Spoiler Alert…It Works for Adults, too!
“But why is this Bible stuff important, anyway?”
That question came from one of my eighth-grade confirmation students, and likely expresses the way a lot of our youth feel about Scripture, whether they voice it or not. For that matter, if we’re being honest, it’s likely quite a few adults struggle with reading the Bible as well. In our modern culture it can be especially challenging to take time for sincere study of God’s Word. There are many things competing for attention. Teenagers are caught up in sports, school, cell phones, video games, Netflix…adults are busy shuttling them to activities, telling them to turn off the TV, getting themselves to work, and hoping for a few minutes of peace in the midst of it. We are admittedly distracted, but more often making excuses. Young people often view the Bible as another chore or homework assignment, and sometimes we accidentally frame it that way. Approached correctly, however, the Bible is a powerful resource that inspires and influences our lives and shapes our faith. We ought to lead by example and help our teens engage with this book and value it as a life tool. After all, “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.” (Hebrews 4:12)
So why do we read the Bible?
How can we encourage our youth to study the Bible and understand a fraction of its worth? For one thing, as adults we must recognize that good habits are more “caught than taught.” It is important to lead by example, practicing Bible study methods and embracing the importance of them. It is also wise to admit when we need assistance and support, even as adults. Why bother? “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Basic knowledge and academic understanding of God’s word will allow its messages to seep into our hearts and lives. Familiarity with the text and the books of the Bible provide quick access when we need to consider or share a specific message or verse.
It’s also critical to realize that this is no ordinary or academic book. We want to impart to our teens that the Bible is remarkable, reliable, and true. “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” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). An essential component of reading the Bible is valuing it as a relational tool. Scripture is our way of connecting with God. It is His communication with us. God wants a relationship with us and has created us as social and emotional beings. The words of the Bible are truly His words. As such, any time we engage with the text, we want our study to be covered with prayer start to finish.
We also want to emphasize the centrality of Christ throughout Scripture. We sometimes tend to separate Old and New Testaments, or to look at books and stories as individual entities. Students need to be aware that the same God governs Abraham, David, Mary, Paul, and us! The Old Testament history and prophecies lead up to the Messiah. The Gospels tell His story, and the epistles invite us to live out His messages.
How, then, do we engage the text and instruct our youth to read the word?
There are multiple methods that can help us appreciate Scripture and study it meaningfully. Bible study is not limited to rote readings. It doesn’t have to be forced chore, but we can offer a variety of options. We can interact with the text, reading out loud, reading with others, or dramatically reading Gospels or stories. We can pray through the Psalms, journaling as we go. Another practice is meditatively working through a passage, silently reading and reflecting on a certain group of verses. For teens especially, it can be beneficial to react creatively. After reading a passage, draw an illustration or comic strip, or even write or sing a song. Acting out the stories can solidify their messages, as well.
Making Bible study a routine, but not a bore, can also be a key to creating the daily habit. Choosing a time and place ensures that we take part. For teens and adults alike, it is also important to recognize that all people are unique individuals. Every youth and adult is a different case. One technique or tip cannot cover all people. By understanding the needs of each individual, we can determine how best to encourage Bible study, and to let the word of God be living and active in us.