We can read the Scriptures with our children, but if we do not teach them to heed its instruction, it will yield little fruit in their lives. The Bible says “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)
The only way to teach our children to follow the Word is to walk according to its precepts ourselves. If we do not allow the Word to permeate and direct our lives, we cannot expect our children to care overmuch for it either. They will view us as hypocrites; and they will be right. We cannot tell them that the Word is important and completely disregard its truths. Rather, what we read and learn in the Word must influence our thoughts, opinions, actions, decisions, purchases, appearance, speech, and the use of our time. The Bible must be our daily guide, not a religious accessory.
We must also explain to our children that the Christian life is a journey. It is a process of growth and sanctification. We are to be constantly striving to be more like Christ. This means that there will be books we would have had in our home ten years ago that we will not have now. There will be programs we would have listened to ten years ago that we will not listen to now. There will be activities we would have allowed ten years ago that we will not allow now. And so on. This is not hypocrisy — this is growth. We need to share with our children from the Word what the Lord is teaching us and how we are striving to please Him in our home.
In the same chapter of James mentioned above, it goes on to say that a man who hears the Word, but does not respond to its instruction is like a man who looks in the mirror and recognizes he has a problem, but goes on his way without fixing it. If we look into the mirror of the Word and are convicted of a sin, but do not repent and change, our hearts will become hardened to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We will not be responding to His leading and we will miss God’s perfect will for our lives.
Many homeschooling parents delight in Deuteronomy 6 as a beautiful picture of family life because it directs parents to walk beside their children, talk with their children, and teach their children from early in the morning until they go to bed in the evening. The same passage begins with this important reminder: “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your Godcommanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:” In other words, God is not only interested in having families know His Word; He wants them to obey it, as well!
Why should our family memorize Scripture together?
The first and most important reason to memorize Scripture with our children is that the LORD commands us to be constantly speaking His precepts into their lives. It is impossible to be diligent in influencing our children’s hearts with words we do not know ourselves. But if Scripture is part of our daily life and family vocabulary (just the way a special read-aloud becomes part of the family vocabulary by virtue of shared experience), then little ones will be hiding it in their hearts when they’re not even trying. The Scriptures will come to their minds and lips just as a matter of course. We have even seen an angry, screaming child (yes, we have days like that in our home, too) yelling Scriptures and praise songs at the top of his lungs simply because those were the words written on his heart! Now, certainly that is not the appropriate way to recite Scripture and it wouldn’t count at all as worship before the Lord, but how much better for a child to have those words come immediately to mind than the filth that Satan would have there?
Where do we begin?
You could buy a program…but you might not stick with it for long. Other programs for other family goals will come along and be new and seem more exciting and, just because human nature is what it is, the temptation will be strong to move on to the next thing. An alternative would be to buy nothing. Instead get out a Bible (American homes are overrun with unused copies of God’s Word) and commit before the Lord to memorize one passage with your children.
Just choose a section of God’s Word that is especially meaningful to you and start there. If you really can’t think of anywhere you’d like to begin, choose a Psalm. There are 150 of them and they vary in length, so you can peruse them to find one that seems like a good fit for your family. Just think how pleased your family will be to have memorized an entire chapter of God’s Word together. It will make you want to choose another one! Then you’re on your way. We’ve been memorizing in this fashion for years now, and we haven’t run out of material yet. 🙂 By the time you get one section memorized, the Lord will have placed something else on your heart that would be good for your family to learn together. We do memorize some individual verses as a family (these are especially good for quick reminders and instruction through the day), but a lot of what we memorize are passages of ten, fifteen, twenty verses so that the individual thoughts are in context.
Aren’t we just going to forget the first passage when we go on to the second one?
If you establish a pattern of review, then you won’t give yourselves opportunity to forget. As soon as you have a few individual verses or a Psalm or other passage memorized, start a list. When you are doing Scripture memory time with your family, spend some of the time for review and some of the time for new material. At first, Scripture memory time will be brief, because everything is new material, but over time Scripture memory time can expand as your list of passages to review grows longer and longer! We have our Scripture passages printed out and hole-punched. We place a line of check boxes under each verse or passage (depending on whether it was memorized as a stand-alone or as longer piece), then each time we review it, we check off the box. This way we know at a glance which ones need review and which ones we’ve just done. When we get to the point where every verse or passage has a check mark, we know it’s time to start through the list again.
