Engaging Models of Bible Reading
How do we engage young people in Bible reading? Well it is actually a more difficult process than ever before, but fortunately, there are also more resources too. There once was a time when people had to memorise scripture, they would earn badges and prizes if they could recite them, and I even heard of a case where young people received a free weekend away with their youth group dependent on how much scripture they knew.
Nevertheless, with a rise in internet communications and a 24/7 world, full of YouTube videos and #InstaStories, why would someone sit and read a book if they did not have to?
However, as we know, this is no ordinary book. The Bible is a book that revolutionizes its readers lives, and has power to slay even the darkest of Demons, a light to our path, the words of life and promises that last for eternity…The question should actually be why on earth would someone not sit down and read it!
The bible is quite clear on why we should read it, and why we should help others to understand it, and you do not need a degree to understand what God is saying through these words.
John 8:31-32 “Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Acts 20:32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
It is important to remember that the most powerful thing we have in our possession is the word of God, and even by His Word, the whole earth came into being. There is case after case of Jesus speaking and people healed of diseases, raised from the dead, restored and forgiven. There is true power in His Words.
For thousands of years, bible stories were passed down from generation to generation around the campfires, but we are now in a place where we have direct access to every part of the Bible, how much more should we be engaging with it.
Firstly we need to understand that every single young person we come into contact with interacts with written words, with God, with each other in very different ways, because simply put, we are all unique!
I would love to be able to tell you a one size fits all method for getting your young people into the Bible, but there simply is not. However, what I can offer is half a dozen examples of ways that I have actively engaged them.
Reflectives – Some people prefer to sit and reflect, so how can you help them to dwell in the word. Well there is an old method called Lectio Divina, which encourages you to reread the same passage several times over, and reflect over the same questions each time, which forces you to consider deeper into the words than you possibly would normally. www.wordlive.org/
Creatives – Getting those creative juices flowing as we read Scripture can be a real help, why not try turning it into a drama piece, make a storyboard, a cartoon, a rap, some even take space to contemplate simply on one verse and mindful colour with a focus. http://inspirebible.com/
Media Focused – Sometimes we just need a prompt to remind us, whether that be a study group on Facebook, I have one where we read the same passage together and comment each day what we have learnt from it. On the other hand, texting a passage each day to your young people, or why not look into the multitude of apps available on phones such as Infinitum, or use the Remind app and send your own information through. http://infinitumlife.com/
Writers – There is something in the simplicity of exploring a passage and encouraging them to rewrite it in their own words, possibly even trying to write a testimony of what God has said through the passage, and how it has been put into action. Alternatively, just have a copy of the passage for every young person to write notes alongside the reading, highlighting key words. Even exploring the who, what, why, where and when of the passage.
Activists – It is all well and good reading a passage together, but what does it mean for people like me who truly learn by putting into action what I have learnt. Encouraging our young people to ask the question of, what a lovely passage, but how does it affect me? Setting them challenges at the end of your studies, what are you going to do with this information? There was a great book a few years ago called GOD360 by Andy Flannagan which was a daily devotional for the activist to get out into the community, to talk to a friend, to walk and pray, to sing a song, whatever it may be, what do I do now God has spoken to me. Life should never be the same after reading scripture. http://www.hopetogether.org.uk/
Listeners – We also need to remember that there are many young people who have Dyslexia (10% of UK population) and asking them to sit and read brings fear and dread. Fortunately we are now in a world where we have access to apps that will read the bible to us, podcasts that will help explain, videos that will probe deeper and a God that knows how best to speak someone.
With most bible sites now allowing you to listen, podcasts galore from many churches sermons, but also apologetics, evangelism, mission, even the Word 4U 2Day is podcastable. Then you could use Nooma, Soul Survivor, Francis Chan and Youth Alpha all available in video format. www.thebibleproject.com/
REFLECTION & LEARNING
I could offer every insight possible but for me, there are two key things that I have learnt over my years in ministry, and quite simply it is not about some fancy ideas.
Accountability – It is ok to set challenges for your young people, encourage them to put faith into action, to outlive the passage of scripture you have read in group that week, but if you don’t actually check how it went the following week then you are missing a trick. The most encouragement that my young people ever receive is when they share their own stories, and they hear others who face the same issues who have also overcome them that week.
Share testimonies of what God has been doing through them and look at how the word has become flesh in the real sense of our lives and its outworking. We need to be accountable to each other for our walk with Jesus, which is what the church has been designed for, as we all journey together.
Mix things up – I remember when I first started in ministry I often saw new ideas and ran with them until it almost felt like I was flogging a dead horse, but expecting that there was more to come from it. A big piece of advice I can give, is if it is not working, do something different!
We once started a yearlong course with our young people and after a month, I realised that it was not suitable for them. Now we had committed together to do it, but one of the best things we did was to write it off as a bad idea, to sit down together and to simply read and discuss a few passages together. It was in those moments God truly broke through, because we moved with God, not just the fancy idea.
As we try new things, as we listen for Gods voice within it, we start to realise the fact that young people all learn in different ways, and not necessarily the way that we are most comfortable.
As I have journeyed with young people, I have often had to meet separately with groups, just to ensure they are being fed in a way that makes sense to them, discipleship of young people takes a real commitment.
However, I have noticed more and more that as I release young people into a method of bible reading that truly engages them, they often start to lead each other in the studies, no longer do I have to probe with questions, but they actively engage and think of their own questions and encourage and challenge one another. Let us not be afraid when young people get so engrossed in the Bible for themselves that they start to lead themselves. Youth ministry is not about us, it is about God connecting with His people. It is just a privilege for us to play a small part in His story.
As Jesus did, let us release young people into exploring for themselves, giving them freedom to express themselves in what form that might be and allowing ourselves a chance to change and adapt as God leads.
Richard Foster – Life with God
Storylines – Andy Croft & Mike Pilavachi
How to read the Bible for all its worth – Douglas Stuart & Gordon D. Fee
For young people
Twitturgies by Gerard Kelly
Stand strong by CWR
Word 4U 2Day by UCB
Bob is Development Worker for Scripture Union across the Central region and has been involved in ministry to children and young people since his own dramatic conversion back in 2001. Bob is passionate that everyone should have an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel before they reach adulthood, and hopes to equip, inspire and resource people across the country into action for the least and the lost who walk among us. If there is anything he can do to help you, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org