Tips to Help Your Teen Get into Scripture
- 2003 7 Jan
A visit on a chat room or an instant message session with a teen today remind us that if you don't keep up with cyberspeak, you'll find yourself getting pegged as a "newbie" in the chat room, or, worse, you'll never really understand what's being said.
Here's the reality: children have not changed, but childhood has. For young people, language is less about grammar and more about concepts -- easily grasped concepts.
This is true when many teens approach the word of God. Yes, it may be written in English, but it doesn't make sense to their conceptual understanding of the language. The words don't grip them, and the ideas don't touch their hearts. Scripture just doesn't seem compelling. How can adults help?
One of the greatest challenges of growing older is remembering what it was like to be young! Our childhood is remembered either as worse than it really was (yep, uphill to school both ways in the snow with cardboard in my shoes) or better than it really was (a golden era of purity when everybody worked hard and everything cost a nickel).
We all look at children and teenagers based on how we view and remember our own childhood. This perspective (whether right or wrong) can influence an adult's ability to see a child's life as it is now. And according to new Barna research, it may be impacting Biblical literacy among today's teens.
In fact, a recent nationwide study conducted with Barna Research shows that only 51 percent of teens, ages 13-19, consider themselves to be "frequent" Bible readers. There were some striking differences in the beliefs and behaviors of those who were frequent Bible readers in comparison to those who "occasionally," "hardly ever," and "didn't often" read the Bible.
The Bible has become simply an accessory -- multiple copies in various colors to accent the outfit on Sunday mornings. And now the scripture is placed on a screen making the Bible a vestigial feature of church attendance. Always seen but rarely opened, the Bible is now an icon for Christianity, but seldom more. The lost and founds of our churches are filled with Bibles that the owners don't even realize are missing.
So, how do we get kids reading scripture again?
Find a translation they "get." Kids need a translation that is not only easy to read but also easy to understand. New translations like the New Living Translation make the Bible clearer and transfer concepts better than less contemporary modern translations. Remember, English has changed in the last 5-10 years in many significant ways. What you understand may not be what your kids do.
Read the Bible together. Some translations and passages are best understood when read aloud. Doing this together with your teen will strengthen your relationship and make it fun.
Direct students to helpful passages. Sometimes students get hung up on areas of scripture that are tedious or in need of additional insight to comprehend. We don't want to shy away from these passages, but we also want to foster regular individual Bible reading habits.
Develop a Bible reading plan. Many students simply don't know where to begin, so a Bible reading plan could be helpful. Great starting places are the Gospels, Psalms, and Proverbs. Some Bibles combine Old and New Testament readings and give daily reading suggestions that provide direction based on particular themes.
Find a Bible with built-in help. Many Bibles today include excellent study helps and thoughts to aid in the application and comprehension of scripture. The Jesus Bible, by Tyndale, helps students connect with the central personality in scripture, Jesus Christ.
Buy a new Bible as a gift. Often the gift of a new Bible inspires reading (even when the recipient owns other Bibles). Don't be pushy or manipulative; just encourage. I rarely make a Bible the sole gift I give unless it has been requested.
Use Scripture in all of life. Let's not forget that most of our kids' behavior is "caught" rather than "taught." If they see us reading and using our Bibles, they are more likely to use them as well. In discipline and in instruction, keeping scripture at the center will do more than one can imagine.
Mark Matlock is the founder and president of WisdomWorks Ministries based in Dallas, Texas.