Although the Bible doesn’t change, the translations and formats we have available have increased drastically over the last few years. Which one should you use in the Bible classes you teach to children or teens?
The most honest answer is that it will vary depending upon your students. Their reading ability and their access to the money needed to purchase Bibles or smart phones can vary greatly. There are some basic principles to keep in mind as you consider your options.
- Reading level. Just because you are teaching a teen Bible class, doesn’t mean they are ready for a more difficult version of the Bible. Sadly, as many as ⅔ of the young people in the U.S. are reading below grade level. Giving them a version of the Bible even one or two grade levels above their current reading level can make the Bible a frustration text for them. This means they will struggle reading it and eventually avoid it entirely. Currently, the NIrV Bible is the best option. It is a translation, making it more accurate than a paraphrase version. Available in teen friendly covers, it is on the third grade level making it understandable for even struggling elementary readers.
- Paper is better than digital – most of the time. Studies are finding students remember material from paper books better than e-books. They are also able to find things more quickly that they have read previously. Digital Bible apps, however, do make the Bible free for any teen who has a smart phone. It can also make it quicker for those unfamiliar with the Bible to find the passages you are reading. You will need to consider which aspects are more important to your goals for your students.
- Consider have class Bibles available. If you want your students to use paper Bibles, you will probably need to have several available for students who forgot theirs or can’t afford one.
- Give students access to various Bibles with special study aids. It’s great if kids and teens can look through different study aids before deciding which Bible to purchase. You may even consider having several different versions available. With many Christian bookstores closing, this may be the best way for your students to find the Bible that will help them the most when they are studying the Bible independently.
- When reading the Bible out loud in class, choose readers carefully. In elementary classes, I prefer having an adult read. It prevents students losing interest listening to beginning readers struggle through the text. With older kids and teens, never ambush a young person and ask someone to read who hasn’t volunteered. You don’t want to cause unnecessary embarrassment to a struggling reader.
- The Bible requires special reading comprehension skills which are generally not taught in schools. The Bible is translated from several different languages. Because it is crucial to translate it accurately, the way things are phrased often sound a bit different – even though you are reading English words. In addition, the text comes from a different culture. There was no electricity or many of the things young people consider “normal”. Customs were also different. It’s crucial to make sure Bible students have help adjusting to these comprehension issues. If they learn to be comfortable with them, they will be more likely to read the Bible independently.
Exposing your Bible students to actual scripture is a critical part of helping them build strong faith foundations. Taking the time to do it in the most effective ways possible is a great way to encourage lifelong Bible study.