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Improving Bible Engagement in Christian Schools

One of the distinguishing factors in Christian schools is the prominence given to the Bible. It’s read, sung, taught, referenced, and consulted. Bible verses are displayed on notice boards, assemblies or opening exercises feature Bible passages or stories, values are taught from a biblical worldview, staged performances display God’s Word through drama or music, and discipline and restoration are informed by Scriptural principles.

While the Bible is part and parcel of Christian schools, there’s always room for improving connections with it. So what can teachers do to raise the level of Bible engagement? Here are five pertinent strategies and considerations:

Mix it up – Utilize different Bible engagement practices. American poet and writer Mark van Doren said, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Explain and demonstrate how students can interpret, study, contemplate, memorize, journal, sing, draw, pray, and apply the Scriptures. Consider using elements of the Godly Play approach (Jerome W. Berryman). Be a “sense-sational” Bible engagement teacher. Use methodologies and resources that help children touch, taste, see, hear and even smell God’s Word. When a student graduates from a Christian school, he/she should know how to engage with the Bible in multiple ways.

Less is more – Some teachers talk too much. A child’s attention span is two to three minutes per year of their age. A typical 7 year old can focus on a given task for 14-20 minutes. Tailor what you’re teaching to meet individual needs, i.e use Differentiated Instruction (DI) or Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies. Keep devotional times short and sweet. Include experiential games, object lessons, visual elements, opportunities for discussion, and times for reflection. Quit while you’re ahead. Maybe finish telling a Bible story on a cliff-hanger, plot twist, or tie-back (connecting the ending to an unusual element earlier in the story). Aim to leave your students wanting to spend more time in the Word.

It’s not a textbook –The Bible is a book of texts, but it’s not a textbook. The Bible wasn’t published to meet the needs of educators, and it was never God’s intention that it would be equated with a standard work on a given subject. The Bible is unlike any other book. It’s holy, alive, and active (Hebrews 4:12). It’s not a book of principles, a concept, set of values, ethics to be learned, historical memoirs, spiritual sayings, guide book, collection of doctrines, behaviour manual, or storehouse of propositions. It’s God’s Word, and it has authority over us to speak to us. On the pain of death, you should never ever treat the Bible as a textbook!

Use child-friendly versions – You probably have a personal bias toward one translation, but expose your students to a variety of suitable translations and encourage them to find the one that’s the right “fit” for them. Bible translations have different reading and comprehension levels. The International Children’s Bible, New International Readers Version, and Easy To Read Version are appropriate for younger children. The Living Bible, God’s Word, Contemporary English Version, New Living Translation, and Good News Translation are appropriate for older children. You can use the New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Common English Version, or New King James Version with tweens.

Focus on Jesus – Finally, yet most importantly, your goal should always be to connect your students with a person (Jesus), not a book (Bible). Bible engagement is Jesus engagement. He is the central theme and compelling reason for Bible engagement. Lead your students to the Lord. Bible facts have no value outside of a relationship with the One of whom the Bible speaks (Proverbs 1:7). If your students aren’t moving beyond the biblical text into dynamic encounters with Jesus, you’re only prolonging their “sickly days” (Hamlet).

Irish-born scholar C.S. Lewis wisely said, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” Bible engagement needs to be well watered. More than teaching the Bible, aim to equip students with the skills to interact with the Bible themselves. Be patient and kind. Even on good days, it can be hard going to get students to work up an appetite for Bible engagement. Don’t be dismayed or discouraged. Exhaustively and persuasively share your passion and love for the Scriptures, pray earnestly, and trust the Lord to nurture a desire in your students to live according to His Word and hide it in their hearts (Psalm 119:9-11).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Improving Bible Engagement in the Church

Getting a congregation connected with God’s Word is essential for spiritual health and growth. That’s why improving Bible engagement in the church is a top priority for most pastors. So how can pastors do it well? Here are some tried and tested ways to ramp up Bible engagement in the church:

Take small steps – Most people in most churches don’t read the Bible regularly, and they feel like failures. Don’t guilt-trip them. Acknowledge the challenges. Start slow. “Tiptoe if you must, but take a step,” Naeem Callaway, CEO of Get Out the Box. Set attainable goals. It’s unlikely that someone will go from zero to hero in a few weeks. Be community-minded. Do it together and encourage each other to keep moving forward.

