Youth and Scripture Pt. 1

I recently received a GREAT question about youth and Scripture from my brother, Kevin, who is a Bible quizzing leader for some of the teenagers at his church.

I wanted to know your thoughts on something.  The best thing that I got out of Bible quizzing when I was a teen was the habit of spending regular time in the Word.  I was sensing that none of my Bible quizzers were developing these kind of habits this year.  So I had them fill-out a short survey to see if my perception was right.  One of the questions on the survey asked how many days a week do you read the Bible.  Their answers ranged from 0 to 4 days, and the average was a little less than 2 days a week.

I believe that daily spending time in the Word is critical to a growing walk with Christ.  Less than 2 is way lower than every day.  I found this very concerning.  I was wondering what you thought about this issue.  This seems huge to me.  How can they apply God’s word when they barely read it?  Do you see this as a big issue?  I have begun to pray about this.  Do you have any suggestions on how to help teens develop a daily time in God’s word?

Over the next few days I’ll be posting different pieces of my response, but would love to hear some other thoughts, comments.

Here is my initial response:

Your question is a great one and one that is vitally important I believe, to discipleship and truly following Jesus. There are a number of issues involved here…

1. Development issues – I think we have to be fair and remember that these are teenagers. I believe most of the ones you are working with are teenage boys. I believe in teenagers and I believe often times we sell them short on responsibility and capability, however, I do think we always need to be aware that they are still changing, learning, figuring things out and trying not to be the biggest dork ever in the process. This doesn’t mean that we should not ask them to read the Bible, or not expect them to stay focused, but it does mean that we need to help them to read it, help them to stay focused and help them to hopefully love it and the God it points to. Are there ways to engage them with Scripture beyond just reading it? Studies show that boys (especially middle school aged boys) learn best through large motor skill activities. How can we incorporate this into reading and knowing the Bible? Are there ways to get them to engage Scripture for a purpose beyond just regurgitating it? One the greatest potentials for quizzing is the “mid rash” principles that could be used on asking questions about the Scripture. Are there ways to embrace the discipline and rhythm of reading it often? I believe the answer is “yes” to all of these. Before we get into practices though, let’s look at a few other issues.

2. Family/Systems Issues – While you may have begun to read Scripture on a daily basis because of quizzing, I would also say that there was more going on than quizzing in your choice (whether you realized it at the time or not). You were in a home where we read the Bible every day (I know, I was there!), your parents read the Bible, it was not only encouraged as a good idea, but modeled and in some ways an expectation. Many (probably most) teenagers, even the ones in our churches, are not in that kind of environment. All that to say that we have to understand all the pieces (as best we can) before we begin to project a more specific reality. Again, just because the systems in a teenagers life don’t point them toward Scripture, doesn’t mean that they can’t do it, it just means that we are aware of this and try to help them navigate this as well. It also means that we need to do a lot more modeling and teaching about Scripture and how to read Scripture and why to read Scripture.

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6 Responses to Youth and Scripture Pt. 1

  1. You make two great initial observations. I have been quick in the past to let my middle schoolers off the hook for not reading their Bibles simply because they are in middle school…heck most adults don’t read their Bibles daily. And of course we must take into account that teenagers are teenagers…but we should not let this be an excuse to not challenge and expect a lot from our students.

    If we challenge our students and do 2 things 1) set the example for them by reading daily and 2) actually anticipate them succeeding, I believe we will see huge results. One of God’s biggest challenges to me over the past 6 months is to not limit what He can do in the lives of middle school students and to challenge them with His Word and the move of His Spirit.

  2. Mike Tisdale says:

    This is going to sound funny but I’m actually serious in this post. If you had music playing on an Ipod with a Xbox360 in the background and the Bible was on the computer, they would probably read the Bible six or seven days a week. This generation growing up is so far advanced in dealing with technology that the basic pick up a book and read it does not compute. High Schools are going to E-Books because they cannot get their students to read their textbooks where they will read and comprehend an E-Book off of a Thinkpad. I think we need to focus on not how we comprehends but ask how this new generation understand concepts because it is a lot different than what I experienced.

  3. Jessica H says:

    This year our quizzing group hasn’t studied as much as they should…and honestly, they probably have been reading Luke more than I have! We have done “quizzing dodgeball”, which they loved, and assigned homework (gasp!), but we can’t do their studying for them. Likewise, I myself have to be in the Word regularly.
    I wonder about challenging our quizzers to read Luke every day before the next quiz meet, with or without (an extrinisic) reward. Maybe like an experiment of some sort. Hmm…
    If there was a Facebook Bible application, I bet the quizzers would at least add it….Facebook “Luke” would be even better.

  4. Timothy says:

    Whoever would be the greatest among you would be the quickest at looking things up of these?!?? Why would you even *consider* including a competition as a central activity of a Christian youth experience? The message may or not get through, but the medium is certainly not teaching them to give themselves up for people, to consider others better than themselves, or to try to be less cool than other people. It’s all about who’s the fastest, who’s the strongest, who’s at the top of the heap. Sounds like a complete waste of time to me.

    If you want kids to read the Bible, start teaching them (and modeling for them) to take things in the Bible seriously. Teach them to apply it, and they’ll jump at reading it to find out more. Let your life be an apologetic for reading the Bible, may it only make sense if there is a living God who revealed himself to humans. When they ask why you live so strangely, you can say that it’s God, and him revealed in scripture.

    Daily time with Christ is central to a walk with Christ. The Bible is an amazing way to do that. But not the only one. Stop loading guilt on kids who only pick it up twice a week. That’s phenomenal in an anti-literate culture. Would I like a teenager to be reading the Bible every day? Yeah, totally. But more important questions are: are they hugging the smelly kid at school? Are they stepping into bullying situations and taking on the bullying themselves? Are they praying for teachers who treat them as less-than-human? Jesus never talks about reading the Bible as a way to follow him, as good and beneficial as it is. It’s just one way. Did you ask them about fasting? About praying? About how they order their festivals and feasts? Their giving 10% of their income to the poor among them? About pilgrimage? Meeting for common meals? These are all more common historical and biblical practices for Christians than reading the Bible.

  5. Pingback: Youth and Scripture Pt. 2 « The Hull Truth… and nothing but

  6. Pingback: Youth and Scripture Pt. 3 « The Hull Truth… and nothing but

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