General Ministry

More than a year ago, I wrote a post called Pushing Paper where I laid out a case for encouraging students to bring a “real” paper Bible and to not rely on using one the many great App based Bibles for their phones. I felt my case of bulletproof, signed sealed delivered and the jury would be unanimous. Of course it was not that easy and lots of people had some well thought out arugments for and against the case that I laid out for using paper Bibles over electronic:

Status: I may seem obvious but in most cases, a student’s cell phone is the most expensive thing they own, its their treasure and something they have worked very hard for. I respect how important the phone is to them but I ask them to respect or request to put it away in place of a paper Bible. We do allow phones and have had students text in questions, but for the most part, we ask that they be present and resist outside distractions, allowing them to focus on God.

Less Distractions: I don’t often find students thumbing through Leviticus instead of listening to my Sermons but I know that there are tons of distractions on iPods and cell phones and if I were honest, I would be working my way through Angry Birds some nights. Limiting distractions is helpful to keeping students focused, and help to not be a distraction to those around them. After all paper Bible ddoesn’t get texts, tweets, instagrams, tumblr, facebook or any other sort of digital distraction and the battery never seems to die on my NIV either.

Bibles are Cumbersome: This is a good thing! I love seeing a student walk in with a Bible under their arm. They are distinct and beautiful, many decorated with stickers, duct tape and they are unmistakable. Carrying your bible around is a statement, it’s a stance, it shows that it is something you value and that you are willing to tote around this obvious symbol of that.

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So I am bringing the issue back for your consideration because a few weeks back, I messaged our leaders and asked them to please bring their paper Bibles to youth group and refrain from using their phones. For most of the team, it was business as usual and they understood the rationale and were more than happy to not use their phone Bible App.  But one my leaders; who often asks good questions, asked me if I was simply delaying the inevitable and that paper Bibles were a thing of the past and why not just accept it.

So my question is: Is my paper Bible going the way of the Commodore 64 / Blackberry? Am I just being a thirty-year-old fuddy-duddy? Is this a hill worth dying on?

geoff -@geoffcstewart


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  • Tom Shriver says:

    You’re not being a 30 year old fuddy duddy (except for the fact that you used the phrase fuddy duddy).

    I agree. Paper Bibles for the win. There’s just something about them…

    An yeah – my phone has WAY too many distractions.

  • Good question! Distraction is a big problem in general and little devices don’t help. Many of my students have started bringing their school issued iPads to Bible class. They don’t use them while I’m talking or in their small groups, but they are on them in the halls, pews, and every space in between. In my day we played tic-tac-toe on visitor cards during sermons with our Bibles sitting next to us, so I’m not sure how much I would accomplish if I did win the paper Bible argument. Good thoughts.

  • Mike McGarry says:

    In theory I agree with you, in practice I’m a hypocrite. I agree that there’s just something different about a physical Bible, but I’ve recently begun using my iPad in church to follow along with the Lead Pastor’s sermons and to take notes. I scan the sermon notes page into a note-taking app and then have access to those notes whenever I want them, and then the sermon notes pages aren’t sticking out of my Bible for a year before I throw them away since I don’t know what else to do with them.

    Then again, theologically – Isn’t the Bible the Word of God in whatever form it assumes. Is it more the inspired Word on a printed page than it is when it’s on a screen? What about when it’s being verbally recited?

    Again, I’m a total book-nerd and refuse to even read books on a Kindle or other e-reader – but I find myself being drawn towards using my iPad for both Sunday Worship sermons and for my daily devotional times (the YouVersion’s Bible app has great reading plans!). SO I agree in theory, but in practice I find myself actually reading the Bible more often on a screen than in print.

  • Aaron Helman says:

    I’m with you here. I prefer to go old-school with my Bibles. As soon as a JrHi student whips out his iPhone to load up YouVersion, the focus of the room becomes – “WHOA! YOU HAVE AN IPHONE!!!! OMG!!!”

    Then I lose several minutes to the one kid who insists that the Windows Phone is better.

  • Jeff says:

    Don’t think they are going away but probably not a hill to die on either. The Tic-tac-toe comment up the list confirms that no-mater what “modern technology” we have around or don’t have around people will find something to distract them. If it isn’t Angry Birds there is always the cute Sophomore girl two rows up (but she’s probably the reason he’s here to start with).

    The fight we have isn’t paper vs. electronic as much as “Don’t be distracted!” These modern page turning bibles were probably distracting to those that still had to unroll their scrolls to find Leviticus.

    No good answer, just the ramblings of a Forty-year-old Fuddy-Duddy

  • Jeremy says:

    During our talk we’ve always disallowed cell phone use. Even though some students will use their digital Bible, for others it is free license to goof around. Actually, recently we also stopped putting the words up on the screen and instead make paper Bibles available for everyone. These changes have been primarily positive. More students have been bringing their Bibles to youth group, and because they pick it up more regularly, some have started to read them more at home. Also, we’ve seen progress in how quickly a student can find the book, chapter, and verse reference since we made these changes.

    The sad reality is that a lot of students never touch their Bibles at home, and many also don’t use their phone version either. I really feel confident that having a student pick up their own Bible and thumb through it regularly is a great place to start.

    Granted, their are downsides. Someone who is unchurched might feel strange because everyone else seems to be able to find their spot, but they don’t have a clue. We’ve countered that by using the exact same Bible for everyone (except those who bring their own), so usually we give the reference and allow the kids about 10-15 seconds to search for it, then shout out the page number so everyone can follow along.

    There’s no right or wrong answer. But I really like that students are picking up their Bibles, finding spots in them, and then seeing that the words we study are right there on the paper. Something about that just seems spiritually beneficial to me. And btw, I’m 26 so this isn’t a “fuddy duddy” view 🙂

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