Is Scripture Memory still important?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

biblical literacyThis verse is true whether I read it in my hard copy Bible or my digital Bible. All Scripture is useful. We need to teach our kids this truth and pray that they come to love the Bible – because it is the Word of God to us.

We live in an age of unprecedented access to the Bible. I have at least 10 copies of the Bible in my house. The Bible is accessible on the internet, and on our phones. With the Bible being so easy to access, it is still important to memorize Scripture?

I believe there is huge value in memorizing Scripture and encouraging our kids to memorize Scripture. There are a number of reasons why Scripture memory is important, but I want to focus on one:

Scripture memory helps us to avoid sin; to resist temptation.

The Psalmist writes that he memorizes Scripture in order to avoid sin.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Even Jesus, when being tempted in the wilderness, quoted Scripture.

Children will face temptation. Our job as children’s ministry volunteers (and as parents) is to teach our children the value of memorizing Scripture in order resist temptation.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

One piece of the full armor of God that is used to help us stand our ground is the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God.

But do our kids need to memorize Scripture in order to use it to resist temptation? Maybe not, but in that moment when temptation comes, are they going to ask for a time out so that they can get out their phones and look up something that will help? Having the Bible so accessible is great, but it will not help in that situation if they don’t know what to look up.

However, if our children have memorized a verse that teaches them what to do when tempted, they will always have that knowledge.

“You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13),

In that moment when temptation comes, instead of asking for a time-out, our kids will remember that God has promised them a way out and ask Him to show it to them.

Scripture memory is a great tool we can give to our kids. We need to encourage them to memorize Scripture and then tell them why it is important. We need to show them the difference between having the Bible accessible and having it “hidden in our hearts.” Temptation will come – let’s give our kids the tools they need to stand their ground.

Curriculum Pick – Discipleland

It can be hard to find good, solid, Biblical curriculum. I spend a lot of time previewing different curriculum and searching for the best-valued and most Biblical curriculum for my readers.

Discipleland is one of my top 3 picks. Here’s a promotional video about their curriculum that highlights one of the reasons why I love Discipleland – their systematic approach to teaching fundamental truths.

Check them out and let me know what you think.

Application – Moving from Head Knowledge to Heart Transformation

The goal of our Sunday School programs should always be transformation.

Although Bible knowledge is important, we don’t want our kids to just learn Bible knowledge. We want our kids to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

Sunday School should be primarily about discipleship. Application time therefore is a very important part of Sunday School. If we just taught the Bible lesson, we would be growing kids with a lot of head knowledge and likely little heart transformation.

Application time is the part of Sunday School where the 1 thing you have focused on in the lesson is made personal for each child.

Here’s an example. You are teaching a class of kids in Grades 4-6. The lesson is on Jesus, the Son of Man. The theme you have chosen to focus on, the 1 thing, is “Jesus Became Fully Human.” You have completed the lesson – shown the kids from the Bible that Jesus was fully human – and now it is application time.

1st – Application time is the kids opportunity to talk.

Design this portion of the lesson in such a way that your students feel comfortable talking. This could mean changing places. If your lesson was at a table, you may want to move to chairs in a circle. Also you may want to split the kids into smaller groups (if you have enough adults). Once settled, remember to let the kids do most of the talking. Your responsibility is to guide the conversation and keep the kids on track. You can do this by learning to ask good questions.

2nd – Build a bridge for the kids between the Bible lesson and the personal connection to their lives.

Kids don’t automatically see the connections. Your job as a teacher is to help them see it. There isn’t one response to one theme. There are infinite directions application time could be taken in. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, trust your knowledge of your kids, and then choose a direction to head. It may change during the discussion, so be open to that.

Once you have chosen a direction, plan some questions to ask that will help the kids see a connection between your 1 thing and their own lives. Continuing our example, the direction you choose to take with your theme of Jesus being fully human is that because Jesus is fully human He understands and can sympathize with us – when we struggle to resist temptation and when we feel confused and scared.

3rd – Ask questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no.

