Sword Drill

Children love to compete!  When I was a child, I loved racing to see how fast everyone in Bible class could find a Bible scripture. This activity was called a Sword Drill. The first one to find the scripture got to read it. The thrill of the race was exciting for me. I was almost always at the head of the pack. It was fun . . .  for me and only a few others!

I was excited to use this activity when I began to teach children’s Bible classes. After all, it had always been really fun and exciting for me.
However, a pattern began to emerge that was not always good. The pattern indicated that it was almost always the same kids who found the Bible verse first and got to read it. They were rewarded in a positive way. Children who were slower often became discouraged and often would not want to participate. What was wrong? This was supposed to be fun and competitive and exciting and rewarding! Right?
  • Why did some children NOT want to participate?
  • Was I discouraging children from learning how to use their Bibles?
  • How could this activity be changed so that ALL children could enjoy it and be encouraged?
  • Read on . . .


How to do a Sword Drill
The original concept for a “Sword Drill” was likely taken from Hebrews 4:12 where the Bible is described as being like a sword. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . “
Here is my adaptation of the Sword Drill. I thought the boys would be the ones extremely enthusiastic about this method but found the girls loved it just as well. Here is how you do it.
  • First, say “Attention!” in a loud and clear voice like a military Drill Sargent might. You may need to explain what it means to stand “at attention” like a soldier would. All children should stand “at attention” with their Bible up on its spine. Both hands (including thumbs) are on the front and back of their Bible.
  • I speak the scripture reference ONCE for upper elementary ages. If they know it will only be spoken ONE time, they listen very carefully and will not be misbehaving or distracted in some other way.
    • I also have my assistant write the verse on the whiteboard . . . just in case someone needs to refer to it (Okay, so I am not such a tough Drill Sargent after all.)
    • You can see in the photo above that the assistant is writing the reference on the whiteboard as I speak it. The kids know it will be written there just in case they need it.
  • Once all children are standing “at attention”,  the scripture reference is announced.  I yell “Charge!” The children dive into their Bibles searching for the scripture reference.

    • Notice in the picture above that two children are looking AWAY from their Bibles. They are looking at the library of Bible books displayed on the top of the yellow wall at the back of the room.
  • When the child finds the scripture, they place their pointer finger on the verse and salute with their right arm.


  • The final step for each Bible verse is to have one child read the verse.
    • It should NOT necessarily be the child who was the fastest. SPEED is not everything!  Let the slow ones have a chance to read the verse also if they want to.
    • After that child reads the verse, ask another child to read it.
    • I always pick a third child to read the verse. Why? It is more repetition. Repetition is good for retention.
Repeat this activity with several Bible verses, but don’t overdo it. Three or four verses at a time is usually a good number.  Remember that most children still need to work on this skill. So, have fun with this activity without drawing it out for too long.
Remember that most children still need to work on this skill. So, have fun with this activity without drawing it out for too long.
  • The first few times we do this, I like to tell them that the absolute center verse of the Bible is an interesting reference point. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”  That message should be at the very center of our lives like it is in the center of the Bible!
  • Teach the children to use the book of Psalms as the middle book of the Bible. Ask them to use their thumbs to find the very middle of their Bible pages.  Tell them to open their Bibles. In most cases, the children will be in the book of Psalms.
  • The book of Psalms is a good “landmark” to know about. All other Bible books will either be BEFORE Psalms or AFTER Psalms.
  • If the children know the Bible library books in order, this knowledge will help them find scripture references more efficiently.

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