Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ten Commandments Mnemonic Used During Kid Sermon

Last Sunday, I had the highest adult participation during a kid sermon in my experience. People commenting to me wished they had a good memory device for the Ten Commandments back in Confirmation--and I gave them such a device. Their enthusiasm simultaneously reflected jubilation, relief and angst.

I can't take credit for the creation of the study help, only the delivery. I received the device in 1999 from my colleague in South Dakota, Nate Hanson, who served (still serving?) Moe Parish near Hudson, SD. I've used the device ever since. Maybe its origins are deeper, but I have no knowledge of its use outside of South Dakota. Since sharing the memory device, I've received several requests for a typed copy. A You Tube video seems most appropriate, but until I put that together, a blog post will have to suffice.

A Ten Commandments Mnemonic:

1. Hold up one finger. Point to your eye. "First Commandment: I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods."

2. Hold up two fingers. Reach the two fingers to touch the VEINS on your wrist. "Second Commandment: you shall not take the Lord's name in vain."

3. Hold up three fingers. Emphasize the HOLE made when holding up three fingers. Look through the hole. "Third Commandment: remember the Sabbath day. Keep it Hole-y."

4. Hold up four fingers. Hold the four fingers in preparation to salute. "Fourth Commandment: honor your father and mother." Salute.

5. Hold up five fingers. Point the thumb downward as to indicate a medieval death sentence. "You shall not kill."

6. Hold up six fingers (five fingers on one hand and the thumb on the other). Take the single thumb and stab yourself in the heart to depict the pain of adultery. "Sixth Commandment: you shall not commit adultery."

7. Hold up seven fingers (five fingers on one hand and the thumb and index finger on the other, as if pointing a gun and committing a robbery). "Seventh Commandment: you shall not steal."

8. Hold up eight fingers (four fingers on each hand, thumbs folded in). Make a downward scratching motion in the air in front of you. "Eighth Commandment: you shall not BEAR false witness against your neighbor."

9. Hold up nine fingers. Then hold out the nine fingers in front of you, palms up. Show the ring finger, a remembrance of marriage. "Ninth Commandment: you shall not covet your neighbor's wife."

10. Hold up ten fingers. Next, put the tips of fingers up to form a triangle above your head--to look like you are putting a roof over your head. "Tenth Commandment: you shall not cover your neighbor's HOUSE." Lay out one hand to one side and say, "man servant." Lay the other hand out to the other side and say, "maid servant." Take your two index fingers and put them on the side of your head to look like horns and say, "cattle." Lay both palms out and say, "or ANYTHING else that is your neighbor's."

With this mnemonic device, you have Ten Commandments spelled out. Obviously the commandments are not explained, but the device can be used as a base for teaching. In my experience, the commandment itself is memorized after only a few times through--and subsequent quick reviews help. The device works at Confirmation retreats or lessons, serves a quick review for adults, youth group, and keeps kids moving and thinking during a kid sermon or preschool chapel time. If you try it, let me know how it works for you. I can also take questions and would love to help any way I can.


  1. Just FYI...you missed the second commandment! The last two you have listed are actually all one commandment.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Steve. This version of the 10 Commandments comes out of Luther's Small Catechism. Different faith traditions have divided the 10 differently over the centuries--they're still the commandments. Feel free to adapt the mnemonic as you see fit.

  3. "One idle damn Sunday, Dad killed cheating thief and lied to cover it.”

  4. Thanks for this version! I teach at a Catholic school and needed this version with the coveting ones split and 1 and 2 separated just like this! Thanks so much!