Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy …
Many remember their childhood Sunday school classes when memorizing the books of the Bible was a necessary step into spiritual adulthood.
But anyone who thought that was hard never had to compete at the level Katherine Forster has.
The 14-year-old Lutz girl recently won a $50,000 scholarship for being the best in the country in her age division in memorizing Bible verses. And not a dozen, or 50, or even 100. Forster learned 766 verses — the equivalent of learning all of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians with a touch of Malachi — on her way to winning the National Bible Bee in Sevierville, Tenn.
“To some extent, I had a system where I figured out that I would need to memorize 60 verses a week over 10 weeks, and then have a week and a half to review,” Forster said. “Even on our way up to Tennessee, we drilled most of the way there.”
The National Bible Bee is a rather new concept, developed just five years ago by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation, a nonprofit ministry established in the name of a young woman who died of cancer in 2005 at the age of 23. The organization’s goal, according to its website, is to encourage parents “as they disciple their children through in-depth study” of the Bible, memorizing verses and prayer.
Katherine’s mom, Sue Forster, first learned about the program in 2009 through a home-school group she’s a part of.
“I thought it would be a great thing to do,” she said. “If you think about it, you have spelling bees, which are fun and the kids learn a lot. But I would much rather have them memorizing God’s word than how to spell all these different words.”
Katherine Forster had to memorize each verse perfectly. Any missed word would deduct points from her overall score.
This was her third trip to the national competition, and she earned her way there through Cornerstone Baptist Church’s Kids Bee in June in Brandon. There, Katherine memorized just 24 Bible passages and studied the book of 1 John in depth.
At the finals in Tennessee, Katherine competed against 60 other teenagers from across the country, and was just one of five representing Cornerstone.
Katherine already is planning on another trip to nationals next year, where she will compete at the seniors level (and a much bigger prize of $100,000).
However, studying the verses did open her eyes to some aspects of life she hadn’t realized before.
“1 John has a huge emphasis on sacrificial love,” she said. “That’s what sums up all the commandments, the love of God to keep his commandments, and these commandments are all summed up by loving God and loving others.”
Katherine spent most of November studying the verses to focus on the bee, and spent December catching up on her other studies. On Sundays, they are regulars at Keystone Bible Church in Odessa, and that has fueled Katherine’s desire to some day do mission work, either in person — or through words.
“I love to write stories,” she said. “I have a book that I am writing, but I don’t have time to write much right now. There might be something with writing, but I’ll do whatever the Lord wants.”
By memorizing verses, Katherine is learning how to organize a major project, and execute it, her mother said. But there’s more to it than just that, Katherine added.
“You have to be motivated to study,” she said. “Bible Bee for me is almost like my life at times, and it’s what I’m doing all day long.”
Her brothers — Samuel, 12, and Ben, 9 — also participate in the regional bees, but are still looking for that way to bring all the work together.
“They have other stuff they like to do, so (memorizing) is not their big thing,” Katherine said.
Also competing from the Tampa area Cornerstone group were Thomas Walter, Rutledge Dixon, Ellie Borah and Kevin Cravens.