Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scripture Memory - How Do We Help Children Really Treasure God's Word in Their Hearts? In Conclusion!

In my own church I struggled to help people understand the “whys” for real
Scripture memory. We had people who wanted the kids to learn many verses
and thought they should be rewarded for doing so. The Scripture memory plan
we ended up utilizing is as follows:
  • Our curriculum has one verse/passage for a month - all ages learn the same verse together.
  • The first week we focus on learning the verse.
  • The second week, kids say the verse and learn what it means.
  • The third week, kids say the verse, tell what it means and share a way they lived it in their lives the previous week. 
  • The fourth week, kids say the verse – by now, most all the kids will know the verse, even those who struggle with memorizing – they tell again what it means to them and tell another, different way they lived the verse in their real lives. 
  • If there is a fifth week, they repeat and tell another way they lived the verse.
  • This is something the teachers have to do along with the kids!

I really like this plan for Scripture memory because the focus is not on just learning the words in proper order – I’m not impressed by someone memorizing a hundred verses unless they also are living those hundred verses – but instead the emphasis is on understanding and living God’s Word! We don’t give prizes or rewards for Scripture memory – the prize is God’s Word, being able to see God’s Word is real – today! Affects my life – now! Enables me to know God – for real! Just as these reasons were worth more to David than riches, they can be the “reward” for children and adults today as well!

And what about the Holy Spirit? Scripture clearly shows that He is our Teacher, see John 14:26, and in our passage from Psalm 119, David talked about God being his Teacher as well. But, how does He do this? I wouldn’t want to put God in a “box” and say He can only teach us in certain ways, but God does give the gifts of Preaching and Teaching to people, so I believe it is possible one of the primary ways God teaches us, is through the people He gifts. We need to be sure we have people who are gifted in areas that involve teaching our children. We also need to be sure we provide train their effectiveness in teaching. In addition, it is crucial we provide opportunities for our volunteers to grow in their own walk as a teacher who is walking with God is one who will be able to be used by God and will be tremendously more effective in helping to lead others to walk with God as well. When our teachers help their students to understand the words they are memorizing, and are teaching children to spend time in prayer with God, the children will come to see God as their Teacher – we have all had experiences where we were reading Scripture or meditating on Scripture we memorized when all of a sudden, it became clear what the passage is all about. This is an example of when the Spirit, Himself, is our teacher. God is certainly able to take words we don’t understand, and teach us to understand what they mean, but I do believe we are delighting God when we and our teachers use the gifts He has given to help children understand the words they are memorizing!

Perhaps your church recognizes the need to develop a Scripture memory
plan which is real, so developing a goal and implementing a plan to involve the
children and adults in real Scripture memory is something you should be able
to go ahead with. But maybe your church still looks at Scripture memory
from the perspectives mentioned earlier and you are wondering if this is a
battle worth fighting or one whicht doesn’t really matter enough to go through
the struggle to implement change. After all, what is so bad about making
kids memorize lots of verses and giving them awards/prizes for doing so?
Please allow me to share a few true stories with you.

When I was in high school, I was on my church’s quiz team. It was my goal
to be able to answer any question with no more than five words of any
question being spoken. I memorized doctrine books and a hundred verses –
King James Version, word perfect. I quizzed out – personally answered five
of the fifteen questions in a match – of every match, except for two. I do
not remember most of what I memorized, but I do have trophies for winning
in international competition – understanding for application would have been
tremendously more long lasting and life impacting. I truly wish someone
had said, “Quiz team may be fun, but remembering, understanding and living
God’s Word is more valuable than winning”. As a teen, I didn’t understand
this. I wish my leaders had.

My children have been able to memorize easily and when they were younger,
they earned lots of badges from their mid-week club. I thought this was
a great thing, until one evening when I noticed other children crying when
week after week they didn’t receive badges because they struggled with
putting the words in order and memorization was difficult for them. No
child should feel like they are not good enough at church.

A lady I know thinks memorizing lots of verses is important. She has a
daughter who can memorize and while this daughter is only in the fourth
grade, she has memorized many verses. This girl, however: is a challenge
in her Children’s Ministry . . . she lies, won’t share or take turns and takes things from others. This girl’s mother wants her to memorize lots of verses . . . I pray she learns to understand and live even some of the Scripture she must memorize.

I’m not advocating that we in Children’s Ministry stop having children
memorize Scripture, but in previous years, I do believe we tended to swing
too far to the extreme of having children memorize many verses, for which
they were rewarded with candy, or prizes without focusing on what the verses mean and how to live them in their everyday lives. We do not need to swing to the other extreme of providing almost no Scripture for kids to memorize. There is balance somewhere in the middle, but to get to that place of balance, we may need to go to very focused Scripture memory, offering only a few verses to be memorized with an emphasis on living those verses in our everyday lives. Once children – and adults – see Scripture does mean something to their lives, now, they will be willing to memorize more Scripture for the joy God’s Word, living in their lives brings – this a great reason to memorize Scripture!

Now, I’m sure there are people who memorize lots of verses, understand
them and live God’s Word. But for the kids who struggle and feel they are
not good enough and for the ones who only focus on the number of verses
or the “prize” to win rather than the living of Scripture, we in Children’s
Ministry have the opportunity to take a stand and make a difference so
those in our ministry will “delight in God’s statutes and not forget His Word”
for their lifetime! It is worth the struggle!

No comments:

Post a Comment