Do you remember the first time the Bible “came alive” for you? I do. I was fourteen years old on a mission trip with YWAM in Mexico. It was a three week trip, and the first half was focused on discipleship and training. They gave us an hour every day to spend alone with God. AN HOUR!! That was incredibly intimidating for someone who had never really had much of a personal time with God. Coming home from that trip, I became convinced that I needed to grow in my love and understanding of the Bible.
A year ago I planted a church, and in the preparation was deeply affected by the book Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley. In chapter three he addresses what he calls the Five Faith Catalysts. One of them is “Private Disciplines” and he discusses how as pastors/leaders we must do our part to encourage people to develop their own personal prayer lives, personal times of reading the Bible, etc.
So how do we get teens to read their Bible? I’ve had a ton of honest conversations in the last few years about this. The general answers I get are “it’s too confusing,” “I don’t know where to read,” and “I don’t get anything out of it.”
So in the past two years I’ve decided to change things up and try to tackle this head on. I’m not saying I’ve figured ANYTHING out. But maybe this can help if you share the value of breaking down barriers to the word of God for your teens.
Basically step one for me was to separate the high school and middle school. I’ve been a pretty big proponent of keeping them together – for years. But if you talk to high schoolers they will tell you that the younger kids hinder their ability to really talk/think/discuss deeper topics. So we compromised – we do 2 weeks separate and 2 together.
So when I’m alone with the senior high, I specifically try to make the discussions more mature with an aim of helping them get more and more comfortable with the Bible. Last year we spent several months going through the life of Jesus together. I told them that they hear teachings about Jesus all the time, but do they really understand the flow of the Gospels? Do they know where each story fits in the bigger story? So we took one major event each week, in chronological order, and discussed what happened – then ALWAYS we applied it to their life right now. APPLY, APPLY, APPLY. Why does this matter, and how is it helpful for you today? And that’s the point. I don’t JUST want to encourage them to read, I want them to learn the art of reading and then applying. Andy Stanley says it this way (page 116):
…we are so adamant about our content being helpful, not simply true. Jesus wasn’t content with saying true things. We shouldn’t be either. Truth without handles is static. Truth with next steps grows people’s faith.
This year we are doing Youth Alpha Series. Once again, we are dealing with breaking down barriers between them and the Bible. How can we trust the Bible? Did Jesus really claim to be God – where? Is there evidence in the Bible that he rose from the dead? Those are just a few deep discussions we’ve had in just the first two weeks!
What I feel is working is that right in the time of life when they need to be making the shift from their parents’ faith, to their own — I have been given a chance to lead them into discussions, and then show them where and how the Bible speaks to important topics in life. Moreover, if it works, I’m demystifying the Bible and making it easier to understand and read, and “giving them handles” for the truth so they can see how powerfully relevant and life changing the Word of God is. Even for today.
I have a lot to learn, and I’d love to hear any other ideas that you are trying that are working!