Crossroads: Preparing Your Children for Adulthood With Bible Memory
Over the last four years, I’ve traveled to Christian conferences across the country. As I meet dozens of parents at these events, I often turn to their young children and ask if they can quote any Bible verses. As you might expect, John 3:16 and “Jesus wept” are among the most common responses — and for obvious reason. But when I ask if they can say any other verses, the response is nearly always the same: blank stares, sheepish grins, and a somewhat embarrassed parent. An unfortunate and unintended side effect of the digital age is that even classic memory verses like John 3:16 are hardly common knowledge among Christian young people. Sure, they understand biblical concepts like Creation, the worldwide flood, and salvation through Christ. But ask them to recite a verse to support any one of these beliefs, and you’ll likely encounter the same awkward silence I've come to expect. This might seem like a minor omission at first. After all, can’t we teach our children biblical principles without the hassle of memory work? Isn’t it enough that they believe the right things about God, even if they can’t trace those beliefs back to a chapter and verse?
As we ponder these questions, let’s consider the following bits of research:
- Only 20% of Americans have ever read the whole Bible. 1
- 3% of teens read the Bible every day. 2
- Less than half of adults can name all four Gospels. 3
More than ever, America is facing a famine. This is “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). Notice Amos describes a very specific famine: it’s not a famine of having God’s Word, but a famine of hearing God’s Word! In an age when Americans spend $500M on Bibles annually, it’s clear that we don’t face a famine of having Scripture. But it’s increasingly apparent that a famine of hearing has swept the land — especially when you consider that most high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. 4 These statistics might seem unrelated to our topic, but they couldn’t be more relevant. Studies show that 70% of Christian teens entering college will walk away from their faith before graduating.5 As they enter the spiritual battleground of secular culture, their armory lacks one vital piece: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Instead of wielding this “living and powerful” sword that pierces “even to the division of soul and spirit” (Heb. 4:12), they launch into life armed with the equivalent of a Swiss army knife. Their worldview is founded not on the absolute authority of Scripture, but on the preferences and opinions of mom and dad — hardly a viable defense when their faith is under attack by a persuasively unbelieving professor. As someone who was raised in a Christian home, I can confidently say that your children will eventually encounter the same crossroads I faced 8 years ago. What will they choose to believe? What lifestyle will they pursue? What specific doctrinal beliefs will they adopt as their own? As your children embrace the independence of adulthood and answer these questions for themselves, a deep and personal knowledge of Scripture will be vital. They need God’s words, not yours, echoing in the back of their minds. As with any discipline, Scripture memorization takes work. But if your goal in parenting is to give your children a biblical worldview, it’s work worth doing. After all, a biblical worldview is impossible apart from a deep and wide knowledge of God’s actual words. As a Korean pastor once wrote, “Where did we get the idea that you can be someone’s disciple without knowing what he said?” As you seek to prioritize God’s Word this year, remember the three W’s of memorizing Scripture:
What will we memorize? Setting specific goals paves the way for progress. As the saying goes, if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!
When will we finish? As with any discipline, your Bible memory goals need to coincide with a specific timeline. Once you know what you’re memorizing, put a target completion date on the calendar.
Who will hold us accountable? Research shows you’re twice as likely to reach your goals when you tell someone else about them. So, find someone outside your family who will listen to you recite each week.
Finally, remember that the best way to teach your children that Bible memory is worthwhile is by practicing it yourself. This is the biblical model of parenting described in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 — parents leading their children to a knowledge of God’s Word by way of example. Whatever your family chooses to memorize this year, may God’s Word be found right where it belongs: in your heart and at the center of your home (Psa. 119:11; Deut. 6:6-9). 1 https://lifewayresearch.com/2017/04/25/lifeway-research-americans-are-fond-of-the-bible-dont-actually-read-it/ 2 https://www.barna.com/research/top-10-findings-teens-bible/ 3 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5-facts-on-how-americans-view-the-bible-and-other-religious-texts/ 4 https://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/joan-of-arc-noahs-wife/ 5 https://onenewsnow.com/church/2017/08/13/ministries-tackle-70-rate-of-college-students-leaving-faith
Scripture Memory Fellowship exists to help you and your family know, live, and love God’s Word. That’s why we developed SwordGrip, a Bible memory program designed for families. By memorizing a key passage of Scripture from each book of the Bible, your child will “get a grip” on the whole counsel of God’s Word. Each SwordGrip flipbook includes verse cards, Grip-It-Tighter Questions, and progress stickers. Click here to learn more.
- This is a concise, convicting, and important article. It would be good to have it in print to pass around. Perhaps it is printable. I'll check with someone.