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Bible Engagement Blog


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Opening the 4/14 Window

A friend recently introduced me to the 4/14 Global Missions Movement. When I visited the 4/14 website I was struck by the fact that nearly 50% of the world’s population are under 20 years of age – indicating that children are the largest people group in the world yet to be connected with Christ!

In Canada, 65% of Canadian Christian adults came to faith in Christ before they were 12 years old and 80% came to faith in Christ before they were 19 years old (Child Evangelism Fellowship). Worldwide, 71% of Christians commit their lives to Christ before the age of 15 and an additional 10% before the age of 19. Only 19% of Christians come to faith in Christ as adults (Based on a study by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1996).

With these statistics in mind, one would think that the majority of the efforts to connect people with Christ would be child focused. But they’re not. Most of what we do is geared to adults. Look at any local church budget and you’ll see that pastor’s salaries (those who are teaching/preaching adults), buildings (where the largest and “most important” space with the best audio visual system is the place where the adults meet), and adult related programs are the big ticket items.

Our priorities are back to front. A new focus is needed for a new era. How long will it be until we wake up to the fact that each successive generation in the Western world has fewer Christians than the previous generation? And what will it take for us to hear Christ, really hear Him, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14 (NIV).

It’s time to act. For those who would move forward, consideration must be given to how we can “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ …” (the goal of the Global Missions Movement).

Of course, Bible engagement should be an essential component of any and all missional strategies to connect children and youth with Jesus. If children are going to have a relationship with Christ that matters deeply, then we must do everything we can to help them acquire a deep commitment to the Scriptures. But that’s easier said than done. From the vantage point of a CEO/Executive Director charged with leading an organization that works to connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story, I’m keenly aware that we have a long way to go.

So a question for my colleagues in the Bible agency world. How should the 4/14 Window figure into our plans? Historically, most Bible agencies, translators, publishers and distributors have invested the lion’s share of operating capital into developing resources for adults. Maybe it’s time to take stock. Do we need more English versions of the Bible for adults? Isn’t 800+ versions more than enough! Why, like the Titanic, do we continue full steam ahead with developing new Bible Apps, resources and delivery systems for adults? Especially when we know that “women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, student Bibles, even software Bibles or the Bible on-line have not increased the numbers of people reading (the Bible).” (cf. Barna).

Opening the 4/14 window. There are 3 billion children and youth. Can we reach them together? Developmentally speaking, children between 8-12 years old are more inclined to matters of faith than at any other stage of life. Imagine what could be done if the budgets of all the entities producing Bibles or Bible related resources were restructured to develop resources that would significantly help “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Passing the Baton

How do we engage young adults with the Bible? Or to phrase the question slightly differently, what can we do to help Millennials (those born between the early 1980’s and early 2000’s) connect  with the Scriptures?

To begin, we can’t continue doing what we used to do. Twenty-first Century young adults don’t think and act like their parents and grandparents. Marketing a cool new youth Bible or promoting a radical Bible reading plan really don’t work anymore. Different approaches and tools are required.

So if the models and paradigms of yesteryear don’t cut it, then what does? How do we create new strategies and resources that will capture young people’s attention and help them engage with the Bible?

Perhaps the first step is knowing that Millennials value authentic relationships, respect personal stories and experiences, prefer non-prescriptive interactive approaches, and enjoy opportunities to grow in understanding through discussion and partnership. They are also suspicious of the institutional church, wary of authorities, and distrust meta-narratives.

If the first step is to understand the core values of Millennials, then the second step is to be aware of how Millennials exist in and are defined by a digital world dominated by technology (unlike their parents who may be digital immigrants, young adults are digital natives). This generation are intrinsically linked to the devices and software they own and use. For many young adults, being offline or unable to interact on social media sites is intolerable!

Building on the first two steps, the third step may be one of advocacy (reestablishing the Bible’s relevance and credibility). Because Millennials distrust metanarratives and view the church with suspicion, their fears need to be allayed. This is a mammoth challenge. Confidence in the Bible has declined over many decades and it will probably take many years of collaborative efforts to reverse the decline.

Closely associated with the need for advocacy is the need to discover new ways to help Millennials read/hear/see/experience the Bible. Before a young adult will use the Bible they have to be exposed to it in ways that are multi-sensory, tie in with their core values, and build relational trust.

Finally, the strategies and resources that are developed to help Millennials engage with the Bible should facilitate the following:

  • online and face to face connexity
  • dialogue, questioning and sharing
  • discovery of truth and meaning
  • sharing of stories and experiences
  • living out the biblical faith

How does this fit with your perspective? Join the discussion. Make a comment.

© Scripture Union Canada 2014