by Sarah Mackenzie

When I was ten, I won a big round of applause and a picture book about Dorcas at our church’s Bible study club. I was beaming with pride that day. I don’t remember how many memory verses I had mastered, but it was a lot, and I had outdone everyone else — even the “big” kids.

I wish I had kept that book about Dorcas. I also wish I could remember a single verse I had memorized. Apparently, I had lodged every one of those verses in my short-term memory. I remembered all of my verses that day — long enough to win the applause of the crowd and bring home my prize, but I can’t recite a single one for you today.

I had hidden God’s word in my heart in such a way that it couldn’t be found when I needed it.

When it comes to teaching my kids to memorize Scripture, I want to help them tuck the Word of God in their hearts — not so that they can stand before a crowd and earn a prize (though prizes are a good idea, in general), but so that they can call upon it in their time of need. When hard things happen in their lives — and they will — I hope they will find consolation and healing balm in Scripture. The only way I can make sure they have His Word with them wherever they go is to help them tuck it into their hearts in a way they won’t forget.

I am not at my strongest when I am overwhelmed, scared, or heartsick. The day I stared at a positive pregnancy test just nine months after having my fourth baby (and this time it was twins!), the day my sister-in-law died suddenly of a brain aneurysm we didn’t know existed, the time I was wracked with unexpected grief after my beloved grandpa passed away — those are the days I needed God’s Word to bubble up for me like a rush. To wash over me and let my soul feed on it like a poem. Those are the kinds of moments when His strength really is made perfect in weakness, especially if we can call His Word into our life at a moment’s notice.

There is something beautiful about recalling a long piece of Scripture.

Sure, there’s a place for memorizing single verses on their own, but knowing the verse within the context of the bigger picture, couched in the full story, each sentence leading right into the next — there’s something unique and beautiful about that.

There are times for recalling John 3:16. But at the end of the verse, I either have to drum up another reference to recite a new one, or I’m stuck. If I have an entire Psalm or a good long chunk of Gospel tucked safely in my heart, I can feed upon it for a dark time, no matter how long it lasts.

Whole Scripture memorization is a gift I long to give my children because it will comfort them, console them, energize them, and carry them through life’s unexpected trials.

Whole Scripture Memorization in 5 Minutes a Day

Where to begin?

It is actually easier to memorize a single long chunk of Scripture than it is to memorize a collection of short unassociated ones. Our brains were made to make connections. Rather than having to flip through a stack of cards or call to mind ten different Biblical references (was that Philippians 4:13 or Philippians 4:6?), simply choose one chunk and spend all of your time and energy on memorizing the Word itself.

Tips for getting started:

  • Start small. Five minutes is all you need. Commit to spending five minutes a day (set a timer and just do it!). Simply read the selection aloud every day. This method is surprisingly effective. It’s so easy to implement, there’s really no reason you can’t begin today. Read the first verse over and over until you’ve got it firmly in your mind. The next day, add the second verse. Read the first and second verse over and over until it’s solid. Maybe this will take a few days — don’t get discouraged! Just keep adding verses one at a time, committing to only five minutes a day. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make this way.
  • Begin with Psalm 100. It’s only five verses, but it’s a power punch of gratitude, and starting with it will do two things. First, it will show you how effective five minutes a day can be toward tucking God’s Word in your heart. Second, you’ll be reviewing it every day after you’ve mastered it, and doing so will normalize you to a state of gratitude and thanksgiving every day of your life.
  • After you’ve got Psalm 100 down, try memorizing John 1:1-17. Don’t get overwhelmed by the length! Remember — you’re still just doing five minutes a day. John is the most poetic of the four gospels, and poetry lends itself especially well to memorization because it lodges into our minds in beautiful rhythm and imagery.

Once you have a selection memorized, review it every day. Just start speaking the Word of God while you blow dry your hair, move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, or set up the coffee pot. See if it doesn’t transform you. It’s a gift you give yourself, and a gift to give your children for the days ahead when you aren’t there to speak the Word of God at a moment when they need it.

What better gift could there be?

Sarah MackenzieSarah Mackenzie is a smitten wife, a homeschooling mama of six (including twins!), and the author of Teaching from Rest: a Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. She writes about books, babies, and heaps of grace at Amongst Lovely Things and hosts the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, where she encourages parents to build up their family culture around books.