Recommend a range of versions – To endorse only one version of the Bible in a world full of options is narrow-minded and counterproductive. Don’t promote your favourite version as the best choice for everyone. Due to different reading and comprehension levels, people require different versions. The best version is the one a person is most likely to read. Help individuals understand, navigate, and choose options best suited to them.

Use Bibles together – When you’re gathered in a small group or church service, invite people to turn to a given text or passage in a printed or on an electronic device. Aim to get everyone interacting personally and directly with the Bible. When preaching or teaching, make sure you do it in a way that gets people looking at and reading their own Bibles. Ask questions that prompt people to search the text for answers. Small actions can birth big outcomes. Encouraging people to use their Bibles publicly (a small action) may spur them to use their Bibles privately (a big outcome).

Be practical – There’s no right way or better way to engage with the Bible, only different ways. Each of us has preferences that suit our personalities, learning styles, and temperaments. Author of the E100 Bible Engagement Challenge Whitney T. Kuniholm says people get more out of their daily Bible reading if they understand their devotional personalities. These devotional personalities include early birds (classic morning devotionalists), mid-day breakers (read during the lunch break), commuter seekers (connect during bus or train rides), night watchers (enjoy the Scriptures when everyone is asleep), and free spirits (whenever it happens).

Make it shareable – Connect congregations around Bible passages, scripture texts, or biblical themes. Create memes of key verses used in sermons and post them on social media. Update your website every week with the Scripture passage that your small groups are studying. Print a weekly memory verse and tuck it into the service bulletin. Live stream your services using church streaming software and solutions. Think multi-generationally. Involve and include all age groups. Check out ProChurch Media, Open Network, or Church Media Drop for free graphics you can use right away.

Tell compelling stories – If the pastor promotes it, it goes a long way to people doing it. Advocate and motivate people to integrate Bible engagement into their daily lives. An effective way to do this is through personal testimonies extolling the benefits of daily Bible engagement. Pew Research states that 37% of Christians don’t believe Bible reading is essential, and 21% don’t consider the Bible an important part of their Christian identity! Challenge these assumptions. Share persuasive stories to encourage and inspire Bible engagement. Catalyze an annual Bible engagement campaign.

Go digital or go home – People carry phones they can use to connect with God’s Word anywhere at any time. Teach them how to access and use Bible apps like YouVersion, Bible.is, Glo Bible, Logos Bible, or Bible Gateway. Use a digital version on Sundays in your services. Encourage people to share scripture memes on Facebook and Instagram. Free shareable Bible memes are available from DailyBibleMeme, Bible.com, and other sites.

Link it to Jesus – To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus, we have to listen to Him. To listen to Him, we have to read/hear His Word. If we don’t read/hear His Word, we can’t be a follower of Jesus! Teach this truth clearly, frequently and earnestly. We can’t grow in our relationship with Christ if we’re not receiving, reflecting, and responding to His Word. Bible engagement isn’t a spiritual option; it’s a spiritual necessity. This is Christianity 101. Loving Jesus is tied to loving His Word.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Top Ten Bible Engagement Practices

Bible engagement can be a hit-or-miss affair for many people. That’s unfortunate and unnecessary. There are tried and tested things we can do to develop and maintain regular engagement with God’s Word.

Gleaned from decades of learning and teaching, here are my top ten Bible engagement practices to equip you to jump in and stay connected with God’s Word:

Connect with the author. The Bible is more than words. Bible engagement is Jesus engagement. Concentrate less on what the Bible is saying and more on who the Bible is talking about (Jesus). Prayerfully aim to meet Jesus in and through your encounters with the Word. According to theologian and author Scot McKnight, the aim of Bible engagement isn’t to know the Bible; it’s to know the God of the Bible. Seek Him, and you’ll find Him (cf. Jeremiah 29:13). While He’s often hidden, He reveals Himself when you search diligently. You’ll know you’ve found Him when your heart feels like it’s on fire (cf. Luke 24:32).

