In my first month of blogging, over 2 years ago, when Ivy was just 2 years old, I talked about teaching her to recite the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. (You can read that post here). That was the catalyst to where we are today. She's now 4 years old and learning her 10th Bible Verse.
A couple of weeks ago (when we were only on 9 verses) I wrote them out on flash cards, because she's starting to recognize more sight words and bigger numbers (past 10), so I wanted that educational aspect of learning to correlate with our biblical learning. But, flash cards is not how we learned these verses.
Most of the verses I am teaching Ivy are verses I had learned as a kid, mainly from growing up in the AWANA program at Hope Chapel Kihei. Also, my mom kept a couple copies of the "Four Spiritual Laws" in the console of her car, and whenever I would be waiting on her, I'd pick it up and start memorizing the verses, because that's what I always heard you were supposed to do with that little yellow book. Memorize it! You never know when someone is gonna come asking you how to get saved! (I'm not even joking… this was/is my thought process.)
Every kid is different, but here's the steps we took with Ivy in memorization:
1. Pick a specific time of the day to learn and review the verses with your child.
It worked best as part of Ivy's bedtime routine. Maybe for your kid it could be after dinner, or as soon as they wake up or while driving in the car or even while they're in the bathtub. Whenever it is, do it at the same time every day.
2. You need to have it memorized, before they can have it memorized.
You and your child will have most success if you memorize the verse first.You're going to be repeating it over and over for them, in a variety of ways. And some days, they won't feel like saying it at all, so you might as well memorize it right off the bat.
3. Teach each verse in segments.
For the Fruit of the Spirit, I taught her the first 2 (love, joy) one night, then added in the 3rd and 4th the next night (peace, patience), then the next night taught her how kindness and goodness both ended in "ness", then the next night told her how faithFUL and genTLE had the same "UL" ending, and then finally finished with self-control. We stuck with this verse for a week or two. I didn't even add in "But the fruit of the Spirit is" or "against such there is no law" until later. For each of the verses you see in this post, pay attention to when the verse goes to the next line. These are good groupings to teach them in segments. (i.e.: teach line 1, then line 2, etc).
4. Repetition is key.
Say the first line, then have your child repeat after you. For the following verse, I would have Ivy repeat "I can" after me 3 or 4 times, before moving on to "do all things" and repeating that 3 or 4 times, then repeating "I can do all things" a bunch, then add "through Christ" and so on. Repeat. Repeat again and again. Combine. Repeat.
5. Teach the Verse Address.
"1 Corinthians 11:1" may sound like a mouthful for a pre-schooler, but if you don't teach the reference now, it's way harder to teach it later. It's also helping to teach them numbers. I screwed up and taught Ivy the following verse as "2 Corinthians 10:1" for like 6 months, and then I realized I was wrong, and it's taken quite a few weeks to re-teach Ivy, and she still says it the wrong way most nights. :( My bad!
6. Some days you'll be the only one saying the verse.
There were some nights where Ivy just didn't feel like saying the verses. Of course I tried to encourage her to do so, but in the end she would just ask me to say them. So I did. Happily. I never wanted it to become something negative. After all, this is God's Word! And it's okay for her to hear it being said, even if she's not the one saying it. That's still helping her learn.
7. It's okay to simplify for kids.
I'm not trying to push for a new kids version of the Bible or anything, but sometimes you can let words go… like "hath," or "yet" or repeating "might" a million times. Believe me, I took many courses in New Testament and Old Testament and have listened to countless teachings on the importance over which translation is most accurate, most inspired, most understandable and I respect all the research being done to try to find the purist form of God's Word. But just like you would bring over a stool for your child to reach something up high, sometimes you have to make adjustments to make these verses accessible to your children. For example, the following verse actually reads: "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Our version isn't too different, but a little less wordy.
8. At this age it's about memorization, not meaning.
Again, don't start a debate with me on this. Of course the meaning is ESSENTIAL. It's why we teach our kids Bible verses! But, some things they just won't understand until they are older. Sure, I explained the word "abundantly" to Ivy, but she would be bored out of her mind if I forcefully explained the entire verse in detail, the way I would to an adult. My goal is that these verses are being "written on her heart" so that when she is older, she will remember them and things will start to click, just like they did for me. I memorized the following verse when I was 5 years old and have never forgotten it. And how cool did I feel for being able to say a word like "abundantly" at that age?!
9. Spend at least a week or two on learning a verse before moving on to a new verse.
Ivy can say the first 8 verses listed in this post, and we've been working on #9 for about 4 weeks now. She always remembers the last part of #9 "it is the gift of God." Remember, I started the Fruit of the Spirit over 2 years ago, and we are just starting our 9th verse… it takes time and repetition. The older she gets (she's 4 1/2), the easier it is to teach new verses, but I'm in no rush. Neither is she.
10. Recite each verse, in order, every day.
This goes for all the verses you've learned (not the ones you haven't learned yet). Prompts are okay. For example, all I say is "And it shall" and Ivy will be able to finish the rest of Acts 2:21 on her own.
11. Choose the verses you want your child to learn.
I chose these 10 verses for a few reasons: either I knew them myself, or my husband knew them, or I felt like they were important yet simple/short enough for her to grasp, or I heard them in church and quickly wrote them down because I liked them and wanted to teach them to her. You can totally use the verses I use (they're tried and true for us) or make up your own.
Let me know if you have any questions about this. It's been super rewarding for us to do with Ivy. We live in a world where our religious freedom and freedom of speech is slowly being taken away, and I wouldn't doubt that in our kids' lifetime the Bible will be somewhat inaccessible. In preparation, I want God's Word written on Ivy's heart, so that it will be with her always.