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.