by Melissa Bier, Children’s Ministry Deacon
Our morning around the breakfast table was not going the smoothest—one child had dumped yogurt all over the floor, another was repeatedly reminding me how unreasonable her chores were, and the third was already voicing his disdain for the day’s upcoming school assignments. Having our Bible time amid it all seemed almost impossible. Still, we pressed on and finished our time in prayer. This particular morning, my six-year old’s prayer was one marked by both the innocence of a child and the deep truths of who God is.
“God thank you for my new kitten and for ice cream and for my family and uhm also, dear God…thank you that you are a God who is merciful and gracious and thank you that you are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Amen.”
She immediately popped up from the table and bounced along, excited for another day to run and play with the neighbors. I stopped and thanked God for the gift of His word and for the great privilege it is to teach it to my children. Words like steadfast and faithfulness are not generally in her vocabulary; her prayer that morning was simply a recalling of Psalm 86:15, the verse that our family had been memorizing together. As she searched for her own words, God’s word had come to her mind.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
God gives us a clear command here in Deuteronomy. As parents, God calls us to train our children up in the faith as we go about our daily lives, living out a belief marked by authenticity and intentionality. With so many things battling for our time and attention, what does it look like to remain faithful to the command of training up our children in the faith? Oh, that we would ask this question over and over and over for our families, and that the reality of our children’s eternities—either with God or apart from Him—would be marked with an intentionality that daily points them to Jesus.
As our own children have grown, so have the ways we have sought to carry out training them in the truths of scripture. Our family discipleship time takes on new meaning and new form with each developmental stage, but in all stages thus far, God has consistently used scripture memorization as a valuable tool to help us. I am convinced that memorizing scripture together is one of the most encompassing ways we can carry out God’s call for us as parents. When I am memorizing scripture alongside my children, it is on my heart. It naturally flows into my daily conversations with them, and together, we see the truths of scripture come alive in meaningful ways.
The demands of life certainly attempt to choke out the responsibility to lead our children in this way. In this season of life, the days are long, and obligations are seemingly endless. Even so, God’s command remains, and by His grace, we have found some helpful ways to continue memorizing scripture together. I hope they will serve as an encouragement to you as well.
- Start small and be willing to start again and again.
To begin, choose verses that are appropriate for your children, ones that they will be able to master in a few weeks’ time. One of the first passages we learned together was Matthew 22:37-39, and it is still one that we call to mind often.I confess that sometimes weeks or even months go by in our home without a focus on memorizing God’s word together. Go to the Lord and ask Him for the grace to begin again. I am confident that He will meet you in that moment to equip you as you seek to lead your children in this way. For us, this also involves going to our children and saying something like, “Mom and Dad haven’t been putting God’s word first with you lately. Tonight, we are going to ask God to help us as we begin again.”
2. Celebrate victories.
Reward your family with something special after having committed a verse or passage to memory. We look forward to a special trip to The Candy Bank or an after-dinner ice cream sundae to mark these times.
3. Have visible reminders.
Post the passage you are memorizing in a place your family will see. Give your older children ownership by asking them to write out the verse. I like to keep our latest verse on an index card in my car so that it serves as an additional reminder for me to have conversations with my children.
4. Redeem your time.
When our children were very young, our mornings consisted of sippy cups and granola bars on the way to daycare drop-off. Our time with them felt so limited, but even now, as I write this, I am humming the tune to several of the verses we learned together as we listened to and sang the words of scripture on our drive to daycare. Use your car rides to school, afterschool soccer practice, or dance lessons to intentionally invest in your children. As tempting as it is to break out the tablet or press play on the DVD player in the car, those small moments over time will make a difference. I like to use a few moments of our breakfast time to work on our verse and talk about how we can apply it. Sometimes, we will read a larger portion of the text for context, and then, in between bites of eggs or cinnamon rolls, we each take a turn sharing. For young children, you might say some of the verse, stopping to let them insert key words or phrases.
5. Recall previously memorized verses.
Even as you work to commit new scripture to memory, recall prior verses and help your children apply those to new contexts. Just recently, my oldest daughter had a hard time sharing her prized pack of bubble gum with a friend. On the car ride home, we took a few minutes to remember what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. In our prayers with our children before bed, we often intentionally use scripture we have learned together; we might say, “God thank you for the gift of salvation; thank you that you loved the world so much that you gave your only son so that whoever believes in you will not perish but have everlasting life. Give us opportunities to share this love with others.”
6. Remember that your hope is in God.
All our efforts apart from the Holy Spirit’s work will not save our children. We teach them the written Word. We guide them in their understanding of it. And we pray that it ultimately leads to true belief and heart change. Go to God in prayer for your children often. Trust that as you are faithful, the Holy Spirit will do the work as only He can.
The beginning of a new school year, however different this one may look, ushers in many exciting opportunities and experiences for our children. So many things will scream at us for our attention. If your family is anything like ours, your days will be full, from the moment you wake until the moment you tuck your children into bed at night. Let’s choose to be intentional with our time. Let’s choose what matters. Let’s weave the gospel into our comings and goings. Let’s be families who seek to raise a generation of children deeply rooted in the truths of scripture. And as we do so, let’s beg God to do the work that only He can do.