22 Comments

  1. We have memorized matthew 5, the beginning of The Sermon on the Mount, using this song on youtube (link below). At first it sounds hokey, but once you hear your kids singing it out, it sounds far from anything hokey at all. It’s rather beautiful. https://youtu.be/QI37PtovwGc

  2. I love the simplicity of this. My son likes Psalm 23, so I would start with it. When I was a kid, I earned a free Bible for memorizing Psalm 100. I made my students memorize it for years. It’s a great one. I did it with English language learners and with beginning French students. Thanks!

  3. What a great idea! It would be really helpful to have a list of scripture to start on, once those two are completed. Do you have any other ideas of chunks of scripture to memorize?

  4. This is exactly what I’ve done with my children (even down to starting with Psalm 100.). We just take 5 minutes after breakfast every day and read through it until we know it (a psalm-length passage usually takes about a month to sink in.).

  5. So timely! I’ve “finished” Psalm 23 with my 3-year-old as well as her monthly verse in Korean for her Children’s Church (she’s bi-lingual and much faster at memorizing the Korean than her poor mom here!) and I’ve been contemplating what to add next. Your thoughts on chunk memorization really resonated with me and I’ve added your scripture recommendations to our memorization list (well, started the list, actually). This will keep us busy for quite some time, but I’m wondering what else you or any of your readers here recommend for chunk scripture memorization. (I’m seeing a few recommendations in previous comments – Thanks!)

  6. So far we’ve only memorized Psalm 23, but it seemed like a good place to start. Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll be adding them to my list! I’ve been surprised at how much scripture has seeped into my brain after several years of reading the Mass Readings almost every morning and praying Morning Prayer off and on. Snippets from psalms in particular have been good at popping into my head at opportune moments. But I would like longer chunks in there too, and that’ll take a little more conscious effort.

  7. We do the chunk method also. It’s so much easier to remember where the section comes from if it’s a decent size. The Psalms have been the easiest to memorise, except for Ps 119 – we’re stuck at ‘He.’

  8. What a lovely and simple method for committing verses to memory. As soon as I started reading this I remembered memorizing the first chapter of John’s gospel in middle school. We spent about a month studying and memorizing and most of it still springs to mind (due in part because like you said: most poetic of the gospels).

    I also really love what you said about memorizing the long chunks. I memorized a lot of little verses in elementary school but the larger sections, the verses that were memorized in their full context are the ones that stuck and that I call upon most when needed. I’d love to see what other passages you’d recommend memorizing. I plan to start Psalm 100 tonight.
    ~Willow

    1. My littlest girl is named Willow 🙂 it seems rare to see. Although, her name is Willow Rose and my brothers wifes sister in laws sister (ha) is named Willow Rose

  9. Love your ideas! We have been trying to implement scripture memorization into our nightly prayers with the kids and it just is not happening – we are all too tired right then. I think I am going to print out one “chunk”, frame it, and hang it in the bathroom so the kids can read it while brushing teeth or such.

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more. This year we set about to learn Hebrews 11. We are only 18 verses in but they know them really well (ages 6 and 4). I’m ok with it taking 2 years because they will not forget it! And like you said we do it in 5 min a day.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about which verses to memorize. I know it’s popular to learn commands or proverbs, but as I think about it, I would prefer for them to have words of praise or encouragement (of course it’s all valuable!). Things that will push them on and motivate their hearts with love. What are some of your other favorites that you’ve done?

  11. So timely for me, Sarah! I just added “choose a Scripture to review during Morning Time” to my to-do list, but I was a little intimidated at the prospect. Thanks for the wise counsel!

  12. This was great! My mom had me memorize 1st Corinthians 13 when I was a kid, and there has been so many times it has assisted me in getting my heart right since then. Thank you for encouraging me in this so I can continue the cycle with my own kiddos.

  13. Oh Sarah…thank you! You had posted about this before, but I had no idea (or ambition unfortunately) to figure something out. I’m going to give this a shot!

  14. Oh, thank you for sharing these ideas and tips for memorisation. I struggle to remember individual verses and their addresses too. I’ll have to try this method!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *