It's Not That Your Students Don't Want to Know God
Imagine the following exchange...
YOU: Hey, Gina! I just wanted to check-in and see how you're doing in your time of Bible study.
GINA: Eh . . . I’m not really about that, you know?
YOU: Huh. So, help me know what you mean?
GINA: Yeah, so, I love God. I believe in Jesus. I’m definitely in a relationship with Him. But I just am not going to read my Bible. Not on an app. Not in a physical Bible. Nothing. I’m out.
YOU: There’s not part of you that wants to know God more? Better?
GINA: Nope. I’m good.
While the more cynical among us may very well be able to imagine such a conversation, in reality, it’s pretty far fetched. Very few of us will ever encounter students who, though saved by faith and following after God, have no desire to know Him. Much more likely, we have students who know God, who strive to follow Him, and who WANT to know Him more . . . they struggle to understand how. And maybe they aren't alone in this.
I believe most Christ-followers, students and adults alike, have a desire to know God more, but they lack the skills to meet Him in the Bible in a meaningful way.
The good news? We can work with this. We can partner with the Holy Spirit, who is the driving force within every Christian to know God more, and help equip our students to more effectively meet God in Scripture. We like to call it "filling their toolbox." In other words, we can help teach our students multiple different ways to meet God in the Bible to know Him better.
First, if our students want to know God more through engaging with Him in the Bible, what keeps them from doing so? There are a few main reasons:
- The cultural gap: The Bible was written over thousands of years, thousands of years ago! There are cultural barriers to many parts of the Bible that require a little understanding to make sense of. We often have to bridge the cultural gap to make an application to our modern lives.
- Different genres: The Bible contains so many different genres of literature. History. Poetry. Letters. Wisdom literature. Prophecy. If you don’t know this, it can make understanding the different parts of the Bible difficult.
- The big-picture story: The Bible is a big-picture story that isn’t laid out chronologically. This makes it a challenge to know how to interact with it.
While these challenges are real, they are not insurmountable. We can train and equip our students to know HOW to interact with the Bible in ways that deepen their faith.
Here are a few thoughts on how we can help students interact with the Word.
First, we have to make a case for the value of knowing Scripture.
We want to create environments of high challenge, high equipping. We need to create a culture where we constantly remind students of the value of knowing God through His Word. The Bible is the most complete revelation God has given us of Himself. It is the primary means by which God has chosen to make Himself known to us. We cannot live as Christ-followers and NOT pursue God faithfully through His Word.
Second, we have to equip them with multiple different access strategies for engaging with the Word.
Most of us know one way to interact with the Bible. We take a passage, read it, try to pick out the main truth, and then think about applying it to our lives. If we’re really good, we may consider the context of the passage we're reading. This method of Bible study is often called "inductive Bible study." There's nothing at all wrong with this. It's a GREAT way of interacting with the Bible. It's just not the only way.
The issue with only teaching one main way to read the Bible is that we risk having it become too routine. Or we risk that it only connects with one aspect of our personalities. There are multiple ways of engaging with the Bible that are more creative, more reflective, and more emotive. When we meet God in the Bible through different Bible study methods, we not only keep our routines fresh, we do so by leveraging different aspects of our personalities. We can experience God in a much fuller way as a result.
What do I mean by different methods? Word studies. Character studies. Theme studies. Praying the prayers of the Bible. Focusing on different attributes of God. Journaling. Contemplation. And so on. The Internet is FULL of different Bible study techniques. We have a wonderful resource called Wake Up (both for students and adults) that teaches a different method of Bible study each day for 31 days. Regardless of how you help teach your students HOW to engage with the Bible, the point is that there are multiple places you can find inspiration and ideas.
Third, we have to build and maintain a structure of accountability.
It’s easy for us to buy students a book, or give them a reading plan. But students are more likely to stick with a new behavior (such as in increased commitment to reading the Bible) when there is accountability in place. Do what you need to do to build a framework of accountability around your time of Bible reading. Use GroupMe to start a daily group chat around your time of study. Devote a month of your small group time to reading and discussing a specific biblical emphasis. Text reminders to parents. Do what you need to do to come alongside students. They will be more consistent if you do.
I believe our students WANT to know God. With a little intentionality, we can equip them to have the tools to do so.