Recently, I read a Lifeway Research Study that was both concerning and convicting. This research showed that while the majority of churchgoers desire to honor Christ and even profess to meditate on biblical truths, few actually engage in personal Bible reading and the study of Scriptures. Forty percent of those surveyed claim to read their Bibles less than once a month (with 18% claiming rarely or never)! Only 19% shared that they read the Bible every day. That’s very concerning to me.
I’m concerned that churchgoing, God seeking, Bible believing folks aren’t tapping into the very source that will give them direction, instruction, and correction. The majority of those surveyed are missing the opportunity to hear from God directly through His written Word.
And then I became convicted.
I’ve been involved in Kids Ministry for over 27 years. I have seen hundreds of kids come through the halls of my ministry and many have grown to be active leaders in their churches. The truth (ugly as it is) is that the folks surveyed in this study could very well be kids who came through my ministry, and I’m partially to blame for their lack of dedication to Bible reading, searching, and study.
What did I do or not do that contributed to the biblical illiteracy of adults today? A better question is what am I doing to reverse the trend, change the statistics, and lead kids to become growing disciples for Jesus Christ?
I think it starts with helping kids discover a love and passion for God’s Word. Kids need to understand that the Bible is for them (uniquely and collectively) and that it applies to their daily lives. They need experiences that challenge them to seek and find God and His instruction and direction. They need opportunities to fall in love with God through His faithfulness, grace, mercy, and provision–all found in His Word.
It starts early! Just as we help kids to develop habits that keep them physically healthy through life (bathing, brushing teeth, eating veggies, getting rest) we must be equally (maybe even more so) committed to leading boys and girls to develop disciplines that keep them spiritually healthy.
Younger Preschoolers can learn. Just look at all the things that a child masters the first 24 months of life. Why wouldn’t we want to include biblical literacy in those formative years? Allow younger preschoolers age appropriate things like seeing, touching, and opening the Bible. Help them to begin to understand that it’s a special Book that tells about God, Jesus, and other Bible people. Younger preschoolers can listen to Bible stories and truths in the simplest way, and begin to understand that the Bible relates to everyday activities.
Older Preschoolers (3-5 year olds) build on previous knowledge and can begin to understand that the Bible has two main divisions–Old Testament and New Testament. They can remember and even retell familiar Bible stories, people, and facts. As preschoolers mature and grow they can understand that the Bible tells that God sent Jesus to the earth and that Jesus died on a cross.
Younger Kids (6-8 year olds) continue learning and understand that the two main parts of the Bible contain individual books and can become familiar with the contents of specific books. As they begin to memorize specific verses and passages they can understand and applies those truths to the world in which they live. Younger kids can learn that the Bible never changes and that it teaches people how God wants them to live. Younger kids can learn that the Bible teaches that Jesus died on a cross, was buried, and was raised from the dead.
Older Kids (9-12 year olds) can name and locate all the books of the Bible. They can know and share the meaning of biblical content. Older kids can establish the discipline of daily Bible reading and learn that the Bible is God’s message about Himself and how He rescues and transforms. They can understand that the Bible teaches that salvation through Jesus is God’s gift of forgiveness. Older kids can know that the Bible teaches them how to live a Christian life.
God speaks to me in a variety of ways. God has used family and friends over the years to speak truth into my heart. My pastor’s sermons seem to always hit me right between the eyes. But most often, God speaks to me clearly and most consistently through His written Word. It’s when I discipline myself to meet God daily and seek Him through the Bible that He gives me the guidance and instruction for my daily walk.
The goal of Bible skills isn’t a gold star on an attendance chart. It’s not a reward given for memory work or skill mastering. It’s certainly not so that one might have a “badge of pride.” The reason we teach Bible skills to kids is so they might have a personal understanding of who God is; a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus; so that they might grow to love their Redeemer and the One who sent Him. The goal is to lay foundations of faith in the lives of boys and girls that point them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to a lifelong, growing relationship with Him.
And it all starts with the Bible.
Bill Emeott serves as Lead Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Mercer University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Bill has served as a Kid’s Minister and currently teaches 2nd Grade Bible study.