When I was 18, I competed in the 2009 National Bible Bee, qualified for finals in Washington D.C., and placed 2nd nationwide. I wrote about my experience on Alex and Brett Harris’ blog, The Rebelution.
You can download a pdf list of the passages I memorized here.
From my experience in the competition, I have 7 tips for memorizing the Bible:
1. SCHEDULE: Create a do-able schedule for memorizing. Making a schedule is so important. I printed out my own monthly calendar and wrote down every passage into which day I would memorize them. If I got behind, I would work harder to catch up.
2. RETYPE and PRINT the passage/s you want to memorize into a word processor in your preferred layout. I created a simple layout with verse numbers added in the passage (use your Bible to add them). I would print it out in a 2 page per sheet layout in print settings and then just fold the page in half to memorize with it.
3. MARK IT: Create a marking system (with highlighter and pens) whereby you take note of every “and”, every, “therefore” or “also”, or just key/repetitive phrases in a passage (like with Lev. 19:11-18, the repetitive phrase is “I am the LORD”). Read the passage and mark similarities as well as differences. Identifying these is so important for memorizing the details of a passage.
4. MEMORIZE: I read the whole passage a bunch of times looking for those similarities/differences and marking them with highlighters/pens. Then I just followed John Piper’s method of memorizing. You start verse by verse (or phrase by phrase if they’re too much), by reading it out loud 10x (or until you got it), then reciting it out loud without looking 10x (approx.). I do this verse by verse as I work my way down the passage, but when I recite the new verse, I try to include in my recitations all the verses that precede it. This takes time. You must be willing to “fall in love” with the passage or you won’t really get it.
5. USE FINGERS: Memorize/Recite the passages and their verse numbers with your fingers (if it was verse 1, or 11, or 21, or 31, or 41, etc. I would hold my right hand fingers in a #1 position, then for verse 2, 12, 22, 32 etc. I would hold my fingers in a #2 position and so on and so forth. 6, 16, 26 etc. would equal pinkie to thumb, 7, 17, 27 etc. would be ring finger to thumb and so on. 10, 20, 30, 40, etc. would equal just the thumb). I do this because it helps me keep the flow of the passage, to know where verse 7 begins without having to even say verse 6. I want to be equipped with verses to know exactly where to find a specific phrase in a chapter.
6. RECORD all passages into your computer (Audacity is a great free program for Mac/Windows). It’s really important to record your own voice (not someone else) in a normal-slow speed. For every new passage you memorize, record a new mp3 file for it. This is so helpful to review your memorized passages with when you are on the go or don’t have anyone to hold you to a passage. I would listen to the passage and say the passage out loud a half-second before the recording says it. I put them all on my iPod and would listen when I took a shower or mowed the lawn.
7. REVIEW: While still memorizing new passages, review the latest passages you’ve memorized every day for a week. Then you can review them less often. It takes time (days, weeks, months) to really memorize. You can think, “Oh, I got that passage!”, then it takes wings and flies away from you! You have to continually tend and weed the garden of your mind by reviewing and saying the Word. Praying the passages (even just phrases) word for word to the Lord is so helpful in solidifying the Word in you. Say random phrases when you’re eating food with family or friends. When you hear someone quote one of your passages in a different translation/paraphrase, go back in your mind and recite it correctly. This is all about solidifying the passage in you.