that you do as a family. For example, hopefully you're eating breakfast together every morning, so as you're eating breakfast together, you can work on your Bible memory, or if you're children go to school and you're driving them to school every morning as you get in the car, you can start working on Bible memory, but just attach Bible memory to some activity that you already do every day. And so that way you'll be reminded every day to work on Bible memory and then motivation.
Now motivation usually has to be intrinsic, and so it's really hard to develop motivation. However, we can implement some things to help our children be motivated. We can set some goals for ourselves and then some very small rewards. I'm not talking about like we memorize this chapter and then we go to Disneyland. That would be ridiculous to have a goal like that. I like Disneyland, but that would just be a ridiculous goal to have. But we can say, okay, when we memorize these five verses, maybe we'll have a treat or maybe we'll watch a half hour show, or maybe we'll spend an extra half hour at the park, but just some little motivation to work towards. We're not trying to pay our children for memorizing Scripture. We're not trying to just motivate them with some external reward, but if we just have some small little motivation like when we do this, then we will do this special thing.
So the two things that are really important to have are consistency and motivation, and now just some practical tips for how do we actually memorize longer passages. I'll share with you some things that I have found to be helpful, and these are things, again, many of these things are things that I learned from my friend Amy Hall at Stand to Reason, who she just has so many books of the Bible memorized. One thing that I have found very helpful is working on more than one verse at a time, because I think a lot of times we think, oh, we just need to work on one verse, and then once we have that one verse memorized, then we can move on to the next one. But what I've found for myself is it takes me many, many, many times of reciting a verse before it's really committed to memory that even if I said a verse 20 times in one day, by the next day, I'm probably going to have not memorized it yet.
Even if I say it 20 times in a day, where if I say it multiple times one day and then multiple times the next day and then multiple times the third day by the third day or the fourth day, I usually have that verse down . And I have that verse down, whether it is a short verse or a long verse or whether it's three verses, I kind of think of it like woodworking. Not that I'm a woodworker, but I've watched people work with wood. And when you take a knife and you swipe a knife, you swipe the blade across the wood, you shave off a little piece of wood, but the more times you go over that same stroke that you've made with the blade, the deeper the ridge in the wood becomes. And that's true whether you're making an inch long ridge or a 12 inch long ridge.
And so I find the same thing is true with Scripture, that it generally takes me three to four days of practicing a verse to have it memorized. And that's whether it's a very short verse, a longer verse, or even three verses at a time. So I recommend don't just focus on one verse, but practice two verses or maybe even three verses because the more times you swipe that blade along the wood, the deeper the ridge is going to be. And it's the same way with the connections in our brain. The more times we go over something, the easier it's going to become, whether we're working on one verse or three verses.
Another thing just from this is something that I learned from Amy Hall, but also that I just knew as a teacher, it's really helpful to work on Scripture memory when we're doing a physical activity. When I first started, Amy Hall is one of my mentors, and when I first started meeting with her, something that she suggested to me was that I go for a walk every day and practice Scripture memory while I am on that walk. And she's like, I don't know what it is, but it just tends to help me when I'm moving to remember stuff better. And it is true because of the chemicals that are released in our brain when we're doing a physical activity, we tend to be able to remember things that we have learned or are doing during a physical activity better than when we're just seated or we're sedentary. And so I have found this so helpful. When I used to teach back in my teaching days, my last few years of teaching, I was memorizing the book of Ephesians. Now, I still don't have the entire book of Ephesians memorized, but I have the first four chapters and then half of chapter five memorized. And I used to walk to school every day, and when I was walking to school, I would practice Scripture memory, and it was so helpful to memorize Scripture as I was walking. And also, every time I came to a different tree or a different bench or a different road crossing, I would usually be at a similar place in reciting the book of Ephesians. And so I would just remember, oh yeah, usually I'm starting chapter three when I reach that tree, or usually I'm finishing up chapter one when I walk to that bench. So it's really helpful to be doing something physical while we're memorizing. So this can be as simple as just doing some jumping jacks while we're memorizing. We can go on a family walk while memorizing. If you have a child who struggles with a learning disability, one thing that's really helpful.