Discover your Bible engagement disposition. Different personalities connect with the Bible in different ways. There’s no one way or right way to receive, reflect, and respond to God’s Word. Some like to study it; others like to soak in it. Figure out how you’re wired. What’s your devotional temperament? You may prefer to sing, journal, question, draw, contemplate, or pray the Bible.

See it as a lifelong journey. The Bible isn’t a book you read from beginning to end, and then you’re done. It’s a companion on a voyage where you spend time together until you reach the final destination. Your time together doesn’t happen willy-nilly. Create a plan. There must be direction and planning so that Bible engagement happens in a structured manner.

Keep it at your fingertips. There are moments available every day to engage with God’s Word. Instead of checking your emails or scrolling through Facebook, open the Bible app on your phone or tablet. When you’re driving to work or soaking in the tub, listen to a Psalm or short passage of Scripture on YouVersion.

Do it with others. When Bible engagement is a community experience, it creates an inflow of inspiration and positive reinforcement. We’re better together. Individual engagement with God’s Word requires substantial personal discipline. But when you’re accountable to someone, it strengthens engagement. Sharing and discussing your encounters with the Word also deepens your understanding and enhances your memorization.

Read it on its own terms. Don’t try to manipulate or control it. The Bible has authority over your life, not the other way around. Be humble. Let the Bible read you. Bible engagement is a living experience. Place yourself under the Word and invite it to interpret you.

Put yourself into the story. Exercise sanctified imagination to enter into it. Bible engagement requires participation. Move beyond simply reading or listening. Envision yourself as one of the characters or see yourself in the original situation. Once you’ve entered it, immerse yourself in it. Set the scene, play the part, and be carried along by the drama of the narrative.

Share it. God’s Word needs to be on your lips as much as it’s in your heart. Please don’t keep it to yourself. Meet with a friend via Zoom. When you verbalize and teach it, you absorb it. Tell your family how God’s Word speaks to you. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” Mark 16:15.

Try something new. English poet William Cowper said, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” Revive old habits with fresh routines. If you’ve been doing a verse-by-verse reading, try whole book reading. If you’ve been using one version, switch to another. If you usually read the Bible, listen to a Bible audiobook instead.

Live it out. Bible engagement is as much about your hands and feet as it is about your head and heart. It comes alive when you put it into practice. Be a Nike Christian; Just do it! Bible engagement is more than gleaning information; it should result in transformation. Obey it. Become more like Jesus, not just in how you think and what you value but also in what you say and do.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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What Can the Bible Do For You?

Remarkably, because it’s living and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12), the Bible can do what no other book can do; it can renovate, renew, and refurbish your life! This is what the Bible can do for you:

Awaken your faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” Romans 10:17.

Transform your life. “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life” Deuteronomy 32:47.

Show you the way to salvation. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:14-15.

Save your soul. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” James 1:21.

Equip you to do what’s right and good. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Preserve you from sinning. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11.

Keep you on track. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” Psalm 119:150.

Give you wisdom and understanding. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” Psalm 111:10.

Grow your faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” Romans 10:17.

Increase your intelligence. “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” Psalm 119:98-99.

Be your counsellor. “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors” Psalm 119:24.

Offer guidance. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” Psalm 119:130.

Instruct you in righteousness. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word” Psalm 119:9.

Bring you success. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” Joshua 1:8.

Help you persevere. “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” Psalm 19:92.

Give you joy. “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” Psalm 19:8.

Provide peace and security. “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” Psalm 119:165.

Make you productive. “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers” Psalm 1:2-3.

Fill you with hope. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” Romans 15:4.

Refresh and strengthen you. “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” Psalm 19:7.

Nourish you. “The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life” John 6:63. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Deuteronomy 8:3.

Prolong your life. “By them (God’s words) you will live long …” Deuteronomy 32:47b.

Bless all you do. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do” James 1:25.

The Bible will also rebuke you when you step out of line (cf. Psalm 119:21), take honour away from you when you don’t follow the Scriptures wholeheartedly (cf. Psalm 119:80), cut through your selfishness to humble you (cf. Jeremiah 23:29), and judge the thoughts and attitudes of your heart (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Where is the Bible Needed Most?

In the introduction to the State of the Bible USA 2021 report, John Plake, Director of Ministry Intelligence at the American Bible Society, suggests that we might be asking, “Where is the Bible needed most?” He says, “It’s a good question.” So what’s the answer?

