I’m convinced teaching teens how to study the Bible is, arguably, the most important skill you can teach them.
Think about it…
When you read a narrative, you don’t jump to the middle of the story, pick a random page, and hope to glean something from the story.
When you read a letter that’s mailed to you, you don’t just pick out your favorite lines and discard the rest. You intuitively know: the author intended this writing to be read from beginning to end—intended a certain flow of thought, wrote in a certain genre.
I’m convinced before teens graduate high school, the skill of knowing how to read the Bible well is, quite possibly, the most important skill we can teach them.
There are many virtues that are important to instill in your teens, but as far as skills go, biblical literacy and understanding how to study the Bible for themselves is at the top of the list.
3 Reasons Your Teen Needs to Know How to Study the Bible
1. Because teens walk away from shallow Christianity.
According to research by the Barna Group, one of the main reasons why young adults leave the church is the Christianity they experience is perceived as shallow. One-quarter of these young adults say “faith is not relevant” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%).
One key way to avoid shallow Christianity is by teaching teens what to expect—and not expect—when approaching the Scriptures.
The Bible is not a how-to manual for life.
The Bible is not designed to be approached with the attitude of “let’s learn about [topic that interests me].”
Instead, the Bible is a drama that doesn’t just give us answers to our burning questions about life, but answers the most important question: how to be reconciled to God.
One of the marks of shallow Christianity is a faith that only caters to the hot topics of the day—tips and tricks on how to be more confident, how to be free from anxiety, or how to be a better girlfriend.
But what teens (and adults) need is to be shown why the gospel of Jesus is already relevant. It doesn’t just solve our greatest problem in life, but in solving that problem, we’re given a new perspective on every other problem.
2. Because so few teens graduate with a Christian worldview.
Barna research has also found that less than 1 out of every 10 churched teens has a biblical worldview.
For most teens, their experience growing up in a Christian home and attending church means they graduate being able to recite some religious facts. But the vast majority do not see Christ as their savior or as the basis for making moral and ethical decisions in life—even among teens who claim they developed an understanding of the Bible.
According to research by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, the most common belief system of American youth can be described not as biblical Christianity but “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Most American teens believe…
- A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
While there are echoes of some of these ideas in the Bible, they are so mixed with error, this is a far cry from Biblical Christianity.
What is a “worldview”? Simply stated, a worldview is a comprehensive conception of the world:
- where the world came from,
- where it’s going,
- who we are,
- how we got here,
- what is truly valuable in life,
- and how we can have confidence in what we know.
A worldview is like the colored lenses through which you see the world, framing how you understand everything that happens and what you expect out of life.
And the best way to have a Biblical worldview is for your teen to be immersed in the story of the world as God tells it—in Scripture.
3. Because many teens actually like spending time in the Scriptures—so they should be spending that time wisely.
The average teen Bible-reader spends 15 minutes reading the Bible at each sitting. More than a third (36%) spend 15-29 minutes reading; another one in five (22%) spend 30-44 minutes; one in ten (10%) spend 45 minutes or more reading the Bible in one sitting.
But what are they doing with this time?
Often teens (and adults) have a “fortune cookie” approach to reading the Bible: the Scriptures are seen as a collection of mantras and wise sayings, and they approach each text with the questions, “What does this mean to me?”
They read about David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17) and ask, “What big Goliaths does God want me to slay in my life?“
They read about Gideon’s fleece (Judges 7:36-40) and ask, “How can I test God to find his will for my life?“
They read God’s promise to “heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14) if they humble themselves and pray, and they believe God must be talking about the United States of America.
These approaches to Bible reading are headed in the wrong direction. While it’s important to help your kids make Bible reading a habit, it’s equally important to train them how to read the Bible.
A Bigger Vision: Teenage Bible Literacy
What if during the high school years, your vision for your teen included…
- training your teen how to read the Scriptures (or finding the resources to help you do the training)
- using the grand drama of the Scriptures to give your teen a robust Christian worldview
- using the rich doctrines of the Scriptures to deepen their faith beyond their felt needs so they ask the most important questions
What if you saw these goals as the most important goals of their education?
How different would your teen be by the time they graduated?
What can you do about it?
Do you have a desire is to give your teen the tools to study the Bible, but you don’t know how to get started?
Our new full school year online course designed just for teens— Equipped! Tools for Exploring the Bible— will give your teen the tools, techniques, and context for exploring the Christian faith not as children, but as young adults.