This post first appeared June 12, 2016 on the Youth Specialties blog here: http://youthspecialties.com/blog/increasing-biblical-literacy-among-students/
As youth workers, one of our greatest passions is getting students to engage with the Word of God. Imagine a world where every student, maybe even half our students, read their Bible and allowed the Word to penetrate their hearts. It would be a very different world! There would be less craziness to deal with, fewer students addicted to porn, fewer students using drugs and alcohol to avoid dealing with reality, and fewer broken homes. That is an ideal world, isn’t it? I’m not saying that increasing biblical literacy among our students will bring about world peace or solve world hunger, but it will solve a spiritual hunger that our world is currently starving from.
The Bible is powerful. According to Hebrews 4:12 it is actually living and active. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that the Bible convicts us of sin, shows us how to live right, and equips us to go through life. If this is true, and if we believe it is true, then we have to use it! We have to make sure that we are invested in actual using the Bible in our youth ministries. It may not be as big of a tendency as it used to be, but youth ministry used to be mostly about games and having fun, with a little moral lesson thrown in.
Our youth ministry started something new, and something simple, at the beginning of this year. We started reading through the Bible. It sounds too easy, doesn’t it? I thought it would be too easy, and that students wouldn’t be engaged with it. I developed this plan and was excited about implementing it, using binders with reading plans and daily questions to help students engage with the reading, and even had announcement sheets and sermon notes each week for the binders. I was stoked, but I didn’t know how our students would respond. We rolled it out January 10 and have a goal of reading through the Bible in a year together. We daily post the reading on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and each month give students the new reading assignments. The engagement has been incredible. Each week we track how much students have read, and we have a high level of engagement, with students actually excited about reading their Bible and even whole families that have taken on the challenge and are reading together like they never have before. Parents as well as students are constantly talking about it, talking about how it has impacted them and opened them up to hearing more from God and have impacted them in such a way they are following God like they never have before. The impact was unexpected, but it has been powerful. Students are reading passages they never would have otherwise.
This experience has taught me a few things, and I am still learning! If I were to give any advice about how to increase biblical literacy among our students, it would be to make sure we do these three things:
- Get personally engaged in the Bible yourself
We cannot give someone something that we do not own. We cannot expect our students to be biblically literate if we are not. We are called to set the standard and set the tone for biblical engagement and literacy. As a youth leader or youth pastor, it is our responsibility to be a student of the Word of God first, setting an example for those we lead.
- Make the Bible the foundation of teaching
There are so many resources out there for youth ministry, but we need to be careful what we use. There are many lesson series out there using a verse or two as the foundation and then fully flesh out a topic from there. That is not enough. We do our students a disservice when we do not make much of the Bible in our teaching.
- Provide opportunities for students to engage & study the Bible
Like we did with student binders and reading through the Bible in a year together, we must provide opportunities for our students to engage with and study the Bible. Whether through a small group Bible study, an intentional week-to-week focus through a book of the Bible, or daily reading together, we must give place for our students to engage with the Bible. If we don’t give them opportunities, it is unlikely many will take the initiative to engage and study on their own.