Drawing on the history of the American Bible Society and the church in America, Plake suggests the Bible is needed most “where it’s not available … where people are hurting … and where wisdom is in short supply.” He also submits that the data from the State of the Bible research indicates that the Bible is needed to help Americans face their “challenges with hope and resilience.”

Plake’s suggestions may be good PR, but they’re bad theology. While it’s true to say the Bible is needed where people don’t have access to the Bible, by people in pain and needing comfort, by people who lack knowledge, and by people seeking courage, these reasons are not the main reason people need it.

This is not a sidebar issue. What we believe the Bible is, directly relates to where it’s needed most.

Here’s my concern: Plake wittingly or unwittingly downgrades the Bible to something less than God intended it to be. The Bible is more than a therapy manual (moralistic therapeutic deism) and more than a sourcebook to glean understanding (Gnosticism). Providing succour for suffering, sorrow, or sickness is not the primary focus of the Bible. Countering ignorance or increasing what Plake calls the “short supply” of wisdom is also not the primary focus of the Bible. Nor is contact with the Bible (accessibility) the chief reason why the Bible is needed. Access to the Bible (Plake considers access a “human right”) is not a freedom that belongs to every person in the world, and it’s not a biblical injunction.

So what is the main reason people need the Bible, and where is the Bible needed most? Jesus is the reason, and where people don’t have Jesus is where the Bible is needed most.

Bible engagement is about Jesus engagement. People need to receive, read, reflect, and respond to the Bible to connect with Jesus. This is the principle belief and primary doctrine of Scripture engagement. The theme of the Bible, from the beginning to the end, is Jesus. He is the theme of the Bible because He’s what people need most.

In other words, wherever people don’t know Jesus as King and aren’t citizens in His kingdom is where the Bible is needed most. The main reason why people need the Bible is that they’re separated from God. Being healed, or finding answers to life’s questions, is secondary to being saved and sanctified. We must be unequivocal on this point: The Bible is needed most by people who don’t know Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6.

Practically this means atheists, agnostics, animists, nones (people who say they have no religious affiliation), fence-sitters (people who view Christian faith favourably but haven’t committed themselves to Jesus), secular, and religious people need the Bible most. That’s not to say that Christ-followers don’t need the Bible as much as those who don’t follow Christ. It’s simply a recognition that those who are furthest away from Christ are usually the ones who are furthest away from His Word, and therefore the ones who need the Bible the most.

[Note: I highly value the work and ministry of the ABS and the Bible societies worldwide and have many friends who serve in these agencies. This to say that this article is not a criticism of the ABS per se. It is, however, a brief review and critical analysis of the introduction to the State of the Bible USA 2021 report. As such, it’s consistent with our biblical responsibility not to believe everything we hear and to carefully weigh and examine what people tell us (1 John 4:1). Hopefully, I’ve done this tolerably.]

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Ten Ways We Hinder Bible Engagement

Tragically, we’re prone to reducing the Bible to something manageable, comfortable, or palatable. When we reduce the Bible to something less than it’s meant to be, we handicap Bible engagement.

Here are ten ways we hinder Bible engagement:

Marginalizing – We shut down the Bible when it’s treated as something insignificant or trivial. Pagans do this all the time, but so do Christians. When we say we’re Bible-believing but don’t open it to read it, we’re side-lining it. And when we open it to read it but don’t obey it, we’re not giving it the worthy response it deserves.

Sanitizing – When we connect with the things we like in the Bible but not the things we dislike, we strip the Bible of its efficacy. Are we worried that people will pull back from God if we reveal His whole character? If we feel we have to clean up the Bible by avoiding difficult, controversial, or distasteful passages, we’ve stepped out of line.

Romanticizing – Treating the Bible in an idealized way, as a heroic tale or a book about flawless heroes should be anathema. On one level, the Bible is a love letter; but it’s also a record of humanity’s sin, selfishness, guilt, shame, tragedy, deviancy, darkness and despair. When we engage with the Bible we must engage with it warts and all!

