A new year brings a sigh of relief for some and a bit of wistfulness for others. Regardless of how you left 2015, a look ahead at 2016 can bring with it a lot of ideas and plans, especially spiritual ones. For many Christians, the do-over of a new year also becomes a bit of a do-over for diving deeper into Scripture, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines like memorizing verses.
If Scripture memory is something you are hoping to work on in 2016, check out how a group of families have been working through it together. We talked to Megan Strain about how she and 2 other friends decided to begin a Scripture Memory Club for their families and how they’ve seen the Lord use it to grow them individually, as couples, as families, and as friends.
Tell us about your family Scripture Memory Club. Why did you start it, and how does it work?
Megan: This past summer our family spent a week at Pine Cove Family Camp in Tyler, Texas (an experience I highly recommend!), and it was here this idea was born. During the weekly Talent Show, a young boy from another family recited most, if not all of Romans 12. It was very impressive and very convicting. I realized I was not doing a great job making sure my own kids are hiding God’s Word in their hearts. Later in the week, I was able to sit with this little boy’s mom and ask her about how she helps her kids memorize scripture. She shared they get together once a month with their first cousins for a meal and a little friendly competition where the kids get up one at a time and recite the verses they’ve learned. I loved this idea, but family was not an option for us so we turned to friends. I shared the idea with my best friend Meredith, and she loved it too. We felt like we could bring our families together and accomplish the same thing. We pitched the idea to our friend Kasey who shared our enthusiasm, and our monthly “Scripture Memory Club” was born.
How it works: Each family picks a passage to memorize. We decided it was not important for us all to learn the same verses each month. Typically, we go out to lunch after church the second Sunday of the month to touch base and motivate one another (which has often been needed!), and then the last weekend of the month we get together for a meal and recite our verses. We alternate homes, and all pitch in to help with the meal. Every single one of us (14 total) stand up one at a time and share our verses. The family that collectively has learned the most verses for the month wins the spirit stick. It is not nearly as holy as it sounds! There is lots of laughter and spontaneous singing and my five year old is usually climbing on someone. We are making fabulous memories and learning God’s Word – it’s a great combination!
In what ways have you seen your family grow spiritually?
Megan: I believe any time we study and learn God’s Word we have opportunities to use it. We’ve tried to choose passages we can use in everyday life to encourage our kids. For instance, we started with Psalm 121 and have had numerous opportunities to remind our kids that “our help comes from the Lord.” We want our kids to know that God’s Word provides everything we need for life and godliness, and I feel our Scripture Memory Club has been a great way of living out this truth.
I think another benefit has been showing our kids the importance of Christ-centered friendship. They know these other families are a trustworthy, loving and fun bunch of people, but most importantly they love Jesus too. The way we love one another and depend on one another is God-honoring and hopefully my kids will grow up and find these same life-giving friendships for their families too.
Even though it’s an all-family challenge, in what ways have you seen it positively affect your marriage?
Megan: Developing meaningful friendships with other couples who prioritize the Lord and their marriage has been important to us. These friends encourage us and help us to keep our priorities straight. I love that I can share something with Meredith or Kasey and they will not automatically tell me what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. I think we all help one another to love our spouses to the best of our ability. Sometimes we need our friends to help us see how we can love our spouse better or be more patient with them. These friendships definitely help me to be a better mate to Todd.
How have you seen it deepen your family’s relationship with other families, and more specifically, you and your husband’s relationship with other couples?
Megan: I think the relationships have been the sweetest bonus. In a world where everyone is crazy busy, we have two times set apart each month to be with these other families. In our case, we were already very close to one of the couples and knew the other couple, but not super intimately when we began. Now we are all dear friends! Though we formally get together twice a month there are many group texts, phone calls and occasional after school play dates. I know I can count on these families to pray for us and we often ask one another for prayer in the middle of a hectic or stressful week. As a ministry family, it is especially valuable for us have people who we can trust and who can pray for us.
Between the three families we have eight kids ranging from age 13 – age 5. Our kids love being together and cannot wait until our monthly gatherings. They regularly ask if THIS Sunday is our Scripture Memory Club!
What’s been the hardest part of this Scripture memory challenge for your family?
Megan: Actually memorizing scripture! We learn our verses around our dinner table. I usually print the passage we are working on and have it posted near the table and we just keep reciting them until we have them memorized. This works great until we have a crazy week where dinnertime is disrupted and we are not all at the table together. I feel like we need a backup plan for weeks like this, but I have not figured one out yet. Most months we have still been pretty successful, but last month we barely learned three verses and that was it. As I shared with Meredith and Kasey, that was three more than we would have if we were not doing this!
If other couples are considering doing something like this, what encouragement would you offer them?
Megan: Find like-minded families to join you. You definitely want to do something like this with families you and your spouse and children desire to spend time with and will enjoy getting together with on a regular basis. Connect with families that are in a similar stage of life. In our situation, we do not have any babies so we are never concerned about naptime and that sort of thing. Do not be afraid to ask someone you do not know well. We have been blessed to get to know a wonderful family through this process.
Keep it small. Three families has worked well because it is fairly easy to coordinate schedules. You are asking you kids to get up in front of a group and talk by themselves so you want them to have a level of comfort with the people you are with and do not want to overwhelm them with a large audience.
Come up with a format that works for you. Do not feel like you need to do things just as I have described in order to be successful. Same verses, different verses. Dinner, lunch. Once a month, every other month. There is no right or wrong.
Just start something. You do not have to memorize Scripture together to develop meaningful, Christ-centered friendships with other families. If your family is not ready for this level of commitment, just create something that will enable you to connect regularly with families who will push you to become more like Christ.