The Memory Verse Lady

This was a final piece I wrote for A Brewed Life before my pregnancy break began. It’s a summary of a new initiative we implemented in our weekly kids ministry at my local church in the fall of 2015. I’m sharing it at the close of this ministry season as a seed thought for fellow pastors and children’s leaders for the fall. As you debrief from a busy year of serving kids, take a break first and then write a few notes that will guide your fall planning. Perhaps this idea will help! 


The longer I serve in Children’s ministry the more clearly I am able to define what I like to call my “non-negotiables”. These are essentially the beliefs or practices that I refuse to sacrifice; I refuse to let go of no matter the pressure of those around me or popular trends in my field. These things can’t be lost or traded. I’ve been, perhaps for a couple of years, wrestling with the tension between the apparent gain of contemporary outreach children’s programs and the obvious loss of traditional Sunday School programs that, I’ve been told and have come to believe, defined and shaped the Biblical foundation of the children of our provinces’ religious history.

One quick walk through of any outreach program today will undoubtedly leave any Christian stunned and overwhelmed at the obvious Biblical illiteracy in our children. Indeed we are reaping the harvest of a post-Christian society when prayer, Bible reading and Christian spiritual development are no longer first and foremost in our schools or even our homes.  But hear me! I refuse to dwell there or dwell on how dreadful the world has become. I offer instead that I choose to be one of a generation who will study our world and it’s changes, and then fight with ferocity to see us regain a fresh, new healthy spirituality for our children.

Part of that fight is clearly defining those things most worth fighting for as it relates to ministry to children in the church context. There are only so many hours to each day, only so many teachable moments for a Children’s pastor, and with those limitations in mind, I must find the most valuable beliefs or practices and efficiently, strategically and effectively teach them.

I came to realize while serving one Sunday in our morning children’s program that while we taught scripture, and in fact promoted memory verses in all of our programs, I had not effectively put structures in place so that children would in fact follow through with learning their verses, reciting them publicly and therein hiding the Word of God in their hearts. We were so close. We had the belief in its importance; we were teaching it but it wasn’t sticking. So close and yet so far away.

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As with many of my honest God moments, I was watching YouTube during our summer season. I was flicking through short videos of Phil Vischer’s series Buck Denver asks What’s in the Bible when a small segment with the Sunday School Lady came on. She was describing the Pentateuch. It occurred to me while listening to the relatively irritating voice of a grey haired elderly puppet that we needed a Memory Verse Lady. A small light went on- spiritual or vegetable, I don’t know.

Here’s what my mind processed:

Biblical memorization is pivotally important to the spiritual development of our children.

With a program that reaches approximately 90-100 kids each week, and an already stretched thin group of amazing small group leaders, there is no way to organize and maintain the information of students and their work in an effective and efficient way.

I need someone specific who’s only job is to listen to kids, record their successes with Biblical memory and organize a clear reward system that will adequately motivate and encourage the involvement and participation of our children.

We need a Memory Verse Lady (or gentlemen… I’m not sexist!)!

So I set to work with that end goal in mind.

I needed someone organized to handle so much information. Someone dedicated who would be consistent every week in being available for the kids.Someone warm and kind that would endear children to themselves and offer grace for their struggling. Hmmm… I went looking and found just the person tucked away in pew ten on the right side of our church. She agreed and I got really excited about the potential.

I equipped her with the names of the children in our program, a list of all the memory verses for the semester and the basic plan. We would send home memory verses with the kids each week – as we had always done – but would ensure kids knew that this time we were looking for response. On our first night of the program during the memory verse component of the lesson I introduced the memory verse lady and explained that the following week, and every week subsequent, she would have a booth in our church foyer. Kids would go to her as they came in, recite their memory verses, and she would award them a bible buck that they could use later in the year for small prizes in our Bible Bucks store.

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We prepared that we might be months getting kids and parents on board with this new idea. We set up the booth the next week with fancy colours, a flashy sign and even stickers as instant rewards. And we waited when the doors opened that night. We were shocked when 32 kids knew their memory verses! 0 to 32 in one week! Wow – isn’t that exciting! What potential one little change made for our kids. I felt like we laid 32 bricks in the spiritual foundation that night and we were, and still are, excited to keep laying bricks til Kingdom come.

So, why share this story? Certainly not to brag. I could write pages about the things I’ve tried that have failed – maybe that will be next weeks’ post. What I’m hoping to offer my fellow pastors is this – a method that large children’s ministries can use to emphasize and implement Biblical memorization into their hectic and sometimes overwhelming programs. I’ve served in many children’s programs of varying sizes in varying communities over my short years. Each one had unique needs and assets that allowed for intentional training of children. I hadn’t, however, any experience in a program of this size and I’ve been learning the hard way how to accomplish some of these important things on this level. It’s taking some time and a lot of creativity, but it’s so worth it. My hope is that by sharing my ideas, some of you awesome superhero kids leaders can skip the frustration I’ve been working through and get right to the good stuff of loving and serving kids, and effectively and efficiently building strong spiritual foundations in their young and hope filled lives.

Let’s keep at it team!


How are you creatively implementing a memory verse program in your children’s ministry?

What are some of the challenges you’re facing in your children’s ministry – large or small? Perhaps it’s something we can tackle together!

Share your thoughts below! 

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Counting Blessings

I sighed out loud as I scrolled through my newsfeed. Another post of another great thing happening in another person’s life.

A new vehicle.

A fantastic vacation.

A beautiful bouquet of roses.

A super romantic date night.

A successful career.

It seemed like everybody everywhere was living this full and overflowing life, while it was sitting in my saggy couch with a chipped cup of no name coffee.

