Whether you teach kids or teens in Bible classes or tutor them while trying to point them towards God, one of your goals is to get your students reading the Bible independently between the times you work with them. Amazingly, many teachers don’t even attempt to encourage their students to read the Bible at home. I’m not sure why, but there really are a lot of fun things you can do to encourage Bible reading by your students.
The trick is to make your challenges sound as little like homework as possible. Whichever idea you choose to present to your students, it should be presented with a lighthearted “you will enjoy this” attitude.
Here are some of my favorite ways to get kids and teens reading their Bibles:
- Find an unusual story in the Bible that connects to your lesson in some way. Tell the students you aren’t going to get into to it today, but if they want to read a really (fill in the blank with lots of fun adjectives that will appeal to your students) story, they should check out such and such a scripture when they get home. I realize it seems as if this only gets them opening the Bible and reading that one passage, but in reality it gives them the opportunity to realize opening their Bibles on their own at home is an option. It also lets them see that there are a lot of really interesting stories in the bible they have never heard. (I saw a study that most churches cover less than 20% of the stories in the Bible.)
- Challenge them to find their favorite _______ in the Bible by the next class. Not all of your students will do this, but I have found if you say Psalm or Proverb (actually I usually give a number higher than one for Proverbs) you actually will get quite a few kids completing the task. I will preface the challenge by saying Psalms can comfort you when you are afraid or worried or Proverbs provides great practical, godly advice. This exercise helps students realize the Bible has practical application for use in their lives and surprisingly, many of them will really understand the Psalms challenge the best.
- Start a debate or ask a question that really gets the students excited and then challenge them to go home and find scriptures that answer the main question. The debate can be an actual topic two or more students disagree upon or a challenging topic or question posed during class. Many students do not have any idea how to research using the Bible. If you personally have not taught them how to find things they want to find in the Bible, then you may want to help direct them to a particular book or even several chapters to help keep the search from overwhelming them. To be successful, this challenge needs to be about a subject on which the students are showing a lot of interest. If they are bored with the subject, they definitely aren’t going to spend their free time looking in the Bible for answers.
- Only tell half of a lesser known but edge of the seat story or a story in which younger children aren’t told the entire story. This works especially well with teenagers. Many details are left out of Bible stories when told to younger children. Teens love to think they are reading things that were hidden from them before. Some of these stories are also very interesting and rather bizarre by modern standards. (Ex. Judah and Tamar, Absolam and Dinah, Noah getting drunk, Jephath, etc.) Be prepared though. Some of these stories will create a lot of questions from your students. Also be aware you may have an occasional parent who wants their teen “protected” from some of the stories in the Bible.
- Challenge your students to read a particular book of the Bible within the month. Proverbs works great for this, because it is practical and works out most months to reading a chapter a day. I also will suggest students read one of the gospels, the book of James or the book of Acts. You want them starting to read the Bible with books that are practical and easy to understand. Depending on the group, you may offer some sort of small reward for those who complete the challenge.
If you are challenging your students to read their Bibles, be sensitive to their schedules. Although, our ultimate goal is daily Bible reading, you need these initial reading challenges to be as easy to complete as possible. Summer, for example, provides lots of free time for most students and they are more likely to have the time to accept your challenge. Don’t be discouraged when only one or two students completes your challenge. Getting even one student to read his/her Bible independently is a victory. If you keep presenting challenges on a regular basis, you may find increased participation. Have fun with it and let us know if you have found other Bible challenges that got kids and teens scurrying to read their Bibles. We would love to share your ideas with others!