Trivializing – There are occasions (e.g. teaching the Bible to children) when we use approaches designed to make Bible engagement fun. While fun in and of itself isn’t wrong, we should never be amused spectators or reduce the Bible to our carnal level. When the Bible is equated with feel-good preaching or entertaining story-telling, we’ve missed the mark.

Moralizing – The Bible is the doorway to redemption and reconciliation in Christ Jesus. If we diminish it to a niggling petition for ethical change, we close it down. The Bible should never be used to impose control, make demands, get people to conform, or make others feel guilty. It’s not a narrative on issues of right and wrong or a book of moral stories. And it’s never more important to be good than to know Jesus.

Legalizing – While the Bible contains statutes, precepts and commands, it’s not a book of rules per se. Nor is it the means to teach behaviour modification as the be-all and end-all of Christian living. The Bible should never be manipulated to keep people in little boxes. We lock the Bible down if we don’t understand that biblical law only makes sense within the context of faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone (cf. Romans 10:4, Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sensationalizing – While the Bible is sensational (extraordinary), it shouldn’t be sensationalized (embellished or overstated). Presenting the Bible in ways designed to provoke interest and excitement at the expense of accuracy is always wrong and always impedes meaningful encounters with the One who is the Word, Jesus Christ.

Minimalizing – Do you snack on a Bible verse a day? Do you only consult the Scriptures for guidance or directions when things go wrong? Do you select just a few favourite passages to the exclusion of others? If you’re doing these things, you’re getting in the way of the Bible fully having its way with you.

Categorizing – Sometimes we treat the Bible like a school textbook, a history of the Jewish nation, or a book of outstanding literature. The Bible is more than information, more than spiritual sayings, more than tips for better living, and more than a storehouse of doctrines or propositions. Pigeonholing the Bible as anything other than the Book of books makes a mockery of the fact that the Bible is God’s living, active, unfettered Word.

Liberalizing – When the Bible is considered fable-laden or false, when it’s treated as something that doesn’t reconcile with modern thinking, or when reason is considered to be the final authority for interpreting which teachings are correct and which are not, then the ultimate shut down of the Bible has occurred. When this happens, Bible engagement is a misnomer.

Sometimes our reductionist approaches are unintended; sometimes they’re due to inexperience, and sometimes they’re intentional. Are you helping or hampering Bible engagement? If you’re doing any of the things mentioned above, you’re reducing the Bible to something less than God intends it to be.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Connecting Children with the Bible

Story is the fundamental instrument of children’s thoughts. They dwell in stories all the time, inside their own heads. It’s what helps them know who they are and why they’re here – their building-blocks for life and living.

By God’s design, most of the Bible is narrative in character – making it a spiritual playground for children. As the Story of stories, the Bible invites children to enter in and enjoy it. As children enter in, they soon realize that the Story wants them to meet the Storyteller!

No two children enter God’s Story in the same way. They enter arbitrarily – making unique connections that uniquely join their lives to His life. If we try to make children fit in with how we think they should become part of the Story, we do them an injustice. God’s Story must speak for itself.

While we should never tell children how their stories should connect with God’s Story, we should ask questions that help engage their imaginations. By entering God’s Story with their imaginations, children make links to their experiences. When the Bible connects with their experiences, it has meaning and value.

German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” When we connect children with the Bible, the aim should never be solely Bible knowledge. Transformation, not information, is the goal. When information is the goal of a child’s interaction with the Bible it results in death, but when transformation is the goal, it results in life.

There’s something in every child that seeks relevance. Children want to be raised-up – set on the path to being all they’re meant to be. Spiritually, they’re looking for redemption, desire deliverance, and want to see what falls being restored. As Christian educator Dorothy Furnish says, “Only if the Bible has meaning now will children look forward with expectation to the discovery of Bible meanings in the future.”

Sometimes our efforts to help children find meaning in the Bible, while well-intentioned, are counterproductive. The Bible study method that equates Bible characters with superheroes is a good example. How can children find meaning in their lives when they’re taught that men and women of the Bible are like Superman or Wonder Woman? Scripture Union’s children’s ministry specialist Wendy Strachan aptly says, “The Bible comes alive to children when we help them to realise that the people in its pages are people like them. Not heroes. Ordinary people.”