Ask questions that will force your students to think. “Tell me about a time when you were really scared/troubled/sad. Can you think of a story from the Bible that shows Jesus feeling the same way? How does it help you to know that Jesus understands?”

4th – Finish application time with an opportunity for the kids to apply this truth to their lives this week.

Make it personal and immediate. Always take time to pray. Give the kids the opportunity to talk to God privately and as a group. Encourage them to ask God to give them chances to practice what they have learned this week.

Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. So, pray. Pray while you are preparing your lesson, pray during your lesson, and pray throughout the week that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the lives of your students – softening their hearts, helping to apply truth to their lives, transforming them into the image of Jesus.

Classroom Discipline – Sometimes the Right Thing is the Opposite

behavior managementIt is very important to have established rules and expectations of behavior in Sunday School. But sometimes the right way to respond to inappropriate behavior is to do the opposite of what is expected.

In one preschool class I taught there was a 5 year old boy. He came from a single parent home. His mother had no interest in church at all. His grandparents brought him and his brother whenever they could. This boy was the epitome of getting attention with bad behavior. He broke all the rules and delighted in making his teachers angry.

I am a firm believer in awarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior (especially as regards acting out to get attention.) One Sunday morning, this boy was acting out and it had been going on for a while. My initial reaction was to ignore the behavior. I didn’t want to reward him with attention for that kind of behavior.

But, then God gave me a better idea. Instead of ignoring him, I caught him and held on. I sat with him and talked to him. Initially he didn’t want me to talk to him or to touch him. But I spoke gently telling him that I was really glad he was in my class and that Jesus loved him. And I kept my hand on his shoulder. I wanted him to know that he had my attention – I liked him, I liked talking to him and more importantly Jesus loved him.

Eventually I could sense an ease in the tension and he began to open up a little about his home life. I spent about 10 minutes one-on-one with him that morning. His behavior is still not perfect and he still acts out sometimes, but I believe that he now understands that I’m on his side and he doesn’t need to misbehave to get my attention. It was a wonderful opportunity to let that little one know that Jesus loves Him and that Sunday School is a safe place where children are accepted and loved.

Sometimes the right thing to do is the opposite of what you were taught or expected to do in behavioral situations. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Teach 1 Thing

Teach 1 ThingWhen preparing your Sunday School lesson, it can be very tempting to cram as much as possible into the time you have. After all, you want the kids to learn everything!

The problem is that the kids will end up leaving your class discouraged and overwhelmed. When asked, “What did you learn in Sunday School today?” they will not be able to give a good answer.

One of the most important truths a Sunday School teacher can master is to teach 1 thing.

Here’s how to decide what 1 thing to focus on:

Pray

Ask God to show you the 1 truth He wants you to focus on.

Read through the lesson

Read everything: all the suggested scripture, the entire lesson, the application, any additional material.

Look at the themes

Most curriculums will list one or more key themes at the beginning of the lesson. These may be called key themes, themes, aims, objectives, goals, truths, etc. You may be able to take your “1 thing” directly from here or use one listed as a base to build on.

Decide on 1 central theme

Once you have prayed and read through everything, you now have to decide what the 1 thing is you want to teach in this lesson. Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Different teachers will choose different themes and you may even choose something different the next time you teach this lesson. The Bible has so much to teach us – so choose 1 thing. Once you have decided, write it out in a single sentence.

Go back through the lesson

This is the time to be ruthless. Get rid of everything that isn’t about your 1 thing. It may be the truth, it may be Biblical and God-centered, it may be something you want the children to learn, but if it isn’t about the 1 central theme then it shouldn’t be in this lesson.

Insert your 1 thing throughout the lesson

Your 1 thing should be repeated often throughout the lesson, but that won’t happen unless you put it in.

Focus the application

You may need to change the application a lot depending on what you have chosen for your 1 thing. The 1 thing as stated will be a truth – about God, us, the Bible. During application, your job is to take that 1 truth and move it from head knowledge to heart transformation. There is a lot to say about this, so watch for it in an upcoming post.

When you focus your lesson on 1 central theme, your kids will be able to follow you, remain focused, and walk away having learned that 1 thing really well.

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