This guest post was written by Keith Ferrin.
We all want to be better at our jobs. Right? After all, I’m guessing no one is reading this and thinking to themselves, “If I can just crank out a good, solid ‘6’ for 10-20 years, I’m cool with that.” (If you are, email me. We need to talk.)
Of course you want to be excellent. After all, you’re doing Kingdom work. You are investing in kids. You are building up families. You are growing the generation God is going to use to accomplish His purposes and His mission for His glory.
And yet, all too often, we make “excellence” only about the programs we run, the materials we create, and the events we put on.
My deep desire is that you would be excellent at…well…being you! Being the leader – and the child of God – He has created you to be.
To that end, I believe that internalizing God’s Word is one of the best ways to be excellent. Let’s spend the next several paragraphs answering a few questions in the pursuit of excellence.
Question One: What Is Internalization?
All growing up, I heard the word “memorization.” Study the Bible. Memorize verses. I memorized for Sunday School. I memorized for VBS. I didn’t grow up in a church with Awana or Bible Quizzing, so I didn’t know until my mid-20s that memorizing a whole chapter or book of the Bible was even possible.
Then I met Bruce, an actor who “performed” the entire Gospel of Luke. He challenged me to “soak” in a book of the Bible until I knew it.
Challenge accepted! (I started with Philippians…four chapters.)
I read it every day for a summer. I got to the end and realized I knew the whole thing. Not just in an I-can-quote-it-verbatim sort of way. (Although I was shocked that I could!) I understood it. I enjoyed it. I remembered it. And God brought it to my mind frequently throughout my day.
I hadn’t memorized it. I had internalized it! It was now a part of my mind, heart, thoughts, and emotions.
Memorization is about knowing the words. Internalization is about knowing the Word.
Memorization is a part of internalization. Getting the words in the right order (memorization) helps me to meditate on what I have internalized. But don’t start there!
So, where do you start? (I’m glad you asked.)
Question Two: How Do I Internalize?
I have done entire workshops and built a course about this, but here is the back-of-a-napkin version:
Learn the story first. Then use the words on the page to tell the story.
Our brains remember stories way easier than we remember words. Whenever you approach a new passage of Scripture read more…not less.
Intuitively, we would think that taking “a couple verses a day” would make sense. But it doesn’t work. Or more accurately, it doesn’t last.
Think of anything you know really well. A sport. Music. Technology. Cooking. I would bet dollars-to-donuts that you learned it from the general to the specific, not a little bit at a time. The details came after you already knew it.
The same is true with the Bible.
Take a book or chapter or story. Read the whole thing, out loud, each day for a month. (If you’re doing something shorter – like a psalm or parable – read it three times each day.)
Get it to the point where you can say it in your own words. Once you get to that point, learning the words on the page is much, much easier. That’s when you break it down into smaller sections and work on those.
Question Three: How Does Internalization Make Me a Better Child?
In this case, “better” might not be the right word. It’s not about being better as much as it’s about staying connected to your Father.
While smartphones and social media have their drawbacks, one thing I love about them is the ability to stay connected to my wife and kids way more frequently.
As I type this, I have a wife teaching kindergarten, a daughter in college, a son in high school, and a daughter in middle school. Here are a few of the ways we’ve “connected” already today (and it’s not even lunchtime yet):
- An encouraging text
- A schedule change
- A ride home from school
- A stupid dad joke (Super important!)
- A recommendation for cold medicine
- A question about tonight’s family night
- An “I love you.”
These all happened while we were doing other things.
Should we set aside focused times for reading, studying, praying, and listening to God? Absolutely!
That said…internalization puts you in a position where your Father can “check in” to remind you of something, make you smile, correct you, or encourage you…whenever he feels like it!
Question Four: How Does Internalization Make Me a Better Children’s Ministry Leader?
I’m going to pull a “Jesus move” and answer a question with a question.
Is the most challenging time to live out the principles of Scripture while you’re reading Scripture?
I am guessing your answer was, “No. The most challenging time to live it out is the rest of the day…when I’m dealing with people!” Yup. Me too.
When you have the Word internalized, you will be reminded of God’s truths at the moment you need it.
When you have the Word internalized, God’s Word will guide your conversations.
When you have the Word internalized, you will think about it more, enjoy it more, and talk about it more frequently and naturally.
When you have the Word internalized, the truths and wisdom of Scripture will guide your decision-making and mentorship of your team.
When you have the Word internalized, your teaching will come from a place of “I know and love this!” rather than “I studied and prepared this.”
Internalization was not a part of my routine for the first 25 years I was hanging out with Jesus. Let me tell you, the last 27 years have been much better.
Pick a passage. Read it. Soak in it. Pray it. Study it. Sit with it. Internalize it.
You will be changed…as a leader…and as a child of God.