I was at a youth ministry conference this weekend and was fortunate enough to lead a workshop that focused on the needs of new/young Christ-followers. The idea was to define the unique needs of those teenagers in our ministries who have either just entered into a salvation relationship with Christ, or are just realizing the call to actually follow Christ on a daily basis. We defined some of these specific needs and then asked how effective our ministries are at creating an environment where these needs are being met. It was a good, interactive discussion that I pray was beneficial for those in the room.
There was a question that came up a couple of times that stuck with me after the workshop was over. As I have these types of discussion with youth workers, it’s actually a concept that comes up all the time. The question is this . . .
How do we get teenagers to read the Bible more?
I have thought a great deal about this, and I’m convinced there isn’t a sure-fire, “try-this-five-step-method” that works. But I do think there are some important things to consider. Here are a few of them . . .
Knowing God, Part 1: We’re Framing The Question All Wrong.
“What can we do to get teenagers reading the Bible more?” I think this might be the wrong question. I think the right question may be, “What can we do to help teenagers value God more?” God must be important to our teenagers, specifically the idea of knowing God. When knowing God is important, when being close to Him matters to teenagers, the act of reading the Bible simply becomes the means by which they come to know Him. If they value God, they’ll value reading the Bible. Which leads me to the next point . . .
Knowing God, Part 2: It Doesn’t Start With Doing. It Starts With Feeling.
I read hundreds of blog articles a week. (Or, I skim hundreds. I read a few dozen.) A few times a month I will run across an article that is titled something like this: “5 Steps To Better Bible Reading,” or “Tips To Help Your Students Read The Bible More.” The problem with these articles is that they are practice oriented. They focus on technique (“Bible study methods”) and behavior (“when to study the Bible”). Many of them are solid articles. But they assume a faulty starting point, as I alluded to earlier.
We have to change the way we teach teenagers to think about the Bible. If we teach them to see the Bible primarily as a “discipline,” or a “habit,” or even as “Bible study,” we’re missing it. We've forgotten that reading the Bible is relational. (We don't talk about any other relationship in this way. You don't develop the discipline of taking your children to see a baseball game. You do it because you love your kids. We should approach the Bible the same way.) We should strive to teach teenagers that the Bible is first-and-foremost a heart-driven, deeply personal, experiential encounter with God. We go to the Bible to engage with God, to meet God. We have to stop putting technique and behavior first, and make Bible reading about feeding our relationship with God.
Teach Teenagers To Embrace Multiple Methods Of Engaging With God’s Word
WAY too often we communicate to students that there is one way to engage with the Bible: sit down with a passage and study it as they would any other text. Inductive, exegetical Bible study. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching this method. The only problem comes when this is the ONLY way we teach teenagers to engage with the Bible. It communicates to students that the Bible is meant for primarily comprehension-based information gathering. It neglects the many experiential, heart-driven approaches to meeting God in Scripture.
- What about praying through the Psalms as personal worship?
- What about choosing a specific attribute of God’s and meditating on it over the course of a few days?
- What about learning some of the different names used for God and choosing to pray to Him using a name that speaks to them personally?
- What about creating something, ANYTHING using Scripture?
- What about prayer journaling?
These are just a few of the many different ways to lead teenagers to engage with Scripture. They represent a varied approach to encountering God in His Word, and helps students to break free from one specific way of looking at the Bible.
Modeling A Right Attitude Toward The Bible Is Key
This almost seems like a cop-out to include this on the list. After all, you can say this about every aspect of spiritual growth. But, I think this is especially true for this discussion. Your students will pick up on whether or not you value the Bible. If you model a passion for meeting God in His Word, your students will pick up on it. This is “caught” WAY more than it is “taught.”
These are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. I want my teenagers reading the Bible more. But I know that it starts with their attitude and values toward God and His Word.
What are your thoughts?