So how does this look in practice?
The method itself is simple. It’s living it out that’s hard. It is not easy to recite Scripture every day with your children. They might misbehave. They might not look interested at all sometimes. You might not feel interested at all sometimes. You might have a headache. Believe me, Satan will come up with plenty of excuses for you to skip “just this once”, if you let him. So be sober, be vigilant! If you skip once, don’t let it be twice, or pretty soon your Scripture list will be at the bottom of the stack and everything else on the To Do list will look far more important. But in reality, you’ll be missing out on the one part of instruction that is God’s priority. You can give your children math lessons and that will be very helpful to them in the future. You can give your children science lessons, and that also is useful and good. But when you feed your children God’s Words, you give them LIFE.
In an nutshell, here’s the method our family uses to memorize new passages. Let’s use Genesis 1:1 as the text and Dad as the memory leader for this example (though in our home Mom teaches new memory passages, too).
Dad: We’re going to start a new passage today. Listen carefully and I’ll read the first verse of it to you. “Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Who does that say made everything?
Dad: You’re right. Thank you. Why don’t we try this verse together? Everyone repeat after me: “In the beginning”
Family: “In the beginning”
Dad: “God created”
Family: “God created”
Dad: “the heaven and the earth.”
Family: “the heaven and the earth.”
Dad: “Genesis 1:1”
Family: “Genesis 1:1” *
Dad: Great! Let’s try that again… (Repeat above conversation starting with “In the beginning…”)
Dad: Now let’s see if we can say that whole line together. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1”
Family: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1”
Dad: Good job. That verse was kind of short. Let’s try verse 2 this morning, too. It says “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
Dad: Who moved upon the face of the waters?
Child: The Spirit of God.
Dad: Exactly. See that – it mentions the Spirit, a part of the Trinity, right there in the second verse of the Bible! Let’s try this much: “And the earth was without form, and void”
Family: “And the earth was without form, and void”
(From here Dad would continue breaking the verse into phrases of whatever length the family can handle repeating back accurately — the younger the children, the shorter the phrases may need to be, especially at first. Then when verse 2 is memorized, Dad might say “Let’s go back and see if we can say both 1 and 2 together.” etc. The next day, Dad goes back over the same verses. Within a few days the family will know them well and be ready to learn more.)
THAT’S IT. That’s the whole method. Lather, rinse, repeat. 🙂 Dad and Mom commit to the importance of memorizing Scripture as a family. Then they choose a passage, gather the family, and begin. And do it again the next day. And the next day. And the day after that. It would be especially helpful to have a particular time for family Scripture memory because then you can establish it as a habit in your home. It becomes part of your routine. The children know it’s what the family does. Even the little ones who aren’t able to repeat anything will surprise you one day and be able to join in with a word here or there. And until that day comes, you can know that those words are sinking into their minds and hearts and shaping their person to respond to the God of the Bible.
There must be more to it than that, right?
No, that’s really all there is. We often add some variety by singing a hymn or praise song that goes along with the verse or passage. Sometimes we review by having the Scripture leader read the passage and leave out words for the whole family to fill in. Occasionally we do “popcorn” with really familiar verses and have one person start a verse and go round the table with each person filling in the next word as quickly as they can. And we allow our older children to lead Scripture memory from time to time so they learn to do this with their own families someday. But these are all variations on the same theme and any family that’s been attempting to memorize Scripture together would come up with these or similar ideas over time on their own. We have found the two most important keys to family Scripture memory to be CONSISTENCY and REVIEW.
May God bless you as you purpose to learn His Word together with your family. And once you have those first verses memorized — don’t keep them to yourself. Share them with family, friends, and church folk. Encourage others to hide God’s Word in their hearts.
We can equip our children to be battle-ready soldiers in the army of Christ by doing this one simple thing together day after day and year after year (remember that I said simple; I did not say easy). Feed on the Word as a family. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Hear Isaiah 64:8
* When learning verses from a longer passage, we only learn the reference for the passage as a whole – we don’t say a reference before and after every verse.