Given the rapid pace at which information changes and access to facts and figures is increasingly at our fingertips, some even go as far as saying there is no contemporary value in memorization.
Yet memorization has significant value in brain development and cognitive health. (I’ll let you Google that to learn more from people much smarter than me.) If you’re reading this, at some point you memorized a series of symbols and their corresponding meanings in the English language. Perhaps, like me, you have about 83,000 different passwords stored in your memory banks. (Now, which one goes with which rewards account is anyone’s guess.) Even more so than in the functions of memory in daily life, memorization has significant value as it intersects with the Christian faith.
The psalmist of Psalm 119 writes of treasuring God’s Word in his heart, storing up those life-giving words. As explained in the study note on verse eleven in The Lutheran Study Bible, “God’s Word is treasured through memorization; it is brought out through action so that, by thought and deed, the believer may be kept before God” (pg. 963). Memorization isn’t about knowing more or going through senseless exercises. It’s about our thoughts being filled with truth, hope, and love—things God so freely gives! It’s about pointing us to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the living Word of God.
That’s why, historically, Lutherans have held memorization to be an important piece in catechesis (the teaching of the faith). Martin Luther even used memorization in his teaching and encouraged students to learn a few psalms by heart.
In the congregation I serve, we like to talk about “building a memory library.” Memorized words, thoughts, and ideas are always with us. So, when someone asks us a question about what we believe, or when we need to be reminded of who God is, His love for us in Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can draw on the rich resources that are stored in our minds.
Although technology has changed how we use our memory, it can also be leveraged in building a memory library for a variety of learning styles.
Amazon Echo Skill: Families can use devices like the Amazon Echo to fill their homes with the words of Luther’s Small Catechism. Not only does Alexa, the Echo’s voice, provide a spoken version of this familiar explanation of the Christian faith for auditory learners, but this piece of technology also has an interactive memory quiz that lets users check their memorization progress as they recall and recite the words of the Small Catechism. There are also several Alexa skills for Bible reading and verse memorization.
Smartphone apps: Apps are another tech-based way of engaging in the process of memorization. Verses is an app filled with all sorts of memory-building activities and accountability tools. Users can work toward memorizing any part of Scripture and track their progress on the home screen. The app offers several activities and games (fill-in-the-blank, reordering text puzzles, typing out a verse, listening to a verse) to help users toward their goals. There’s also an option to connect with friends who are memorizing the same passages.
Tinycards: The Small Catechism set on Tinycards by Duolingo functions like old-fashioned memory (index) cards, only with a far lower chance of ending up scattered all over the car on the way to school. Similarly, the Luther’s Small Catechism app from Concordia Publishing House allows for studying on the go, anytime you have your phone or tablet.
Audio Recordings: While not such a newfangled piece of technology, musical recordings of Scripture and the Small Catechism serve the memorization task as well. Tracks can be played as part of a morning or evening routine, in the car, or anytime, really.
Simple routine changes: Tweaks to the way we use technology can also benefit our learning. Rather than copying and pasting something, try typing it out. Once a week, swap out the music or podcast you usually listen to while getting ready for the day with an audio recording of God’s Word or the Small Catechism. Look at your routine and tech-use habits and find a creative solution that works for you or your family!
In Luther’s explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, he writes, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.” Our memory is not just something that can hold onto God’s Word, but it is a gift from Him!
Yes, memorization can be challenging. And there are certainly those among us who have a greater aptitude for retaining and recalling the information stored away in their memory banks. I’ve learned from my own memorization efforts, and from those I’ve taught, that a big part of the challenge is the perceived isolation. Building a memory library is best done in the context of community, where all ages are learning, refreshing, and talking through what is being learned. When memorization that is focused on treasuring God’s life-giving Word is part of a church and family culture, it becomes a resource and encouragement. Pair that with the technological tools at our fingertips or on our countertops, and I say, “Let’s get memorizin’!”
What’s your strategy for memorizing God’s Word? Does technology play a part? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section or on our Facebook page!
Want to get more ideas about using memorization for catechesis? Watch an interview with Katy.