Helping Our Children Learn about God by Learning His Word

Parents understand the importance of building a foundation of faith from an early age and are looking for tools to help their children do just that. The Bible Verses to Remember series Sally Michael, cofounder of Truth78, helps preschoolers to not only memorize Scripture but also to understand how it applies to their little lives today. Each book introduces a single verse and shows how God works in the world around us.

In this interview, we talk to Sally about her series and teaching young children the Bible.

Q: Introduce us to your new Bible Verses to Remember series and the inspiration behind it.

Each of the books in the Bible Verses to Remember Series explains one verse, encourages children to memorize that verse, and helps them know how to apply it in real life.

When my children were preschoolers, I put together a set of seventy-six foundational verses for them to memorize. They easily memorized the verses through simple repetition. I saw during those years how memorizing Scripture informed their thoughts and actions, molded their hearts, and encouraged their faith in God. The Holy Spirit used those memorized verses in so many everyday situations to impress on their hearts the truth of Scripture and to grow in them a desire to follow God.

When I became the minister for children in our church, I introduced those same verses in our nursery and preschool program. I impressed on the teachers the importance of introducing young children to the actual words of Scripture, the meaning of the verses, and the need to go beyond memorization to application—using Scripture in prayer, when encouraging others, and for learning to trust God and his ways. I heard so many wonderful stories from teachers and parents about the effect of the memorized Word in these little children.

I wanted to pass on that teaching to parents and a whole generation of little ones—and the way to do that for those beyond my sphere of influence was to write this series of books.

Q: What are the three goals of memorizing Scripture?

The goals are the same as they are whenever we teach the Bible to children—to instruct the mind, to engage the heart, and to influence the will. In other words, to help children know, “What should I think, be, and do?”

In instructing the mind, it is important to not just encourage children to memorize the verse—to parrot it—but to also help children understand the verse. That means explaining unfamiliar words, helping them to understand new concepts, and illustrating the truth in everyday situations.

In engaging the heart, it is important to understand that children embrace what they discover to be true. Asking lots of questions and encouraging them to think promotes discovery. Children’s hearts are wooed through interaction. When a child is told what to think, the child may or may not believe it or embrace it. However, when a child discovers the truth, the child is more inclined to own it.

We have the opportunity to influence the child’s will when we make direct connections between the truth of the Bible and the child’s life. By winsomely encouraging the child to act on what he has been taught and to obey the truth, we can help the child learn to submit to God’s ways. When we also show that we live in obedience to God’s law and in accordance with biblical wisdom, we are a living testimony to the child of the joy of following God.

Q: Can preschoolers really memorize Scripture and understand the meaning of the verses?

These books are primarily aimed at preschool children. Little children memorize almost effortlessly. Their minds are like sponges, eager to absorb as much information as they can. By simply repeating the verse several times, most preschoolers will have the verse memorized.

They may not have a comprehensive understanding of memorized verses but they do have a rudimentary understanding and I have seen amazing examples of the Holy Spirit bringing understanding of memorized Scripture through real-life situations. Verses like, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3) and “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10) can be a great comfort to little children.

The best example I have of a young child exhibiting amazing comprehension and conviction about a memorized verse happened in a preschool class. A three-year-old girl had started memorizing the Foundation Verses in the nursery and moved up to the preschool department. She was listening to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the teacher asked if they should bow down to the idol, the child jumped up and yelled, “They can’t! They can’t! Because of that verse!” She pointed to the illustration accompanying the verse, “No one can serve two masters.” The Holy Spirit used that verse to give her the settled conviction that only God is worthy of our worship.

Q: How do the questions you ask throughout the book help the child to better understand the message of the verse?

I ask questions that encourage children to draw from their experiences to help them understand biblical truth. For example, in Our Great God, I ask the question, “What makes you so happy you feel like singing? How about puppy dogs and bubbles? Butterflies and swings?” Then I point them to the greatest reason to sing, which is when we think about God.

A parent can take a question like, “What makes you so happy you feel like singing?” and let the child answer it and help the child to think of more and more things that make them so happy. Then, they can then relate it to our heart of joy when we think about God. The question becomes a bridge between a known life experience and a spiritual reality.

Questions are a means of engaging the child in discovering truth. They encourage dialogue between the parent and the child and draw the child to explore the theme of the book and come to conclusions. Questions teach children to think, to ponder, to imagine, to learn, and to wonder. The first page in Good Gifts Come from God is a page full of presents. The text asks the question, “How many presents are there?” That’s a knowledge question. The child can count the presents. The child then becomes a participant rather than just an observer.

But the questions continue: “What could be inside some of these packages?” That’s an imagination question. “What special presents have you been given?” That’s a question that encourages a child to remember a real-life situation.  Now you have captured the child’s interest and you can go on to show the child that there are all kinds of gifts that we receive every day,  some of which don’t come with wrapping paper and bows—like hugs and smiles—and eventually lead the child to understand that of all God’s good and perfect gifts, the greatest one of all is sending his Son, Jesus.

