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Why scripture memory matters

You and I only have 3-5 years to help prepare a student for a lifetime of walking with God and laboring in the harvest.

Accordingly, I want to make sure that I effectively impart to my students the most essential tools and disciplines I can while they are under my care.

The reality is that once they hit post-college life, the next 40-60 years are likely going to be brutal to their faith.

Now in my 21st year on campus, I have enough data to see that the overwhelming majority of my alumni, even my sharpest students, are likely to be significantly wounded, wash out or bogged down in the swamp of life post-college.

Some will succumb to the lure of materialism and busyness; others to false doctrine; still others will continue to value their walk with Jesus and be involved in their church but will likely fall into a camp with the 97% of American Christians who haven’t articulated the Gospel to a neighbor or coworker in years.

One of the most essential tools I can impart to a student, one that will serve them for the rest of their lives, is the discipline of scripture memory. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Memorizing scripture will keep their walk with God fresh. It will protect them from error.

With the verses they learn just while in college, a quiver full of arrows will be at their disposal to fight the beasts which will wage war against their faith when they hit “the real world.”

A believer’s mind is more saturated with error, impurity and distractions now than perhaps ever before. It is no wonder that immorality, anxiety, hopelessness and a lack of victorious living dominate so many believers’ lives.

The Apostle Paul admonishes in Romans 12 for us to no longer conform to the pattern of the world, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Scripture memory is one of the best ways I know of to renew our carnal minds.

When I see a student incorporate the discipline of scripture memory into their lives, I always see transformation follow.

It’s amazing to watch the Spirit of God take the Word of God and completely change a student’s mind, heart and will.

In John 14:26, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and will remind us of everything Jesus has said.

Think about that. The Spirit will remind us of what Jesus said. You can’t be reminded of something you never knew!

So as I memorize Scripture, the Holy Spirit will often take that arrow that is hidden in the quiver of my heart and at just the right time, He will deliver it to my mind or heart.

When I was in college, two buddies and I decided to make a habit of memorizing 10 verses per week together. It was a pretty hefty commitment.

We met together every night of the week for 10-15 minutes to review the verses.

I had no idea what an amazing investment this would be and the dividends I would reap for the rest of my life.

I discovered quickly in my first job after college that there was no way I could keep up a pace of learning 10 verses per week.

In fact, I was lucky if I could memorize one verse per week. But those hundreds of verses I memorized in college, and the discipline and love for scripture memory that I developed during those years have really guided and sustained me through every season of life since.

Here are three ideas to get your students started in scripture memory and to help solidify this essential discipline in their lives:

1. Start with a simple set of verses

A great time-tested tool to do this is the TMS (Topical Memory System).

The TMS has 5 sections of verses divided by topic, with 12 verses in each section for a total of 60 verses.

We have our freshmen start with one per week. By the end of their first year, they are usually about half way through the 60 verses.

For those who want to be on our leadership team their sophomore year, we have them commit to learning two verses per week over the summer which helps them finish up the TMS by the end of the summer in time for them to lead in the fall.

If a student gets to the point that they have all 60 verses of the TMS memorized, nine times out of ten they have seen the amazing benefits of memorizing and meditating on the Word and will continue memorizing additional verses of their own choosing.

There are some great apps available as well that work to help students with scripture memory. Scripture Typer is a good one.

2. Make Scripture memory a key part of every Bible study

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each Bible study to break off in twos and quote the verse from last week to each other.

I never want this to be legalistic, because not only will the students stop doing it, they also tend to stop coming to Bible study because they don’t have their verses memorized.

If I notice someone is having trouble with getting the verses memorized quickly, I’ll invite them to work on it with me.

For some I say, “Hey, let’s text each other the verse we are working on every day.” This usually really gets them going.

3. Model Scripture memory

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned with certainty over the years it is that if I am not modeling scripture memory as an integral part of my walk with Jesus, my staff likely won’t and my students almost certainly won’t.

You can talk about the value of scripture memory at your large group, and have it be an expectation of your leaders, but if you personally are not excited about scripture memory, you can be sure that your students will never see it’s value or adopt it as an integral part of their lives.

I usually start my discipleship times (and almost every staff meeting or any other meeting) by handing the person my verse pack and saying, “Quiz me on this verse I’m learning.”

For those I’m discipling, they pick up on this and end up handing me their verse pack, and it becomes a regular part of our time together.

My younger staff then do that with their students and their students do it with the younger students in whom they are investing.

I often like to share with the student why I’m excited about memorizing a particular verse and how God is using it in my life. This keeps scripture memory from just seeming like a duty and helps them see my passion for and the value of the Word treasured up in my heart and mind.

As more and more of your students start falling in love with scripture memory, it will become infectious and a vital part of the culture of your ministry.

I usually encourage students as they are graduating to feel freedom to speed up and do more or slow down and do less, but to never stop memorizing and meditating on Scripture for the rest of their lives.

Want to give a gift to your students that will last a lifetime? Make scripture memory a part of your life and your campus ministry. They’ll likely pick it up–and take it with them!