(NOTE: We posted an article a few days ago, "How To Get Teenagers To Read The Bible More," that generated a lot of productive conversation. As a response to that article, Aaron Kirkpatrick, one of our great ym360 Contributors, sent us this post about a tool that's been helpful for him in leading his students to engage the Bible more.)
In my first year of youth ministry, I was desperate for my students to dive into God’s Word, but I had no idea how to help them succeed. I kept encouraging them to read their Bible every day, but they didn’t seem to get much traction in developing the habit. And I was struggling as badly as they were. Though I knew the value of a daily Bible study habit, I allowed myself to be distracted. Spending time alone with God’s Word fell through the cracks more often than not. So when my students would come for advice on how to increase their thirst for the Scriptures and how to make reading the Bible a priority, I had nothing to give.
But it was in this season of struggle that God provided the single best tool for creating Bible study habits that I’ve personally encountered.
In the summer of 2007 my wife and I visited the JH Ranch. The credit for this idea is completely theirs. (As an aside, I’d highly encourage you to check them out at jhranch.com. They are an incredible organization.) Before we went home, they challenged us to start reading the Bible every day. And to do so they gave us a practical way to carry out that challenge. It’s 2013 now, and my Bible reading is still incredibly important to me. I’ve only missed three days in nearly six years.
I was so impressed with how well their challenge worked that I formalized it to make it easier to pass along. I now share it with all my students, and have seen many of them develop lasting habits of Bible reading and Scripture study. I call it The Pledge.
The Pledge works like a covenant or contract. It’s an agreement between two people to hold each other accountable for Bible reading over the course of 30 days. It could be between you and a teenager, an adult volunteer and a teenager, or even between two of your teenagers. It looks something like this: (I’ve included actual links below to download the copy I use.)
The Pledge: I ____________________ pledge to make Bible study a part of my life for
30 days. I will read 1 chapter every day for 30 days starting today. If I miss
a day of reading, I pledge to give up 2 days of __________________. I enter this
covenant with _____________________ who will hold me accountable to this pledge.
Signed: __________________________ and ______________________________
(Your Name) (Partner’s Name)
The Pledge works because it combines a desire to read the Bible with accountability, the influence of consequence, and the psychology of habit. Now, two things are absolutely essential for The Pledge to work:
I always ask my teenagers to choose something they do every day and really enjoy, but something they could voluntarily give up. I’ve had students pledge to give up two days of Facebook, texting, listening to music, watching TV, playing video games, and even talking to their boyfriend/girlfriend. The first time they really don’t want to crack open their Bible, often they’ll read anyway because they don’t want to give up two days of something that’s really important to them. The accountability partner is there to ensure they’re actually sticking to their reading and their self-appointed consequence. You can see why this works so well!
(A word on accountability: I have used The Pledge in large groups where students were each other’s accountability partner, and I’ve used it when I have just one student who’s trying to create a habit and I’m their partner. Either way can be effective, but it’s absolutely essential that partners follow up with each other every day or every other day at the latest, at least for the first couple of weeks. After the thirty days are over, the combined force of habit and desire to stay in the Word will be enough to keep most readers going.)
So, this has been something that has really worked in my ministry and in the ministries of other youth pastors. I’ve shared this resource with hundreds of teenagers and adults, and I can tell you that it absolutely works for those who use it and have a desire to make Bible study a habit in their lives.
If you’d like to share The Pledge with your students, you can download it below.
I’ve provided a compressed folder that has both a WORD doc and a PDF.
To Download your compressed folder containing The Pledge WORD document and PDF, Click Here.
(NOTE: The Pledge part is the same as featured above. But you’ll also notice that I’ve included some simple study questions for new readers going through the Books of John. I often recommend that students start by reading the Gospel of John, followed by John’s letters. If you read one chapter a day of these Books, you’ll have content for 28 of the 30 days.)
I hope this resource blesses you and your ministry as much as it has blessed me and mine.