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From ‘Shoulding’ to ‘Coulding’ the Bible

As a teenager active in my church, I knew I “should” read the Bible. My youth workers often referenced their “morning quiet time”—I imagined them sitting in an overstuffed chair bathed in soft lighting, sipping fancy coffee, dissecting the original Greek meaning of “the” and “is.” On their knees. With birds chirping in the background.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know Matthew from Habbakuk.

Flash forward to today, and I actually look forward to digging deeply into the Bible every day. Looking back, I see a few defining moments that moved my Bible-reading from “should” to “could.”

I was put on the spot.

I had an embarrassing experience at my first youth camp when the speaker asked if anyone was willing to look up a particular passage. I enthusiastically raised my hand, only to realize I didn’t know where to find it. As I frantically flipped through the pages I mumbled, “Find someone else.” The speaker didn’t—instead, he waited for me to find the promised land. Two more times I begged him to choose someone else, but he chose to wait through the awkward pauses. Eventually, I heard him sigh and ask, “Anyone else want to look it up?” That negative experience prompted me to learn my way around the Bible—even if only to avoid embarrassment. A friend showed me the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. I learned the Bible’s basic table of contents, which helped me with my next step. He explained, “Someone showed me all of this once, so now I’m showing you.”

Takeaway: What if we equipped our teenagers to equip each other in basic Bible-reading strategies and knowledge?

I was handed a Bible promise book.

I had no clue that there were so many, many things God promised to His people. As my parents navigated a separation and eventual divorce, I found powerful paradigm shifts in reading 1 Corinthians 13 for the first time. I was worn out by life, and I discovered hope in an Isaiah 40 truth that even young men grow tried and weary, but God makes it possible for us to soar like eagles.

Takeaway: Give teenagers a “taste” of the Bible’s beauty and promise if you want them to yearn for the “meal.”

I was told I could write in my Bible. 

I grew up nominally Catholic—when we did go to church it was more out of guilt than desire. That religious distance also distanced me from the Bible. I saw it as a stoic holy book I needed to let a priest handle. That is, until someone handed me my own Bible—a hardcover version I was encouraged to highlight and underline in. Within a year, the binding fell apart from all the times I’d opened it and scribbled in it.

Takeaway:  Show teenagers how natural it is to interact with the Bible. (Suggestion: Check out Pierced as a way for them to see how other students do this.)

I started leading a small group.

Something that Group’s Youth Ministry Local Training events have covered so well is the importance of letting teenagers do what adults typically do. During my last year of high school, I was challenged to lead a small group for younger guys. It prompted me to understand the Bible in a way I never had, like digging into the whole story and understanding how Jesus is referenced all throughout it (something the Jesus-Centered Bible does).

Takeaway: Kids will become true students of the Bible when they’re challenged to teach it.

Some closing thoughts…

• Offer a quarterly get-together for your teenagers to learn the basics of the Bible.

• Never over-estimate the impact of the extra attention you give to Bible-reading basics now, because it will impact their life habits for the long haul.

• They likely know far less than you assume, because you’re “home-blind.”

• But they can do more than realize if you help them get started.

(By the way, my son and I worked on a project that could help. It’s worth a peek—maybe even a read. Check it out for an “If… What If?” interaction with the Bible.)

 

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