More Than Memorizing

Your son looks at the next verse in his handbook, reads it and then looks at you with a question in his eyes.

“What does this word mean, Dad?”

Teaching a child a verse necessitates more than memorizing. We can teach a child to repeat words and that’s good. Many of the verses I know today are verses that were taught to me as a child … and reviewed over and over.

For a verse to become meaningful, a child (or adult) must know what it means. (Yes, that’s circular logic, but it’s true.)

Sometimes we forget that young children don’t know verses that are deeply ingrained in our own minds. True story – a dad used John 3:16 to explain something to his young daughter, but the daughter didn’t understand. The mom said, “She doesn’t know John 3:16.” The dad replied, “Everyone knows John 3:16.” He laughed. He hadn’t even though about his 4-year-old not knowing the verse.

Here are some thoughts on teaching verses to kids.

*No matter how young or old our children are, we need to make sure they understand that the Bible is God’s message to us. His Word explains the gospel and tells us how we should live each day.


*The handbooks define many of the words in the verses the children memorize, but your child might not know the meaning of another word that hasn’t been defined. Different children know the meanings of different words.

Interestingly a study in Reading Research Quarterly (Germany) shows that children have more difficulty with complex words than they do with many types of complex sentences. Word definition is essential to a child’s understanding.

*A regular dictionary, whether print or online is a great place to get a definition. Sometimes the very simple dictionary explanation can open up the meaning of an entire verse.

*Illustrate the verse by pictures. For instance, explaining to a child that we are separated from God can be illustrated by a person standing on the side of a bottomless canyon and a light (representing God) on the other side. You can further detail this illustration by drawing a cross in between bridging the gap between people and God.

Another example is Romans 3:23. Take your child outside and ask him to do something impossible – throw a cotton ball across the driveway, etc. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t do it. Explain that some people work very hard at trying to get into heaven by the things they do, but no matter how hard they work, they can’t do it. The only way we get to heaven is through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Ask your child to explain the verse to you. Or, have him draw a picture of the verse. Activities such as these help you understand how much your child is comprehending.


*Many times older children learn their verses without Dad and Mom’s input, but take the time to go over the verses with your child. Ask her what the words mean. If she doesn’t know, have her look up the word in the dictionary.

*You could also bookmark a Bible dictionary for easy reference. (Sometimes Bible dictionaries give nuances of meanings that you won’t get from a secular dictionary.)

*Ask your child to read the verses around the one she is learning. What is the context? Who is talking? What is happening?

*Ask him to explain the verse to you.

*Do you know the verse your child is learning? What does the verse mean to you? When did you learn it? (Did you learn it in Awana when you were a kid … or maybe you learned it as a leader in Awana?)

Young children and older children enjoy having someone work and learn with them.

Sit at the kitchen table, enjoying some milk and cookies and listening to your child review her verses for the week. Or why not review verses as you tuck your child in each night? (Studies have shown that those words we memorize before sleep have a good chance of sticking in our brains.) Enjoy taking a walk with your child and talking over a verse … and maybe learning the verse with him or her.

Make memorizing a memorable memory.

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