Why do they have all the good stuff?

Why do I have the leftovers?

Oh heavens. I’m almost ashamed to admit it – save for the fact that perhaps you’re thinking it too. We all get trapped there some days, don’t we? We see the apparent plenty of others and then, disheartened, we scan the scene around ourselves and, regardless of what fills the space, we see wreckage, second best, and the emptiness of the things we don’t have.

We end up discouraged, sad, discontent and perhaps even angry at the injustice of it all. To be honest, I got sick of it all. I got sick of envying the blessings and successes of others. I got tired of seeing my glass half empty. I got so fed up with the absolute ludicrous emptiness and bitterness that had gripped my heart. It was stealing my joy, my peace and my contentment.

I challenged myself to start counting the blessings of my life, unwrapping the gifts that I’ve been given and relishing in the joys both big and small. Ann Voskamp’s challenge to find 1000 gifts in the everyday ordinary of life seemed perfect and so I began to number them.

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1. Gentle kicks from baby

2. Cuddles with hubby

3. A quiet morning alone

4. Memories on my Christmas tree

5. Hot coffee steaming in the cup

It was difficult at first, to shake off the weight of the wanting, even for a brief moment. I really had to stop, think, look around me and in me. And with each day my gratitude grew…

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34. This prayer chair

35. People who believe in me

36. Recognizing spiritual growth in my own life

I began to feel so full, so thankful, so blessed. As I numbered them, recorded them, I found gratitude growing in me and contentment settling in fresh.

I continue to practice it each day in some way. 

I don’t want to miss the good stuff of my life while I’m waiting for it to show up.

So if you’re aching from the e  mpty and need a new perspective, join me in counting the gifts and watch as gratitude grows like a tulip in the spring’s warm sun.

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97. Adventuring into new simple things with Rowan

98. Talking about our faith with my husband

99. Sensing peace when it should not be

My list goes on…


What is one thing you are grateful for today?
Add it to my list and let’s keep counting our blessings.

Share it below!

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Two Hearts

I wrote this piece during my pregnancy shortly after we discovered the gender of our soon to arrive bundle of joy. A baby boy. We were both ecstatic. At our ultrasound we purchased a bear with a recording of the baby’s heartbeat as a memento. After arriving home a few days later, this was my reflection on the experience. 


And as I lay in bed that evening replaying the short recording of the steady thumping of our tiny growing treasure’s little heart I wondered if really two hearts had been beating in me for much longer than I’d ever known.

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You see as a follower of Christ, as one who’s chosen to walk the way of faith and relationship with Jesus, not only does my fleshly earthly heart beat within the walls of my chest as a gift from creator God but so too ought the beating and compassionate heart of Christ find it’s rhythm in my life. His heart beats for the lost, the hurting, the broken, the outcast, the unlikely, unlovely and unworthy. Its steady rhythm is grace and love, the systolic and diastolic. Grace for your brokenness, love for your possible wholeness.

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There are days my fleshy heart with my own selfish ambitions, sins and hurt beats a drum line I’m not proud to march. Truthfully and shamefully I admit, I can feel the dissonance between the hearts. I feel the moment when I pass my hurting neighbour- my own heart beats me on pass them with vain distractions I call busyness, responsibilities, and “getting ahead”. His heart nearly breaks the flesh within me with its loud and overwhelming message to stop, offer grace and demonstrate love. Oh the dissonance. The tension between the tugging of hearts.

And there’s this little one with a heart barely big enough to survive, beating twice as fast as mine, growing, ever growing in the warmth of me. I realize with tears pooling and spilling, that if I want this little heart to beat in the rhythm of Christ’s heart, he ought to see and know how my own heart does the same.

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So, I’ll listen one more time today – as I do nearly everyday because I want to be reminded. I want to be closer to this blossoming life in me, to express the love I already know for this precious possibility.

As I do God my Father whispers gently:

“Listen to my heart again, listen every moment of every day.
I want to be closer to you,
I long for you to know the love I’ve already shown.
Your life is a precious possibility.
Listen to my heart and steady your own
to find the peace, joy, love, grace and mercy that comes when our two hearts beat as one”.

Amen.

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A Fresh Cup

Grab a cup! We need to catch up. So much has happened in the precious months I’ve been absent from the blogging world.

Surprise! My husband and I welcomed into the world a beautiful, bouncing baby boy. Our little one arrived – in his very own time – on March 19th late in the evening at a healthy 8lbs 14oz and 19 3/4 inches long. And he immediately became our greatest treasure.

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We named him Rowan and he’s been affectionately nicknamed Buddy by his wonderfully loving daddy, my remarkable husband, who keeps surprising me with his patience, love, maturity and growth in this new season full of challenges and blessings.

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So, these days we newbie parents are neck deep in this brave new world of diaper genies, strap on baby carriers, snap up sleepers, and multicoloured nummies. It’s exciting and scary, overwhelming and beautiful. And we are doing it together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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In the mean time – the stolen time during naps and daddy duty – I’m getting back to my new normal self and finally putting my pen back to paper – rather, my fingers to the touch screen -writing again and this time with a growing new perspective on life and ministry. And, as expected, a deeper than ever love for coffee. Hey! I need it after that two hour morning shift I just pulled with Buddy at 3am!

I invite you to join me again – be it sporadically – as I share a little of life and coffee with you. The site is new – mainly because in the chaos of pregnancy and a new baby we lost track of a renewal on A Brewed Life. But a fresh start is as good as a new pair of stretchy jeans and a steaming Americano.

You just know this is gonna be fun.

Love!

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