For the past 20 plus years, I have served primarily as a youth minister in churches. However, for the past year, I have served as the leader of the kids’ ministry at a church. I still have not decided whether or not this is my purgatory. Regardless, this year has given me time to reflect upon my youth ministry philosophy and praxis through the priorities set in motion in kids’ ministry.
Multiple kids’ curriculums place a heavy emphasis on Scripture memorization, which many churches opt to use. And, while these are good curriculums, under my leadership our church modified one of these approaches. Instead of the approach that focuses on one verse per week in a 90 minute setting, our kids’ ministry focuses on only one verse per month. In addition, this monthly verse is reinforced across all Sunday and Wednesday programming, as well as in home discipleship. With this approach, kids are more likely to retain Scripture in long-term memory. Furthermore, kids are taught to better understand and apply each verse as they grow and mature in biblical knowledge. The kids also are encouraged to explain the meaning of each verse in their own words, which promotes understanding and also builds their confidence to share Scripture with friends.
This approach is simple and easy to implement while making Scripture memory fun. All learning strategies are interactive, competitive, or teamwork driven. Kids compete against clocks, themselves, and each other. Additionally, parents use apps and creative games at home. Google searches provide multiple ways to learn Scripture, which can be used in rotation.
In youth ministry, I placed a heavy emphasis on the Word of God with in depth teaching and trained students to study individually. While Scripture memory was encouraged, it was not a primary goal. However, I believe that kids ’ministry can challenge youth ministers to improve in this area. In youth ministry, games are played on a consistent basis. Why not use them for kingdom purposes? The struggle to engage and encourage teens to learn Scripture is real. But with age-appropriate interactive activities, teens can become enthusiastic about memorizing, understanding, and explaining Scripture. While kids focus on one verse per month, teens can be challenged to memorize more lengthy passages.
As I began this year of kids’ ministry, I shared with the adult volunteers my desire to see kids come to know Christ as the Holy Spirit works through the reading, studying, and memorizing of God’s Word. Youth ministers desire the same for teens. Thus, if the Word is the priority, perhaps more engagement in memorizing and understanding it should be part of youth ministry strategy. For me, engaging in kids’ ministry has opened my eyes to incorporate similar strategies into my youth ministry