Is bible memorization still important? As a kid I grew learning a new bible verse every week, sometimes more than one. When I started working with the K-5th grades at my current congregation, this was not being done at all. I wondered if this intentional or just a lack of planning? I tried making a game our of memorizing a scripture many times but it was not a priority to the teachers so if they were short on time or wanted to pass out snacks instead, bye-bye bible verse.
What about the parents? How do they feel about memorizing scriptures? The only way to know the answer to this was to ask them. That’s just what I did. I pulled up Survey Monkey and sent out four simple questions.
Do you feel bible class attendance is important for your children?
Do you feel memorizing scripture is important?
Do you feel that knowing how to find the books of the bible is important?
What other things do you feel are important for your kids to get from their church family?
I didn’t get an overwhelming response, but enough to learn that the parents do feel that their children should be in class but they do not feel that memorization is important. With this being the case, I would need to offer some pretty good incentives to get the kids motivated enough to work on memorization outside of bible class when I know their parents are not going to be pushing them to do this. So after much thought and time in prayer, I decided that instead of fighting an uphill battle in this area (when there are many more important I chose to take on), I would focus on one thing year round. We would memorize the books of the bible. Every time we meet we sing the Old and New Testament bible book songs. Then, with the younger children, we play games where they have to tell me if the book I shout out is found in the Old or New Testament. The fourth and fifth graders actually look up the books in their bibles. I figure that if we teach them the bible, where the lessons are found, and we teach them how to find the books of the bible, they will be prepared. And as they get older, Google is usually there, but knowing how to find answers in God’s word on your own is a valuable skill to have.
If you feel that learning the books of the bible is something you would like to add to or modify for your children’s program, here are a few games we play. Make sure to print cards with each book of the bible on a card. I draw cards out of a cup for all of these games so they are random and could be any of the 66 books of the bible.
Bible Sides: Label one side of the room “OLD” and the other “NEW.” As you name a book, kids quickly walk to the side they think the book belongs to. After everyone chooses, give the answer and all the ones that got it right get super excited. No one moves yet. Now give the next book and let kids move again. Continue until a timer goes off or do like I do and make this the last part of class so you go until the bell rings.
Bible Airplanes or Ball Toss: Set two baskets along a wall. Label one “OLD” and the other “NEW.” If you play with airplanes, let them spend 60 seconds making a paper airplane (they love this). Then, choose a card and let them throw their plane or ball (paper balls work great) into the appropriate basket. Then, choose one plane from the basket, choose a book and toss the plane back to that student as they tell you where it’s found. Continue until all planes are returned, then start over.
Bible Parachute: They love this too! Have kids grab a handle on the parachute. As you sing the Old Testament song, have them walk to the left. As you sing the New Testament song, have them walk to the right. Then, name a book, toss a small stuffed animal (or paper ball) in the center and let them bounce it softly as you give them different books to tell you where they are found. You may even put two items in the middle and label them Old and New.
Bible Tunnel: The K-3rd LOVE this, but you do have to remind them why they get to travel through the tunnel or they may just laugh instead of sing. Kids make their way through the tunnel as you sing all the books of the bible. Then, they line and take turns letting you know if the book you name is found in the Old or New Testament. The first several times of this game I let them go whether they are right or wrong, just go for trying. After they’ve had plenty of practice, they get to travel through the tube if they answer correctly.
Have you noticed a real lack of respect from children these days? It used to be that a child appeared angelic everywhere but home, but that’s not the case anymore. Now, children not only smart off to their parents but to teachers, neighbors and other adults. They aren’t afraid, or too ashamed, to share their bad attitudes. Young children may stick out their tongues while older ones roll their eyes and smart off. What is happening in our society?
It starts with each one of us. The first step is to take a good hard look in the mirror, and be honest with yourself. Do you put down others? How about where kids can hear you? Do you call the policeman ridiculous for giving you a speeding ticket, after all, it was only five miles over the speed limit? Do you talk about your in-laws inappropriately? That means in any way other than positive. Do you leave worship services talking about the lady behind you that sounded like a freight train or the man who led the longest, most boring prayer ever? How about the cashier that wouldn’t stop talking? Do you roll your eyes? These examples may seem minor, like they are not a big deal, but they are. Our kids hear our words, they see our attitudes and emulate them. Often times, we are to blame, at least partially, for this disrespect. Well, us and a few million other very human parents out there.
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6
So now what? We know it’s a problem but how do we fix it. Again, it begins with each one of us and God’s church. And it’s not a quick fix. We need to stop immediately letting negative, worthless talk come out of our mouths. Can you imagine what our kids would sound like if they learned to find positive words to say all the time? If the church, that’s all of God’s people, do this I am certain we will see a huge change. It will take time to reverse the bad behavior, but consciously making this change in our own lives where we make it obvious to children will cause a change in behaviors. Stop yourself when you realize your doing it again and comment on your change. Let kids see you fixing a negative pattern.
Ministers, please begin teaching intentionally on this topic and change the world. Children’s ministers, share this, teach this to your parents. The earlier they start the more likely they are to see success. Parents and grandparents, take this to heart. It’s time to make a nationwide difference starting at home. Kids who feel loved tend to show love, thus, respect.
