7 Needless Barriers Between Teens and the Bible
The reasons so many young people are walking away from Christianity are obvious: shifting culture, ineffective youth ministry, college professors, government hostility, and the entertainment industry—right?
Blaming these realities is like blaming the wind for cracks in a building’s sinking foundation.
A friend of mine with college-age children recently told me, “In raising my kids, I wanted to make sure they had a favorable view of God. But what they needed was a favorable view of God’s Word.”
Bible access is at unprecedented highs, thanks to smart phones. Church engagement among Christian youth remains stable. Yet biblical literacy is in the tank.
It’s not enough for kids today to be raised in church, fed church activities, and even learn scripture memory. They must be raised to revere God’s word and to wrestle with God’s truth. But they will never respect or grapple with the Bible if they don’t read it. And leading teens on a Bible-reading journey is so much simpler when we remove the unnecessary barriers.
The reason many young people don’t read the Bible is because they aren’t expected to.
We settle for far less of them.
For the past several years, I’ve led dozens of families—and their teenage kids—on sixty-day, full-Bible reads. And many of these teens went on to lead their siblings and friends on subsequent cover-to-cover reads. One young reader told me, “I invited people from my high school class and every one joined me!” [Watch several short interviews with these teens here!]
Kids and young adults are reading the Bible, understanding it, and building a foundation of faith. They are capable.
We expect so much of them in other disciplines of life. We encourage and help them to play sports well, learn musical instruments, master the ACT test, apply for jobs and colleges.
Why not read the Bible? Yes, it’s a challenge. But it’s more easily within their ability than we realize.
In the parable of the Sower, (told in Matthew 13) Jesus pointed out that thorns of “cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” can choke out the Word in a person’s mind. As adults, you and I can relate to that warning. But consider this: adults typically have many more “thorns and cares” than kids.
They also have much more time than you realize. Despite their complaints about homework and activities. Especially during summertime. Let’s face it. Our kids aren’t doing that much. Even if they are busy, it’s because we’ve stacked up their calendars.
Generally speaking, compared with most adults, the soil (and schedule) of a young person’s heart is receptive to the Word.
When we imagine they can’t find the time to read, or project our own cares on them, we miss out on an opportunity to plant—and hope for a great harvest.
Needles in haystacks
I hate “memory verses.” Okay, I don’t have disdain for the scripture, but I question the effectiveness of needling our kids into reciting a verse without also asking them to tell me about the context and meaning.
Entire “children’s ministry” programs have been built on the model of memorizing sentences. Bible verses become hidden needles in haystacks, when the Bible should be the haystack.
Young people will not be in awe of God’s Word until they see the big picture—from Genesis to Revelation.
Devotion to devotions
Say your prayers and read your Bible. Eat your vegetables. Do your homework. Read your devotions. Take out the trash. Have your “quiet time.”
All worthy endeavors.
But why do we limit what our kids are capable of when it comes to engaging with God’s Word? On some level, and in certain seasons, your teen will be much more engaged by a sixty-day Power-Read of the entire Bible than a devotional.
We’ve dumbed-down devotion. Big goals are attractive, energizing goals!
They read not because we ask not
As parents, why haven’t we simply invited and expected our kids to read the entire Bible in a summer?
My twelve year old daughter is reading the entire Bible this summer.
Why – because we told her too? Actually, we didn’t.
A classmate asked her and a few other girls if they would join her in reading the Bible this summer.
I was skeptical. “Is it too much?” “Will the reading commitment frustrate her?”
(I’m careful in my home not to throw too much at my kids because their dad is always generating these ideas for his ministry.)
But she wanted to do it. She wanted to join in with her friends. She was on board – because she was asked.
Ask. and they shall read.
(Yes, we have a free plan and a book for that. Click here.)
Those with earbuds to hear, let them hear!
Would your child rather listen to an audio book or read a book? In my book, either counts as “reading” the Bible.
Many sincere believers think (consciously or subconsciously) that you have to read, comprehend, and understand the original Biblical language of every single word while reading—or listening to—the Bible. But that’s not true.
In fact. research shows that listening to text can provide similar comprehension to reading. [Here’s a post I wrote on the subject: https://jeffandersonauthor.com/2019/02/15/listening/ ]
Let’s remove the barrier of earbud-reading when it comes to the Bible.
Building on sand
Here’s a personal rant.
As if this whole post isn’t, Jeff?
Busted again. Anyway. In my experience in church ministry, I’ve seen youth groups emphasize the New Testament and ignore the Old Testament. The result, in my view, are young believers with no understanding of the foundation of our faith.
New Testament-centric knowledge leads to emphasis on what I call “behavioral Christianity.” Do this and do that (obey parents, love neighbor, have quiet time). Don’t do this and don’t do that (drink, have sex, lie).
It’s ironic that by avoiding the rules in the Old Testament, we’ve created a new set of rules from the new.
Instead, we need the history, the context, the big picture. We need to connect the dots.
The Gospels can only be fully appreciated—and yes, revered—with an understanding of the full Bible.
Rolling away the barriers
Imagine your child investing sixty hours in God’s Word this summer. In addition to school work, advanced placement courses, sports, goofing off, and occasionally taking out the trash. The time investment to read the entire Bible in sixty days is just one hour per day. The return is impossible to calculate.
Again, all you need to start is a Bible. I’ve created a free reading plan, here. And if you’d like a brief, daily guide to each day’s reading, they are available here: [Click here]. These books provide insights and points to discuss together.
Parents, believe me. I know it’s daunting to nurture your family’s spiritual growth.
But I promise you, the Bible-component is so much simpler than we’ve imagined.