I don’t remember a whole lot from my philosophy class in college, but I do remember learning about conditional statements – or “if/then phrases” as I more simply refer to them now. The basis, as you may already know, is this: If (a hypothesis) is true, then (a conclusion) will be true as well. Example: If there’s ice cream around, then I will eat it. Get it? Let’s look at this through the lens of a recent study of students and their Bible engagement:
A recent study revealed that 45% of students never read the Bible, largely in part because they don’t know where to start.
- If students aren’t reading the Bible, then there is a problem.
- If students aren’t reading the Bible, then our future leaders are growing up without the foundation of God’s Word guiding their actions and decisions.
- If students aren’t reading the Bible, then something has to be done.
Perhaps we can discover direction if we liken Bible engagement to another common activity – riding bicycles. What if we started teaching our students to read the Bible like we teach our kids to ride a bike? Now, don’t catch me saying bicycles aren’t authoritative and fall under the category of “the inspired and written Word of God,” but maybe how we approach riding a bike isn’t quite different from how we approach learning to read the Bible.
Here are three reasons why:
- It starts with commitment
- It grows with community
- It sticks with consistency
In the first part of this series, we’ll look at the first reason: commitment.
It Starts with Commitment
When teaching a child how to ride a bike, we can go through the motions and explain how it’s done until we’re blue in the face, but until there is a personal commitment – a desire to balance, pedal, and steer – we are limited in our impact. As much as we might want to physically sit on the bike and transfer our long-ago-engrained skills to them, it’s just not possible. The most effective way to teach, then, is not to force, but to provide pathways for personal commitment to grow.
I’m sure you’ve already made the connection. In the same way, you cannot force or bribe students to love the Bible. You can absolutely bribe students into reading the Bible (it’s amazing what a middle schooler will do for free pizza). But there’s a huge difference between engaging to be fed and engaging to just be finished. One produces disciples, and the other produces Pharisees. Students’ ownership of their Bible engagement journey is a catalyst for Christ to grow in and through them.
With this in mind, it’s our job as youth workers to do two things: to live lives reflective of the Spirit inside of us, and to provide pathways for them to experience the same Spirit. The first comes from our own dedication to personal spiritual development and growth. It’s our job to remove the fallen trees of doubt, frustration, and fear from the road so they can walk through with the Holy Spirit within them. The second comes from finding a system that allows students to choose their personal level of commitment while challenging them to go deeper in Scripture than ever before. When they feel empowered, they will engage. How are you empowering your students to make this commitment?
In Part II, we’ll explore how this idea of personal commitment to Bible engagement is connected to larger community within your groups. In the meantime, scroll down to grab a sample pack of Soul Exercises – a curriculum specifically designed to help students commit and keep going in the Bible!