Maximizing Memory – Part 1

Sunday School students scream in panic as bazooka-carrying soldiers crash into the tiny classroom. A skinny soldier seems to be the ring-leader. His thin lips curl cruelly as he stares around the classroom at the cowering children.

“All right!  Grab the Bibles,” he snarls to the goons behind him.  The soldiers hastily grab every last Bible in the classroom and “move out” without even knocking over a single desk.

Sound like a restricted third-world country?  Actually, it was an American Sunday School classroom, and the “soldiers” were church members recruited by the teacher to confiscate all the Bibles. Students then spent the rest of the class time trying to recreate as much of the Bible from memory as they could.  You’d better believe that those students didn’t ever forget the importance of memorizing God’s Word!

I-P-E-A-R*

How can you maximize the portion of your class in which you share the memory verse with the class?  Let’s use the acronym “IPEAR” to remember a handy method for teaching memory verses in your class.

Introduce

If you were fishing, wouldn’t you bait your hook first?  And wouldn’t the quality of the bait determine how many fish you interest?  The same goes for when you’re about to teach a verse.

I don’t mean to compare God’s word to a hook, but in this stage, you are going to bait your students and, with any luck, make them want to learn the verse.  Your introduction could start with anything—sometimes, the more startling the better!

For example, if you were getting ready to teach Jeremiah 33:3 (“Call to me, and I will answer you…”), you would simply pull out your cell phone in the middle of whatever you were doing, and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to make a phone call.”  Don’t let the children know you are getting ready to teach the verse.  Just let them wonder what on earth you’re doing!

Then, after pretending to dial, you could stomp your foot in frustration and sigh, “The line’s busy! Aren’t you glad that God’s line is never too busy when you want to talk to Him?”

What if you were teaching Romans 3:23 (“All have sinned and fall short…”)?  You could put two masking tape lines on the floor and have the children try to jump from one to other.

Whatever you do, try to snag ’em with the introduction!

Present

Once you’ve snagged your little fishies, you’re ready to present the Word of God to them.  At this point, you want to have the memory verse marked in your Bible, so that you can flip to it quickly.  If you have the verse printed on a visual, you can hold it up to have children follow along as you read it from the Bible.  This helps children, especially young ones, connect that the verse on your visual is coming from the Bible.

Explain

After presenting the verse, you need to explain any unusual words.  One little boy learned Luke 19:10.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

After learning this verse, he asked his teacher, “Why did Jesus save the witch (which)?”  Obviously, this little fellow needed some explanation!

What should you explain?  Look for big words like “redemption” and “propitiation,” but also look for little words like “he” and “one” that might refer back to something or someone else not mentioned in the verse.  For this step, you might want to think through how you would explain a concept like “redemption” to the kids in your class.

Apply

This is the “So what?” step of teaching a verse.  Why is it important that the kids know this particular verse?  Is it a promise from God that they should trust?  Is it a command that they should obey?

Some verses may only apply to saved children.  If the verse you’re teaching happens to be applicable only to believers, point that fact out.  Remind your class that anyone who does not know Christ can’t keep God’s commands, claim His promises, or whatever that verse happens to be.  If you have time and the kids’ attention, this could be a good segue into the gospel.  If kids are getting antsy (and you’ve been wordy already) just say something like, “If you would like to know how to be saved, keep listening, because we’ll talk about that during the lesson.”

Repeat

This is the part where you play some sort of game or sing a song to help the kids remember and repeat the verse.  There are many creative ways to review and repeat the verse, but those will have to wait for some future blogs!

Let me give you a hint with the “repetition” phase:  start it when you first start teaching the verse! Have the kids repeat it as soon as you “Present” it, then again after you “Explain” some of the words, and again after you “Apply” it.  That way, you not only break up your teaching with activity, but you’re also beginning to cement the verse in kids’ brains even before you begin a formal memory game.

Practice

This technique obviously takes some practice to master.  And don’t feel like you have to do all of it each time you teach a verse.  But is there a particular element you see in which you could improve?  Are you strong in repetition, but weak in explanation?  Or maybe you explain the verse, but never apply it directly to the kids.  It might be helpful to practice taking this Sunday’s memory verse and writing out what you would do for each area.

  1. How will you introduce the verse?
  2. Mark your Bible so you can easily present it.
  3. What words do you need to explain?
  4. How will you apply it to your students’ lives?
  5. What creative method will you use to repeat the verse?

Have fun maximizing memory with your class!


* As far as I can tell, this method was first popularized by Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Scott AllisonScott Allison
Scott is a pastoral intern at Faith Church. He and his wife Courtney work in Children's Ministries at the church.
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