Q: What tips do you have for helping children memorize the verses?

For preschoolers it is easy! All you really have to do is say the verse and have them repeat it several times. I suggest that a parent say the reference at the beginning and the end of the verse. It probably won’t mean a lot to a preschooler, but later they will be glad that they have an idea of where to find the verse. Even if they don’t remember the whole reference, they will probably remember part of it.

For example, say the reference, then say the verse in bite-size portions, having the child repeat each section with you.

Genesis 1:1               
…Genesis 1:1
In the beginning                                 
…In the beginning
God created                           
…God created
the heavens and the earth    
…the heavens and the earth
Genesis 1:1                          
…Genesis 1:1

If you do that several times, lengthening the segments each time, the child will have the verse memorized. Then, discuss the meaning of the verse and illustrate it with real-life examples. After that, put the verse into practice by incorporating it in prayer, using its words to encourage others, and in your instruction. Keep reviewing verses so they aren’t forgotten.

Q: Give God Your Worries talks about worries and anxieties. What are some of the examples you give of anxieties that preschoolers have? How can parents help their little ones with their worries?

Little children may have separation anxiety—like being left in their Sunday school classroom or at preschool. They may become anxious if Mom or Dad are late in picking them up. They can feel fearful about the dark or dogs; they can be anxious when in a large group of children. They can develop specific fears, such as a fear of water, storms, or heights.

Help children with their anxieties by encouraging them to talk about them. Don’t minimize their fears or amplify them. Instead, arm them to face their anxieties and fears with reassurances of your love, suggestions of what to do in specific situations, and showing them how they can give their fears to God. Give God Your Worries, which is based on 1 Peter 5:7 (“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”), is a helpful book to show your child how to manage anxiety and turn to God for help.

Q: Good Gifts Come from God helps children learn to see all the wonderful things God has given us in the world. Do you have any advice for developing grateful hearts and being generous to others?

First and foremost, model thankfulness. Do we grumble and complain, or are we gracious and thankful? Children readily pick up on our attitudes and learn to copy us. So we first have to cultivate gratitude in our own hearts.  Children today are growing up in an atmosphere of entitlement and don’t recognize the undeserved mercies they receive every day.

The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 3:11b). Contentment or gratitude is something we learn; entitlement and ingratitude is the natural posture of our sinful nature and doesn’t need to be learned. It needs to be curbed.

In Good Gifts Come from God, I show children the many gifts we receive each day and explain that ultimately all these gifts come from God. I show them how to respond when they are given a gift—to thank the giver. This is developing a habit of thanks.

I then ask children what they can thank God for to show them that everything they have has been given to them by our good and gracious God. The book ends by thanking God for all his good and perfect gifts. Including thanks in our prayers helps children to recognize God’s goodness and teaches them to thank him. Children can also ask God to give them a thankful heart.                                                       

Q: In Our Great God, how do you explain what worship is and why we worship God?

First, I explain the attributes of God that should evoke our worship—his greatness in creating all things, his goodness in caring for the world and everything in it, including us, his omnipresence, kindness, and generosity. I talk about his omniscience—knowing when it will rain, the names of all the stars, everything that happens, every secret, and every whispered word—and talk about his providence over all things. All of these points are explained in language young children will understand. Over and over, I point out the greatness of God

I then explain worship in this way: “All that we know about God should make our hearts say, ‘I love you, Almighty God! You are an amazing God! You are a great God!’ This is called worship.” Worship is loving God and seeing his greatness. It is knowing that he is the best of all. Nothing is more important than God, and no one is greater than God!

Q: What resources are included in the back of each book for parents? Will these tools aid parents in helping their kids learn and memorize other Bible verses?

There are three parent pages at the end of each book that are the same in all the books. The first page is a challenge to parents to make the spiritual nurture of their children a priority. The second shows the parent how to use the book to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will. It also lists some additional parent resources. The third page gives tips for helping young children memorize any Scripture passage—not just the verses in these books, but any verses.

The last page at the end is unique to each book. It is the parent-child interaction page titled “Living by the Word.” This page gives parents ideas of simple activities they can do with their child to apply the Bible verse taught in that particular book.

Give God Your Worries

Give God Your Worries

God takes care of birds, animals, the sun and rain. He takes care of everything in his world. And he takes care of us, too. But we can sometimes be anxious or nervous. Jesus wants us to remember he cares for us and we can cast—or throw—our worries on him. Part of the Bible Verses to Remember series, Give God Your Worries helps preschoolers to memorize Scripture and understand how it applies to their little lives today.

About the author

Sally Michael

Sally Michael is a cofounder of Truth78 and has authored curricula and books marked by a passion for developing God-centered resources for the spiritual development of children. For 16 years, Sally served as minister for children at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota under the leadership of John Piper and of her husband, David. Sally and David live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sally is the author of the Bible Verses to Remember series.

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