Furthermore. Since every child connects with the Bible distinctively, they likewise respond to the Bible distinctively. We should never expect children to react to God’s Story in set ways. Rather, our task is to invite children to engage with the Story in ways that encourage and respect their interaction – however unexpected their questions, comments, or responses may be. By inspiring discussions and valuing children’s responses, we pave the way for a lifetime of Bible engagement.

Along with verbal responses, multi-sensory reactions to God’s Story should be encouraged. Children should have opportunities to connect with the Story through journaling, singing, acting, Godly Play, drawing, painting, writing, reflecting, and celebrating. Helping children connect with the Bible using all their senses enables them to engage their hearts, heads, and hands.

The Nike slogan, “Just do it!” should be the visible outcome of children interacting with the Bible. Children should respond to the Scriptures by helping others, caring for creation, doing what is fair and just, being compassionate, and interrelating with the world in a way that points people to Jesus.

This can’t and won’t happen if the Bible isn’t the window through which children view the world. It’s only when the Bible takes root (in a child’s life), that it produces fruit. In other words, when children are besotted with the Storyteller, they’ll live out His Story.

Finally, while children will connect with the Bible on their own, they’re far more likely to connect with the Bible when they do it with others. Bible engagement happens best in the context of community. Children need their parents and a faith community to “impress” the Scriptures on them (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). Loving relationships are a big part of connecting children with the Bible. When we appreciate the biblical insights and contributions of children, their connections with the Story and the Storyteller are enriched.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Parenting and Bible Engagement

Children who experience Bible engagement as a regular slice of family life are more likely to love and live for Jesus through adulthood than children who don’t. This isn’t conjecture, it’s fact.

If you take parents from any denomination, with the same levels of faith and frequency of attendance, the parents who prioritize Bible engagement in their homes are the ones who are more likely to see their children committing themselves to Jesus and staying connected with a community of faith.

Bible engagement makes all the difference. When parents, together with their children, read, reflect, and respond to the Bible, it provides a rock-solid foundation for faith (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). But when Bible engagement is neglected in the home, children are more likely to turn their back on Jesus and leave the church.

For parents concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of their children, the answer is simple: Make Bible engagement part of daily life. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Generate regular discussions about the Word. Families who frequently talk about the Scriptures open the door for Jesus to enter in
  • Create and maintain a “sacred space” in the home. This is a designated place where a member of the family can sit and quietly read/listen to God’s Word
  • Make sure your children see you reading/listening to the Bible. This communicates non-verbally that contemplating or studying God’s Word is one of your daily priorities and core values
  • Make the Scriptures visible. For example, handwritten verses on sticky notes on the fridge door, or send verses as text messages to older children who have phones
  • Memorize Scripture. Make it a monthly challenge for the whole family (maybe practice together each night after supper)
  • Watch Bible videos/films together
  • Have Bible comics or graphic adaptations of the Bible sitting on a coffee table where they’re more likely to be picked up and read
  • Look for unplanned opportunities (teachable moments) to share biblical insights with your children  

For churches concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of children, the answer is also simple: Equip parents with Bible engagement strategies and tools. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Train parents in basic Bible engagement practices, i.e., how to interpret, teach, apply, and pray the Scriptures
  • Provide Bible reading guides suitable for families and different age groups
  • Invite families to share testimonies with the congregation about how they meet with God as a direct result of the Bible engagement that happens in their homes
  • Publicly champion the role of parents as the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives
  • Practically encourage and build parents confidence so they can thrive in leading family Bible engagement

Parents and churches need to work together. Bible engagement is the single most important spiritual discipline in the faith development of our children. So we can’t let Bible engagement fall through the cracks. If family Bible engagement isn’t happening in the home, everything possible should be done to make it a priority.

Recommended Resource:

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Defined

What do we mean by the term Bible engagement?

Bible engagement is the process that connects us with the Bible so that we have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ in order for our lives to be progressively transformed in Him.

To elaborate: Bible engagement happens through the course of our lives as we find our part in God’s Story. For Bible engagement to happen we must first come together with and develop a vital relationship with Christ. The relationship begins and proceeds by grace and through faith as Christ saves us from sin and sanctifies us by the Spirit. Bible engagement is evidenced through ongoing obedience to God’s Word that’s seen in life-changes that take place individually and in community.