Now I know this from working with educational therapists in the school where I used to teach, so the educational therapist worked with children who had learning disabilities. I don't know the brain and body chemistry behind why this works, but I know that the educational therapist always told me that before students were going to do with learning disabilities, we're going to do an activity that required a lot of thinking for me to have them stand up and get in the position as if we're going to do a jumping jack. So to get our bodies in an X, and then to have students take their right hand and touch their left toe and then stand back up and take their left hand and touch their right toe and keep doing that a whole bunch of times because for some reason when we cross the midline of our body, so like our right hand crosses the midline to go down to touch the left toe, that just stimulates different regions of the brain. And I found that incredibly helpful with my students, especially with those with learning disabilities.
So just make sure we're doing some kind of physical activity at times when we are memorizing. Another thing that's really helpful is to make sure we're always looking at the passage, like the verses, the chapters, the book in the same version of the Bible. So memorizing on a phone or just on note cards is not nearly as helpful as actually looking at the pages of the Bible because it helps our brain when we always remember a certain verse at a certain portion of the page. I can tell you this, as I was memorizing those first four and a half chapters of the book of Ephesians, if you told me any verse and you said any verse in the book of Ephesians, I would be able to tell you whether that verse is on the left hand page or the right hand page in my Bible, and then where it is located actually physically on the page, because I just looked at that so much that those verses now are ingrained in my mind in the place they are on the page.
So something that Amy Hall recommended to me was actually making photocopies of my Bible and so that I could carry those photocopies around with me. What I ended up doing is I ended up just snapping pictures of my Bible on my phone so that I always have that with me on my phone, and then I printed those pictures off so that I have them and I keep them in different locations around my house. That can be really helpful for our kids and for us to make sure that anytime we're thinking about that verse or that passage that we're memorizing, it's always located at the same spot on the page.
Another thing that's really helpful is studying a book of the Bible as a whole while memorizing a chapter in it that this is actually something I'm doing right now with, there's a 16-year-old girl at my church that I'm discipling, and we meet every Monday. She comes over to my house for dinner and we do Bible study and Scripture memory. And right now we are memorizing Romans eight together. And just last night we finished, we've memorized the first 28 verses in Romans eight, and this next week we're continuing to work on verse 28 because it's still not solid for us, and we're adding verse 29 to that. And what we've been doing is as we've been memorizing Romans eight, we've also been studying the book of Romans. So last night we just went through Romans chapter nine, so we're studying that and next week we're moving on to Romans chapter 10. And it's been really helpful for us, and it's actually been really exciting for us as we've been memorizing Romans eight, and it's really just become a part of our everyday thinking and who we are. It's been neat for us to go through the first seven chapters of Romans and see how those first seven chapters are all building up and leading to chapter eight. And then last night as we studied Romans nine, it was really cool to be like, oh, okay, so we know Romans eight super well, and then here's where Paul's going in Romans nine. And then we were really excited next week to look at how he continues to build out his argument in Romans chapter 10.
Another thing that can be really helpful is listening to a passage on an audio bible over and over and over again that that's an easy way to memorize it. So if you decide you want to memorize Colossians one, just start listening to the book of Colossians on repeat, and you'll be surprised at how quickly you pick this up. Last August, I decided that I was going to listen to the book of Hebrews every time I listened to the Bible. And so I listened to Hebrews so many times in the month of August, probably like 80 times, I listened to the book of Hebrews, and then I got together with my mom and my dad in September, and my mom was saying, oh, I've been memorizing Hebrews one. Do you want to hear it? And so she started to recite Hebrews one. And the odd thing was is as she started to recite it to me, she started saying it and I was like, oh my goodness. Long ago at many times, and in many ways God spoke to us by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his son who is appointed heir of all things through whom he also created the world. And I just kept going. I was like, oh my goodness. I have Hebrews one memorized just because I listened to it so many times and I didn't even realize it.
So those are just hopefully some helpful tips and tricks as you think through how you can memorize longer passages of Scripture or even chapters or whole books with your family.
Well, that's a wrap for this episode, but my prayer for you as always is as we leave this time together, no matter this situation, you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.
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