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How to Measure Bible Engagement


Since Bible engagement is crucial to the spiritual health and growth of individuals and communities (churches, schools, Bible agencies, ministries), it is helpful to understand “the conditions necessary for such growth to be sustained – to become permanent – and to continue” (Mark Forshaw, Global Scripture Impact).

Here’s how some key organisations/groups/agencies are measuring Bible engagement:

Barna Group – Collects data for the ABS State of the Bible study by using a four-part typology based on people’s view of and level of engagement with Scripture. A person is categorized/described as Bible engaged, Bible friendly, Bible neutral or Bible skeptic.

Biblica – Is initiating the development of a tool that will measure the Bible engagement elements of translation, access, literary form, reading holistically, context awareness, narrative understanding and story activation.

Canadian Bible Forum – A quantitative survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies and a qualitative study conducted by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to measure why Canadians do or do not connect with the Bible. Findings reported in the Canadian Bible Engagement Study.

Center for Bible Engagement – Uses surveys to gather data from individuals to measure life transformation levels of weekly Bible engagement. It goes beyond simply usage statistics to consider attitudes and behaviors that significantly impact spiritual growth and a person’s relationship with God.

Global Scripture Impact (American Bible Society) – Seeks to measure Bible engagement by measuring the behavioural signs of ‘willingness’, ‘understanding’, and ‘action’ as indicators of people moving toward spiritual maturity/embodying Christ.

LifeWay Research – Conducts quantitative and qualitative research utilising question samples from the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA) and the Transformational Groups (TG) research projects.

REVEAL – Researches the role of Scripture engagement in catalyzing spiritual growth. A set of survey items is used to look at what motivates people to engage with Scripture and how people are affected by their exposure to Scripture.

Scripture Union Canada – Uses the quantitative Measure of Reading/Connecting with the Bible literacy gauge and a qualitative assessment of how people are connecting with, coming alive to, are investing in, being submitted to, are reliant on, are receiving from, and acting in line with Christ and His Word.

Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement – Conducts quantitative and qualitative research to measure frequency of interaction with the Bible, the extent to which a person has the Bible as a focal center in their spiritual life, the breadth of contexts whereby a person interacts with the Bible, kinds of interactions a person has with the Bible, and the views people have of the Bible. The tools used for the research are the Christian Life Survey, Christian Identity and Scripture Engagement Survey, Scripture Engagement Interviews, Scripture Engagement Field Interviews.

If you know about Bible engagement research that hasn’t been mentioned in this post, please share what you know.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5

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Measuring Bible Engagement

So how is Bible engagement measured? Those who define Bible engagement as something cognitive or transactional find it relatively easy to quantitatively measure the activity because the variables can be isolated and studied. For example, one of the tools developed by this writer as a simple gauge of Bible literacy is the Measure of reading/connecting with the Bible in the table below.

Measure of reading/connecting with the Bible

-4 Is unaware of the Bible
-3 Is aware of the Bible
-2 Has access to a portion of the Bible
-1 Has access to the Bible
0 Owns a Bible or a portion of the Bible
+1 Never or rarely reads/connects with the Bible
+2 Reads/connects with the Bible once a month or more
+3 Reads/connects with the Bible once a week or more
+4 Reads/connects with the Bible once a day or more

Quantitative measures of Bible engagement, while useful, have limitations because they do not and cannot measure the more complex nature of Bible engagement, elements like ‘meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ’ and lives being ‘progressively transformed in Him.’

So how are the more qualitative elements of Bible engagement measured? By definition such qualities are difficult to determine, but clearly confirmation of Bible engagement is seen in people’s lives when they are connected with, coming alive to, are tied to, are investing in, being submitted to, are reliant on, are receiving from, and acting in line with the One of whom the Bible speaks, Jesus Christ.

Measuring Bible engagement. Ultimately, meaningful connections with the Bible are occurring when:

–          people are seen to be imitating Christ’s humility (cf. Philippians 2:2)

–          when our stories are interwoven and subject to His Story (cf. Micah 6:8)

–          when we are producing a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown (cf. Matthew 13:8), i.e., receiving, hearing and understanding God’s word (cf. Matthew 13:23).

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012

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