I remember the first time I attempted to read the Bible all the way through. Genesis was captivating because it was filled with stories of men and women who struggled with God. The opening of Exodus was gut-wrenching as I imagined Pharaoh ordering the murder of children. I tried to envision the plagues. The Bible was great. It had my attention… until I reached Leviticus. I tried, but I just couldn’t find it interesting. In fact I found it boring and quite frankly just a little disturbing. A 12-year-old boy doesn’t want to read about menstrual cycle rituals and infectious skin conditions. In fact it left me with questions I’m not sure my mom was quite ready to answer. I didn’t finish that project.
I made other attempts to read the Bible through my teen years, but I struggled to complete the task. I could hardly understand the novels, plays and short stories I was reading in high school much less these ancient texts.
And I’ve learned over 13 years in student ministry most teens struggle to read their Bibles. I’ve also found for most it’s not because they don’t want to. Many try, but become discouraged as they wonder what a list of festivals or pronouncement of curses has to do with them. Let’s be honest, the Bible isn’t as easy to read as we would like it to be.
If the Scriptures are vital to our spiritual growth, then it seems we parents would make it a priority to help our children learn to read and love the Scriptures. So, how do we do that? There are all kinds of opinions and ideas, but here are five I’ve found helpful.
But, before getting to these 5 ideas one thing must be certain. We parents must be people who dive into the Word allowing Scripture to reveal to us more about our creator, his Son Jesus and how we are created to live. If dwelling on Scripture isn’t part of our lives how can we expect/hope for it to be part of our teens’ lives?
So, here are my five ideas in no particular order
Select a translation that gives your teens the best chance to understand what they are reading
How will they ever learn to enjoy the Bible if the translation is too difficult? When choosing a translation for your child or teen I suggest not choosing one because it’s what you prefer. Instead, consider your child’s reading ability. I recommend the NIV or New Living Translation.
Read the Bible with your teen
Your children are never too old to read the Bible with. Reading together gives you opportunities for great discussions as well as the chance to help your child learn to read their Bibles. Pick a book of the Bible to read together. The Gospels are great places to begin. Not sure where to begin? Well, my friend, David Smith, preaching minister at Missouri Street Church of Christ, has put together a 10-month reading plan of Proverbs. It only takes a minute or two to read each day. You can then share thoughts and insights with your teen. You text your teen the day’s Proverb, leave notes, etc. Personally, I’m participating in this adventure during 2014. (Check back here for occasional reflections on what God is teaching me through Proverbs.)
Use a reading plan
Teens often wonder where to begin when reading the Bible. Reading plans provide the starting point many teens are looking for. YouVersion is a great place to begin. They have all kinds of reading plans – from yearlong plans to 10-day reading plans. Last year I read through a chronological plan and journaled my reflections, thoughts and prayers based on many of those readings.
Use a devotional or Bible study
Bible studies and devotional books help teens learn how to study the Bible by presenting them with comments and questions they might not think of asking. My favorite is the One Minute Bible for Students. It breaks the Bible down for teens into short, daily readings with brief reflections. If read daily, teens read the entire Bible in one year. I’ve begun giving these to entering 7th graders in my student ministry. Get a copy of the Bible study or devotional and follow along with your teen. This creates opportunities for discussions.
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with offering rewards and celebrations for their accomplishments. We do this other activities. Set goals with your teen and celebrate these milestones. My oldest daughter received a bass guitar for completing a devotional with me during the season of Lent.
These are just five suggestions for helping your teen to learn to love reading the Bible.
What are some ideas that you’ve found helpful?