I feel like my kids should memorise some Bible verses. But when to start? How young is too young? How old do my kids need to be before I’ve missed the boat? What verses do I even choose? What translation? How do I go about it? If you’ve ever asked any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place, because I’ve been asking all of the questions as well.
Why memorise Bible verses?
Scripture memory is one of the most powerful practises a Christian can do. Not the most powerful, but it’s definitely up there. Not only does it get good truth stuck in your head (in a good way!), but it also gives you content that you can pull out really easily. Whether you’re suffering and need some comfort, or you’re chatting to a non-Christian and need a word to speak the gospel into their situation. It is profitable for equipping us for every good work after all (2 Tim 3:16). And the more we have locked into our minds, the more situations we have covered with profitable truth!
What age to start?
Personally, I don’t think you can start too young. Cancel that. If your kid can’t say any words, then there is no point trying to get them to memorise Bible verses (we want them to grasp the meaning, not just the sounds!). But, as soon as your kid is at the developmental stage when they are starting to put a word or 2 together, you are ready to go. It will be slow and lot’s of practising, but that will be incredibly beneficial for your kids.
Have I missed the boat?
No. You’ve never missed the boat. The earlier you begin the better, and that’s still true for you now – no matter how old your kids are. As some Chinese dude famously once said, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” So if you are 20 years behind the mark, get on the train now! Although your 20-yr-old would find it super weird, let’s be honest.
This is totally up to you. Choose whatever you like. Just remember 2 key things. Firstly, your kid will have this verse with them for the rest of their life. So we would tend to steer away from the “easier” translations such as CEV, NIrV, Good News etc. They sometimes replace really helpful Christian words with words that are more understandable for kids. While this is helpful for certain purposes, it doesn’t set your future fully-developed adult (does that ever actually happen?) up as well. You are teaching them verses for both now and the future, so I’d suggest to stay away from short-changing them.
Secondly, you do still want them to be able to comprehend the sentence. There are a range of good translations that tend to be super wooden. AKA they sound like yoda speaking. Translations like the ESV and NASB can be hard for adults to follow, let alone kids. However, the positive of memorising in these translations (and we would choose the ESV over the NASB) is they can cause you to slow down and reflect on the verse well. But let’s be honest – teaching memory verses to kids is super slow and repetitive anyway, providing plenty of opportunity for reflection.
I have chosen to use the NIV. I think it is an excellent translation of the Bible and is easy to understand. I began teaching my firstborn simple memory verses in the NIV when he was about 1 and a half, and he was able to pick them up ok (even if it was without verbs!).
So which verses should I teach first?
Ok, you’ve been waiting to get here since you read the title of this post hey? Sorry. Anywho, let’s get into it:
1) Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
I think this is a great first verse to teach kids. Not only is it short and fairly easy to learn, but it establishes God as the Creator King from the get-go. Creation is also one of the easier concepts for kids to learn, so a verse focussed on a familiar idea will be easier for them to grasp.
2) Psalm 68:20a
Our God is a God who saves.
Again, this verse is short and sweet. The thing that I love about this verse so early on, is that it establishes God as both our God, and the Saviour. Every time you read a Bible story that has God saving his people in it (which is gonna be pretty often yeah?) you can get them to pull this little cracker out. And then you can add the second half of the verse when they’re a bit older.
3) 1 Tim 1:15b
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
3 out of 3 short verses. What a way to start! And here we introduce Jesus, which builds on the concept of God as saviour. This verse also introduces sin as the danger which we need rescuing from. But it’s not just sin, it’s also sinners that are introduced. This allows you to personalise the problem within your kid (and yourself) as a sinner.
4) Isaiah 6:3
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.
This might seem like an odd verse to teach so early. But I think it’s great. It will teach our kids some great words like holy and glory. We live for the glory of the holy God. It is awesome for our kids to be captured by this these truths. And the fact that he is almighty is a bonus that gets thrown into this verse too. For free!
5) John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Ok – your kid has 4 short verses down. Well done. now it’s time for a longer one. And it’s an all-time classic. I feel like this one almost doesn’t need any justification for it’s inclusion as a top-5 verse. But I will give it anyway. Key ingredients that we add here are God’s love, Jesus as the Son, belief as the appropriate response to Jesus, death (perishing) being the punishment for sin and eternal life being the reward for belief in the Son. So many epic things for your kids to have whirling around in their heads.
So what are you waiting for? Go plant that apple tree already!
Feel free to check out our Family Scripture Memory resources that have all of these verses + more!