Getting young people to independently open the Bible and read it for themselves is half the battle, but it isn’t the whole battle!
The second half of this battle is helping young people independently examine and understand the Bible – and this is frankly where most of us wimp out!
Not training young people to exegete-read the Bible (that is seek to swim in it’s depths and find treasure) is like buying them a guitar in order to introduce them to Brit-Pop; it’s only going to go so far!
Young people need to know how to read their Bibles so that they,
- Can develop a personal relationship with God that’s independent of their youth/church community,
- Have more to offer in their youth/church community life,
- Will grow in their personal holiness and faith,
- Can keep a growing check their own sin and personal habits,
- Will learn to recognize and discern God’s voice more clearly and notice when it’s missing,
- Won’t fall victim to spoon feeding and won’t be dependent on fallible teachers,
- Can pick a better Church when they are at uni etc.,
- Can survive when not able to find good Bible teaching.
- Will simply live life to its fullest the John 10:10 way!
We need to teach young people how to read the Bible – not just to read it.
I offer a mix of four random things to help us do this:
- Model it in Bible studies
- Get them to do it in breakout pairs/groups when in Bible studies together
- Help them one-to-one
- Get them to read a book like ‘Dig Deeper’ by Nigel Beynon & Andrew Sach
I will attempt to do longer posts on each of these, but here are some mini-summaries for now:
1. Model it in Bible studies.
Teach and display where and how you made points from the Bible when you make them // ask questions that make them look at the text itself, even if the answers are obvious // ask them to summarize the main points, identify characters, examine the context etc. // print out copies of the passage for them to go through highlighting things like verbs, nouns, speeches, connectives, etc. that might be useful in the study // get them to ask their own questions of the text itself and answer those together first.
2. Get them to do it in breakout pairs/groups.
Give each breakout pair/group a section of the passage to study together then summarize their findings to the whole group // make sure they’ve got space to write, scribble, & highlight (printed off passages are great) // give them specific questions to answer in their group from the passage like ‘what is the main point,’ ‘what shocked you the most,’ ‘what did you learn that you didn’t know before.’ // allow them the option of feeding back in creative ways (pictures, drama, song) as long as it communicates the actual passage itself.
3. Help them one-to-one.
Get alongside them for 20-40mins JUST to read the Bible with them. Pick a book and go through it verse by verse, word by word // start each new meeting with them summarizing the passage from the last meeting // get them to delve into why specific words we’re chosen etc. // look at tools like ‘context’, ‘purpose’ and ‘order’ in the passages you choose. (N.b. I usually find 1-2 verses a week works well for most growing Christians)
4. Get them to read a book like ‘Dig Deeper’ by Nigel Beynon & Andrew Sach.
Buy the book for them as a gift, and make sure you’ve read it yourself! // They should read a chapter a week & do the examples // ask them questions on it & ask to see their examples // give them new verses to work on that need the tools explained in the book to understand
This book can also be a good group study tool, and is useful training for Bible study leaders.
Teach them to get messy! I don’t care if they need to underline every single word in a different colour, allow them to draw in their Bibles. They should do whatever helps them slow down, ask questions of the text, and highlight key sections. At the end of the day I’d rather a young person come with a tatty, Biro-blessed, dogeared Bible than a pristine one that’s obviously never been touched. Teach them to get personal with the Bible and get messy with it. Bring out the highlighters in droves (you can always buy a new one for them!)