Teaching Youth to Read the Bible
Having been in youth ministry for nearly 20 years, I have learned that it can be a struggle to get teenagers to love reading the Bible. Frankly, it can be hard to convince anyone these days to read the Bible. People say it’s old, outdated and boring. Maybe you have a child that has said that to you. I want to share some excerpts from an article from YouthMinistry360 that gives some great advice on how to get our teens to embrace Scripture and learn to love to read their Bibles.
“Study after study shows that the overwhelming majority of Christian teenagers in the US aren’t reading their Bibles. Only about 1 in 5 have a regular, meaningful relationship with God’s Word. Most Christian teenagers rarely touch their Bibles, with another nearly 1 in 5 who report never reading their Bibles at all in a given year.”
“For the American Christian teenager, the Bible simply isn’t something that is holding their interest. When we consider that the Bible is the MAIN way God has chosen to make Himself known to us, this is a particularly alarming truth. How can students follow what they don't know? I believe that as youth workers, we’re in the perfect position to change that.“
How do we do it? What can we do to help students develop a passion for God and His Word?
The good news is that I think it's actually much more straightforward than we sometimes make it out to be . . .
First things first, we have to address our students’ values. They have to believe that it is IMPORTANT to engage with the Bible. We have to start with the “why” before we begin with the “how.”
We start doing this by teaching them what the Bible has to say about itself. There are so many places we can go to show them how important the Bible is to their lives. Places like Psalm 119:9–11: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart, I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Or Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Or Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Or 2 Timothy 3:16–17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Or so many others. The Bible makes its own case for how vital it is in the life of the Christ-follower. But God’s Word isn’t the only way we teach students to value the Bible.
Your children must see YOU value the Bible. When your teens see that you are grounded in God’s Word, you show them how essential it is to know God in the Bible. When you teach them the Bible, you unlock for them the wonder and power of the Word. When you counsel them and advise them by speaking Scripture into their lives, you show them that God and His ways are authoritative over our lives.
Before we teach our children HOW to engage with God, we must show them WHY it's essential. But teaching them how to meet God in His Word is vital. And something that I believe is missing in many homes and in many youth ministries.
How do we help teens grasp how dynamic, relevant, and meaningful the Bible can be? We have to get them in it and let the Word, in the power of the Spirit, do the work. Here are a few thoughts on how to get students digging-in to Scripture.
Teach them NEW and VARIED ways to engage with the Bible.
I believe most of our students have the desire to know God in the Bible, but they don't know how. We need to teach them multiple ways to interact with the Bible so that they grasp how dynamic it is. There are so many different techniques and methods for meeting God in His Word. You can find multiple different ways by searching on the Internet. We need to get our students into the Word, and one primary way we do this is by filling their toolbox with different methods of accessing the Bible.
Embrace the Power of Groups
“In his book, The Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg talks about how change is more likely to happen in a group setting. This is why group therapy is so successful in dealing with addiction. We are more likely to change our habits when we are making the change alongside others. Leverage this truth by engaging small groups in Bible reading initiatives. Use the “invite others” feature on the YouVersion app to have groups read a Bible plan together. Use GroupMe to build a text message thread for a Bible reading plan. Empower your teens to change their habits by getting them into the Word in groups.”
BONUS: Adjust Your Expectations.
Remember that you are dealing with teenagers. And while they are capable of great spiritual depth, not all of them are there yet. I know that I need to understand that developmentally, many of our students are still taking baby steps when I may be expecting them to be running full sprint. Do we need to adjust our expectations about HOW our children are engaged in the Word? Do I believe the best way to meet God in the Bible is in solitude and silence first thing in the morning, before you've started your day? Yes. I do. I think that is the best way. But maybe we need to acknowledge that if we want our students to develop a love for meeting God in the Word, it may mean that the most interaction they might have with the Bible is listening to a few verses on their way to school. We should continue to push them toward more meaningful interaction, but also trust that the Word doesn't return void (Is. 55:11) and that any time spent in the Word is valuable.
For sure, there are barriers to our students engaging with the Bible in ways that they feel excite them. But there are plenty of ways for us to help change this. With some intentionality, we can make real change in the attitudes and behaviors of our students. We can lead them to rediscover their passion for God by meeting Him in the Bible.
Soli deo gloria,