Memory Work

Let me start by saying: I think memorizing Scripture is a spiritual practice that we have lost, and one we should regain. I’m a horrible memorizer, and most passages I know are snippets from Bible passages set to music, or parts of a repeated liturgy. And, while I would love to be the kind of person who was able to memorize and deliver the whole sermon on the mount, I am just not that person. Not now. Maybe in my resurrection body? I don’t know.

As with all practices, there are some who it works for and some who it doesn’t. And there’s so much baggage right now around the way we churches forced memorization on our young folk and turned it into something of a chore, or rewarded the kids who could do it and made the ones who couldn’t feel lousy.

So (gulp) this year, I axed the Bible memorization requirements from confirmation. I wanted them to engage with scripture. And, instead of two verses preselected for kids, I planned to let them pick their own.

I had high hopes: music composed, dramas performed, beautiful art projects, and maybe, for some kids, memorization. But tonight, that whole project reached its final moment. I’m not sure I did such a  great job of working with kids on this through the year, so in guilt, I told them to pick one verse.

And I mostly got collages and drawings, comic strips, a few story re-writes, and one memorization.

I left feeling like I hadn’t lived up to what I envisioned. But then I thought, “Hey, wait a minute: a roomful of 14 year olds spent nearly an hour thinking, talking, scheming, planning, drawing, writing, the whole time focussed on one snatch of the Bible that they had picked.

So maybe they will remember the David and Goliath story, or Noah, or Psalm 121. And I can live with that.

2 Responses to “Memory Work”

  1. Teri Says:

    I wish we had memorization requirements for confirmation, but that hasn’t been part of it in the past. I require kids to memorize the books of the Bible in order–so at least they can USE the Bible later in their lives. All but one seem to have managed that…which is about all the “success” I can claim, in the entire year, so I’m holding fast to it! We do read a substantial portion of the Bible during the year, so I know that the stories are in there–I’m just not sure they have learned to engage with scripture in any meaningful way. But maybe a group of 14 year olds isn’t going to learn that in a school year…

  2. Erica Says:

    I actually also kaboshed memorizing the books of the Bible in order: a few years later, I can tell many have forgotten. What I realized is we were having them memorize the books at the expense of teaching them to use tools: like the table of contents!!!!

    So, I decided to re-structure things so that in 6th grade, they get a study Bible as a gift from the church. That Sunday School year is focused on a survey course of the Bible. And if they leave confirmation and know how to find helps like the ToC, Concordance, cross referencing, maps, etc. I feel pretty good about things.