For teachers looking for solutions in the classroom, be firm, but kind. Don’t ignore bad behavior, but address it in the proper setting with the proper attitude. If a child is telling you no, they will not participate or sit and listen, have an assistant take them outside the room so they are not disrupting others and so the behavior can be addressed privately. Once pride kicks in, you’re not going to get far. It may seem strange, but pray with the child. Tell them the behavior is not acceptable. When they commit to behaving, let them rejoin the group. With a very patient helper it is effective. Give it a try and share your experiences.
I recently read an article called, “Are Your Cute Lessons Turning Kids Into Atheists?” As you can imagine, when I read the title I had to see what it was all about. It shares Barna’s latest statistics on the Gen Z generation (those born from 1999-2015). Sadly, they found that Gen Z does not associate with any religious identity more than any previous generation. This is very disheartening! But, I dare not limit God. He can do anything including take a deprived nation and turn it around. Let us be the hands, feet and mouthpieces of God allowing Him to work through us to reach our children turning the church around.
Let’s take a look at some of the survey results for the cause of this depravity:
29% – I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil and suffering in the world.
23% – Christians are hypocrites.
20% – I believe science refutes the Bible.
19% – I don’t believe in fairy tales.
15% – There are too many injustices in the history of Christianity.
12% – I used to go to church, but it’s just not that important anymore.
6% – I had a bad experience at church or with a Christian.
37% believe it is not possible to know for sure if God is real.
58% believe many religions can lead to eternal life.
46% say they need factual evidence to support their beliefs.
49% says the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.
27% say the church is not a safe place to express doubts.
24% say the teaching they are exposed to is shallow.
This is an eye opener for sure. As we minister to children, we need to stay focused on the truth. There is no need to sugar coat God’s word. Life isn’t all sweet and pretty. People are in it so it is quite messy. Let’s teach our kids how messy people are and how much God steps in to help us. As our kids get a little older, let’s remember to teach them Christian apologetics. Let’s show them how we can know that the bible is truly the inspired word of God and how it doesn’t contradict science, but constantly proves it is in line with it.
Are you wondering now if your curriculum fits the bill? Is it too”cute” to raise kids rooted in truth? I venture to guess that your curriculum is probably good. We want kids to hear God’s word come to life and most of the time the curriculum does a good job of this. I would bet that all that is needed is a tweak or two. The easiest and perhaps the most relevant, you just need a brief time to ask kids to wonder, making them walk in the bible person’s shoes for a moment. What do I mean by this? This week I am teaching our kids the story of the bronze serpent. As the Israelite’s are traveling through the desert, being forced to go the long way to their destination on account of the King of Edom, I wonder what they thought. There’s not any water, they don’t get a bunch of food choices, it’s probably hot and definitely dirty. I wonder what they were thinking and feeling. This makes it more understandable when they complain. But now let’s look at it from God’s perspective. He’s rescued His people from slavery, taken care of them and they are complaining again. I wonder what God was thinking? Now they understand the snakes. The Israelite’s are told to simply look to the bronze snake if they are bit and they’ll live. I wonder what they were thinking. This brings bible history to a level we can relate and not some shallow faith where we just can’t believe the Israelite’s kept turning their backs on God.
If you are looking for a change in your curriculum, I highly recommend a chronological study helping our kids see God’s word as one big giant story with a purpose. As the “plot” develops, it takes us to the cross. Let our kids see this. In the story of the bronze snake, did you know Jesus referred to this very story in the New Testament? Yep! He sure did. He compared himself to the snake when talking to Nicodemus. See for yourself in John 3. (Or watch here.) Help kids see how the Old and New Testaments work together, that the Old Testament isn’t a gigantic boring history book, but full of thrills and meaning. There are a number of curriculum you can turn to for this. I’ve heard good things about The Gospel Project. I personally write my own and even create 3-5 minute videos. Kids use hands-on items every week to keep them focused, having fun and remembering the lessons. Feel free to use them in your classes (all free and on this website).
Our K-5th graders recently learned about Korah’s rebellion against Moses, Aaron and God. We’ve spent weeks learning about God’s people being rescued from slavery, then turning away from God a lot. They questioned Moses and Aaron’s leadership too, even though God put these men in charge. It was because of the people’s lack of faith that they were not going into the land God promised Abraham, but they blame Moses and Aaron. We learned that 10 of the 12 spies said they should not invade Canaan because the people and city were too strong? And the Israelites followed their lead being fearful instead of trusting God. God decided that since they continued to distrust Him, they would never see the Promised Land. They were so sad; they mourned. Then, they were in denial. They decided to try to take the city anyway, even though Moses said God would not be with them. Shocking, without God, all the people that went into battle died. Now they are mad! And Korah does not control his anger, but instead riles up others to take a stand against Moses. God steps in and the earth swallows Korah, his family and the other men leading the charge alongside him. How did we make class fun during this very disturbing scary story? We made an “earth gobbler.” Incredibly enough, as I was showing the second grade teacher how to make one, one of the kids sat down, saw what I was doing and was done with his before me! (It’s the fortune teller’s they make at school.). Feel free to make one with your class the next time you tell this story. Download directions and the earth gobbler too!