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