According to James 1:17-25, there are four actions involved in Bible engagement:

  1. Receive God’s Word – “humbly accept” James 1:21.
  2. Reflect on God’s Word – “looks intently” James 1:25.
  3. Remember God’s Word – “not forgetting” James 1:25.
  4. Respond to God’s Word – “doing it” James 1:22-23, 25.

 

To effectively receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word there are several things we need to know:

  1. Bible engagement flows out of an intimate reciprocating relationship with Jesus. The motivation for reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to the Word is only as strong as our love for Christ. The more we love Jesus, the greater our drive to engage with His Word will be.
  2. Bible engagement is a process. There are no shortcuts. It involves what the scholar and author Eugene Peterson, calls “a long obedience in the same direction” – a course of action that’s repeated over and over again through the ups and downs of life.
  3. Bible engagement involves desire. When our desire to receive, reflect, remember and respond to the Word is greater than staying where we are, we’ll be on the way toward regular and consistent engagement with the Word.
  4. Bible engagement requires discipline. Daily choices about how we prioritize our time must be made in order to grow stronger in our engagement with God’s Word. Praying or hoping for a better connection with the Bible is futile if we spend our time glued to the TV or consumed by social media.
  5. Bible engagement is fuelled by the Holy Spirit. “The same Holy Spirit who inspired Bible authors to write, inspires Bible readers to understand and accept it, as God’s Word,” says David Jackman, president of the Proclamation Trust. Self-efforts to improve our engagement with the Bible will end in failure. We’ll only mature in receiving, reflection, remembering and responding to the Word when we seek the daily filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Real Bible engagement is initiated and enabled when we recognize our impotence – then invite the Holy Spirit to equip us as we listen, learn and live out God’s Word.
  6. Bible engagement is a challenge. The enemy of God, Satan, does not want us to engage with the Bible. The spiritual forces of darkness work actively to distract, divert, daunt, deceive or defeat us when we seek to receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word.
  7. Bible engagement results in action. In the Parable of the Sower, the climax of the story comes when people “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop” Mark 4:20. When hearing the Bible results in people becoming living epistles, i.e., being life words, then Bible engagement has occurred. Producing a crop is the ultimate goal. It’s not enough to hear the Word and accept it; the inward must become outward – the concealed must be revealed.

 

All told, Bible engagement is foundational and imperative for God’s people. So “get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (MSG).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Consistent Bible Engagement

The more we read the Bible, the more it will read us. That’s one of the great reasons why Bible engagement should be a steady, ongoing, day-by-day concern; certainly never a hit or miss affair. Yet this isn’t always the case. Most of us don’t feed on the Word as consistently as we eat physical food. So how do we connect with the Word to be regular readers and doers of the Word? Here are three ways to strengthen Bible engagement:

  1. Do what’s achievable. The best person to figure out the best way for you to connect with the Bible in the best way is you! If you’re big on reading, do whole book reading (also called the synthetic study of the Bible). If you’re not a big reader, read smaller bite-sized chunks. If you like reading, but need visuals, try something like the Kingstone Bible or the Word for Word Bible Comic. If you don’t like reading, then listen to the Bible. Google “Free Audio Bible” and you’ll find a range of audio options to choose from. And, if you’re not a good listener, then watch a visual production – one where the dialogue is word for word according to the written text, e.g. the Lumo Project or the Visual Bible.
  2. Tap into technology. There are loads of Bible apps and plenty of online tools to help facilitate a range of Bible engagement practices. I use Bible Gateway all the time. My wife is plugged into YouVersion. Other popular apps include Bible.Is, ESV CrossWay, Glo Bible, NIV Bible by Tecarta, Blue Letter Bible, Daily Audio Bible, and the Olive Tree Bible Study App. Bible apps are especially helpful if you’re a visual or auditory preference learner, so find what works for you and implement.
  3. Do it together. Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Simply doing something with someone else is motivation in and of itself. When we journey through the Word with others, it makes it easier to engage with the Word. That’s because there’s something about helping each other stay accountable that serves to spur us on to read the Scriptures in the morning or listen to them while driving to work.

 

You can do it! Prayerfully, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, adopt these three simple tips, and you’ll fortify your connections with the Bible!

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5