Eat your broccoli!
Make your bed!
Do your homework!
Read your Bible!
Because I said so… And obviously because it’s good for you!
Sometimes kids must feel as though life is nothing but a swirl of obligations, responsibilities, and duties. An endless to-do list with checkboxes that seem to go on forever.
Sadly, for many teenagers, reading their Bibles is just one more task on their chore list for the day.
What would it take to move the spiritual practice of spending time in God’s word from the list of have to to a lifetime of can’t wait to?
How can we help students learn to love God‘s word?
The longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119) has just one single recurring passionate theme running through it from beginning to end. It’s an uninhibited celebration of the psalmist’s love for God‘s word.
Listen to just a few examples…
- “I rejoice in following your statutes“ (v14)
- “I delight in your decrees I will not neglect your word“ (v16)
- “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.“ (v32)
- “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.“ (v72)
I confess that as I read this Psalm I find myself challenged and convicted as I confront my own sometimes lethargic, often dutiful relationship with God’s word. It leads me to the first practical step we as leaders must take if we hope to instill in our students a deep love for the Scripture.
1. Rethink your own relationship to the Bible.
Until we have experienced God‘s word as life giving nourishment, and an intimate letter from a loving heavenly father, it would be disingenuous to teach students to love the Bible.
Take a moment now to reflect on your relationship to God‘s word and the role it plays in your walk with him. Place your attitude on a continuum between grudging obligation and joyful anticipation and if necessary make your own adjustments first.
As you grow in your love for God‘s word, your enthusiasm for its truth will be contagious in your teaching and mentoring.
Once your heart is in the right place, you can begin to take practical steps to encourage students to develop the same love as you have.
2. Regularly teach ABOUT the Bible, not just FROM the Bible.
Introduce your students to what the Bible says about itself.
Help them understand the various genres of Scripture and how each of them applies to their lives.
Introduce them to both the human writers and the divine author who put it all together.
Help them understand the miraculous symmetry and alignment of the Scripture even though it was written over thousands of years by dozens of different human agents.
Giving them an appreciation for the supernatural nature of the book, will undoubtedly whet their appetites and increase their motivation.
3. Intentionally teach and model how God‘s word connects to life today.
As you apply the Scripture to the daily reality of your own life, it will bring about a transformation that will be apparent to those around you. It will also give you plenty of examples of how the words of Scripture shape your attitudes, priorities, behaviours, relationships, and choices.
If it’s not answering the questions they are asking, there will be a little motivation to spend time there, much less develop a love for it.
4. Help them fall in love with the Author.
Until we understand intimacy with the Father, the words of the Bible will feel generic and theoretical. It’s like we are reading someone else’s mail.
In Revelation, the church at Ephesus is rebuked for having lost their first love. The antidote is surprisingly straightforward.
Jesus asks them to remember how things were when their love was strong. He then invites them to repent, which simply means to reverse their direction, and then to return to the patterns and rhythms of life that marked them when their love for him was deep and authentic.
When my love for God begins to wane there is a direct connection to my attitude toward the Scripture.
5. Recognize that the Scriptures are an acquired taste, so help students develop a spiritual palette.
You simply can’t expect a distracted, busy, developmentally egocentric teenager to latch onto a disciplined habit of engagement with God‘s word and immediately love it.
The Bible is challenging, convicting, intrusive, and disruptive to our comfortable lives.
It describes itself as a sharp sword that exposes inner motives and secret thoughts.
It will always be better to guide them as they wade in, rather than to throw them into the deep end. Help them develop a Bible reading approach that will nourish and satisfy their spiritual hunger and provide guidance in the important areas of their lives.
Start them in the Gospel of Mark, First John, or Philippians, instead of sending them straight to Romans or Hebrews.
Debrief what they are learning, and help them understand the heart of the one who inspired what you are asking them to read.
6. Recognize the reality of spiritual warfare.
Because God‘s word is the bread of life, the living water, and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, the enemy will do everything in his power to keep young believers from knowing and loving it.
Ironically, the word of God is our strongest defence against the prowling destroyer.
Where we know there will be a battle, we know that we must be extra intentional.
The privilege of introducing young people to the Scripture is one of the great joys of youth ministry. To raise up generation after generation of young men and women of the Word is to give the church a most meaningful gift.
When reading the Bible is reduced to a burdensome obligation, the life goes out of the church, passion for the lost dries up, and a true and deep understanding of the love of our heavenly father is lost.
Some of those kids in your small group right now may never grow up to love broccoli, but what a tragedy it would be if they felt the same way about the Bible.
Do you find it difficult to help teenagers make Scripture a priority in their own lives? How can you inspire them to make daily Bible reading a routine? And once they are reading, how should you guide them to process what they are reading?
View this interactive webinar to get those questions answered! Just for signing up you’ll also receive a 10 minute video curriculum that will teach you, your volunteer team, and your students how to do an inductive study of any Scripture.
On demand replay of this webinar is available for anyone that signs up.
Interested in exploring your faith more and understanding the background and inspiration of the Bible, its history and composition, the overarching themes and message?
Rocky Mountain College is offering a FREE university level course where you’ll explore all 66 books of the Bible and understand the context in and the purpose for which they were written. You will also gain an understanding of how the various types of literary forms in which the Bible was written can legitimately be interpreted so you can better understand the message of all parts of the Bible.
All of this from the comfort of your own home.
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