Bible Memorization

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.

18 thoughts on “Bible Memorization

  1. Hi Truman!
    I work for the Bible Bee and we have been so blessed by your spirit and the demonstration of your love for the Word of God.

    I just found your tips for the Bible Bee today. AFTER the Bee. Darn. Any chance we can share this on our website as a help for contestants for 2010?

  2. Hi Truman,
    I met you at the Bible Bee (i was in ur oral round) and I asked you for tips on memorization. Thanks for posting.

    You were a good example for me on humility, dedication, and of “not-thinking-about-the-prize-a-whole-lot.”
    And my mom was humbled and impressed (!) with the simplicity and humility of your dad.

  3. Truman, it was truly a joy to hear the Word of God from you and all the other competiors at Nationals! Thank you for all the great tips; as a parent and host (and hider of God’s Word!), I can say our family and local participants will very much benefit from your techniques.

    May the Lord keep growing you into the image of His Son!

  4. Thanks for all these tips. I am hosting again and will share this information with the group!!! Blessings! May these verses in your heart carry you through the many roads you will travel in life!!!

  5. Truman, Hi. I was at the Nationals in DC and enjoyed seeing you and the others competing and celebrating knowing so much Scripture. Thanks for sharing these tips to help others in future Bible Bees.

    I pray that you and many will keep a high % of these verses for the rest of your life.
    One exciting way to do this is on my favorite free Scripture memory website, There is a Bible Bee group listed that those in the Bible Bee can join. I would also love to see you and others who were in the Bible Bee but are to old to continue competing start a “Bible Bee alumni” group to encourage and inspire Bible Bee participants and their families that these verses are worth holding onto for life.

    Memverse also has a state competition that can be a lot of fun. Even for those not into competition it is a great site to organize, store, and maximize your memory verses.

    Will you join us in Chicago for the 2010 Bible Bee finals? Are you going to inspire and encourage Scripture memory at your college this Fall?

    I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or thoughts about memverse, the Bible Bee or Scripture memory in general.

    In Christ, Phil Walker (573)822-4015

  6. My family is not going to do the Bible Bee… but we were planning on memorizing Matthew 5 this summer. You gave great tips here, and I plan on using them with my children as we memorize together!

    Thank You.

    May God bless you.

  7. Hi Truman! I’m participating in the Bible Bee this year, but I don’t know how to make and mp3 file. Could you please explain? Thank you!

  8. Hi Truman! This is my first year doing the bible bee, and I’ll have to admit, that when I saw how much I would have to memorize this summer I was a bit overwhelmed. But I was plesently suprised by how fun memorizing is and how great the devotionals are. I know that even if I don’t get very far in this, I will have memorized hundreds of verses this summer, and that alone is worth so much more then all the money. 🙂 This was very encouraging to me and I’m sure it will help me a lot. 🙂


    P.S. How long do you work every day on memorization and how many verses do you do? I know they say to do 9 but does that give you enough time to review before the bee?

  9. What is the best way to find overlapping passages? Do you read all the passages ahead of time, or is there a better way to do it?

  10. Truman, thank you so much for sharing! I’d like my family to participate in this year’s Bible Bee. Definitely will seek out your method of learning and apply them. Lord bless you as you are a blessing!

  11. hi Truman
    I remember you from last year at nationls
    thanks for the helpful hints
    they will be put to good use
    God bless

  12. Truman, how I wish I would’ve seen this sooner! I participated in both the 2009 and 2010 bible bees. I am hoping and praying that I will make it to nationals this year. If so, and even throughout the year, I will use your tips! Thanks so much! Oh, and I’m a rebelutionary too. 😉

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