Helping Students Read the Bible in a Google World

A recent article in the L.A. Times highlighted how libraries are struggling to remain relevant in the digital age. Personally, I love books. And while I love to read good-old-fashioned ink on a page, I realize that I am a digital reader. I may not have ever picked up a Kindle, but most of my non-book reading occurs online. I haven’t picked up a print newspaper in months, but I keep up-to-date on local and national news via my online reading habits. And when it comes to reading articles on youth ministry, I mostly read blogs from on-the-ground youth pastors, though I do subscribe to two youth ministry magazines.

The article got me thinking about how we read the Bible, and how we expect students to read the Bible. Sure, there are a lot of digital options for reading the Bible, but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t resulted in more people reading the Bible. How can you help your students to Read the Bible in a Google World?

Talk about the Bible
As you teach, share with students about what you are reading in the Bible on your own, and ask your leaders to do the same. Talk about what you find funny, confusing, or even frustrating about certain Bible passages. Of course, this needs to be something that flows out of your everyday life. If you’re not reading the Bible for your own spiritual growth on a regular basis, your students probably won’t either.

Teach students how to read the Bible
If you’ve never really read the Bible, just opening it up can be intimidating. Walk your students through how to read the Bible. What are the Old and New Testaments? What’s the difference between an Epistle and a Gospel? What’s helpful to know as one reads through the book of Proverbs? A little guidance can help a student feel more confident about reading through the Bible on his or her own. If you’d like a refresher on how to read the Bible, check out Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.

Actually open the Bible during youth group
Okay, I understand. Students are forgetful and don’t remember to bring their Bibles. On top of that asking everyone take out their Bibles can make those who are visiting or don’t have Bibles feel like outsiders. But what does it teach students when the only time they see Scripture in a youth room is up on the screen on a Keynote* slide? An easy way to do this in a non-threatening way is to have Bibles available before people need them. Remind everyone a couple of times before the teaching time that they’ll need a Bible, and set the Bibles on tables where everyone can get to them. In addition, buy some nice study Bibles to give to folks if they don’t have a Bible at home. People know they are free to take a Bible if they need one, and I love it when Bibles “walk off” on their own. Getting Bibles in students hands in the youth room or in small group is one step closer to getting them in their hands at home.
*We actually use PowerPoint at our church. But I like Keynote better and bug our tech guy weekly to switch us over to Macs.

Challenge students and help them set goals
It’s tough for even committed believers to stay constant in their personal reading of the Bible, so why would we expect it to be different for students? Help students by providing short-term and long-term reading plans. Have them pair up to remind each other each week to read a certain portion of the Bible. If a student has a lot of questions, tell him or her that you’d be happy to meet for two or three weeks to answer any questions they have (according to wise one-on-one meeting policies, of course). Last year, we offered different “discipleship scholarships” where students could lower their price for our summer trip, and one of them was to read through the entire New Testament over a two month period. Did some students do it out of obligation or as a way to earn some money for our summer trip? Probably. But most students loved reading the whole New Testament, and they probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

Drown yourself in the Word
Don’t just read the Bible to prepare lessons or small group discussions. Drown yourself in it. Ask God to give you a passion for his Word, and commit to spending more than just a few minutes reading it each day. As you gain a passion for God’s Word, it will likely rub off on your students, too. Plus, you’ll begin to see the world as God sees the world, and you’ll be a better leader for it.

What are your ideas for helping students read the Bible in a Google World?

Comments

  1. We have short devotional books that our students can take to help them get into the word. Also, we have had some of our small group leaders challenge the students in their group to work through the devotional books together. Some started off slow by saying they wanted to do three days of the devotions over the course of the week. That gave all the students a challenge they felt they could handle. Each week they kept increasing the number of days.I always tell the students that if they really want to grow they have to learn to read the Bible on their own.

  2. Good suggestions, Adam! You're right on about students needing to read the Bible on their own to grow.

  3. Thanks so much for this, Benjer. I especially appreciated your thoughts on helping students set goals for themselves in reading the Bible.One way I try to help students read the Word, on a daily basis, is to challenge them to spend 5 mins reading a chapter (or two) in one particular book (i.e. Mark, or a shorter book). My belief is that over time they will begin to read for longer periods of time and "bigger" books. Some students take the challenge and it works, and some don't.As for teaching times, I ask students to open their bibles (either their own or ones we provide) and follow along or/and read parts of the scripture out loud. I strive to help them take "ownership" of what we are studying.Again, thanks for the tips.

  4. six:I appreciate you challenging students. I feel that's the best way to help students be "deeper" disciples. I've found that students often rise to the challenge, especially when it's something concrete, like reading the Bible for five minutes a day.Great idea on having students read Scripture out loud during youth group. I think the connection is a bit stronger when students read it rather than when I read it myself.

  5. Great post and very encouraging. I love the idea of drowning ourselves in the Word. This is really helping me think through some of my Bible reading strategy for 2011 with my students.One question I do have. What do you do about those with a smart phone? In the past I have discouraged my students from reading their Bibles on their phones during our Wednesday night meetings. My fear is they will tune out and text or play a game while the rest of the group is reading their printed Bibles. What I am struggling with now is the idea of encouraging them to read their Bible in whatever format they choose. I know that more and more students read on a screen and part of me feels like we should just be excited that they are reading the Bible and not to worry about it being printed or on a phone. Any thoughts?

  6. Jason:Great question! We've wrestled through the same stuff. To start, we have a no-phone-or-gadget policy from the time that announcements start to the ending prayer. If someone has one out, it goes in a bin and is returned at the end (students are welcome to remove themselves from the room if they feel they MUST take a call or answer a text). Occasionally, I'll ask a student to put their phone in a bin, and they'll say they are using a Bible app, and I'm okay with that. We've found that students are pretty trustworthy with that, but we also have plenty of leaders around to monitor what they're doing on their phone (it's pretty easy on a larger screen to see whether someone's reading the Bible or sending a text).As for the digital/printed text debate, I'd prefer a student use a printed Bible. Not just because I love books, but because having a full Bible in a person's hand helps students see that each verse, chapter, and book is part of a larger context that they have to consider. While we allow digital versions of the Bible to be read during our teaching time, it's also good to take a moment and say a few words about the context issue. However, I'm with you: a student reading a Bible on a phone is better than not reading it at all!

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