Does your teen read her Bible? Does he even know where his Bible is? If you are like many parents of teens, the subject of independent Bible study is rarely mentioned. There seems to be an unwritten fear that if a parent mentions reading the Bible, the teen in question will never open a Bible again. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are several ways parents can encourage their teen to read her Bible. Which method or methods you choose depend a lot on your current relationship with your child. If you have a healthy relationship with lots of wonderful conversations, you can probably do these things yourself with a great degree of success.
If your relationship with your teen is characterized with disagreements and strife, you should identify some other adult whom your child respects to help. It may be a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a teacher or even a youth minister. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help. Anyone who loves your child and God should be an enthusiastic member of your team.
So what are some ways to get your teen to read his Bible independently?
- Make sure your teen has a Bible he can understand. I know there is a lot to be said for word for word accurate translations. If your child won’t read it because it is too difficult for him to understand the words, it isn’t doing him any good. There are many translations that are accurate but written on an easier grade level. Many are also available on popular Bible apps. My favorite is the NIrV. It is on a third grade reading level, but is not “babyish”. (Although if you buy a paper version make sure the cover is mature looking. Some are obviously made to appeal to younger children.)
- Make sure your teen’s Bible is in her favorite format. Does she love holding a “real” book in her hands? A traditional bound Bible will be best for her. Is she never away from her phone? She may be more likely to read a Bible app on her phone. If you are not sure, ask her which she would prefer. Our teen daughter actually has both.
- Don’t push your teen to read too much too quickly. If your teen has never read her Bible independently before, challenging her to read the Bible cover to cover may not be the best idea. She will most likely get bogged down as soon as she hits all of the begat passages. Instead start small. The books of John, Mark, Matthew, Luke, James, Acts and Proverbs are great first books to read. They are pretty straight forward and have a lot of practical applications to life. If your child is not a “reader” of secular books on a regular basis, you may even want to point out a chapter or even a story within a chapter. Teens are often curious enough when you mention a weird or gross story in the Bible that they will look it up and read it for themselves.
- Make it a family team effort. If your family is like many families, your teen isn’t the only one struggling to read the Bible on a daily basis. Make it a family challenge. Design a chart and let people put stickers up when they read their Bibles. You may even consider having a family reward for a month or more of consistent Bible reading by the entire family.
- Find study aids for your teen. Your teen’s other interests can give you clues to other books, podcasts or people who can motivate them to read their Bible. There are some teen study books out there (Let your teen pick one that appeals to her. This is definitely a personal taste sort of book.) which will point your teens to scriptures and then ask them questions about what they thought about what they read in light of the author’s views. This will not appeal to teens who are stressed about school work. Consider the teen New Testaments that resemble teen magazines. They have articles about practical subjects like fashion and dating mixed in with the scriptures. Sports enthusiasts may want to read books written by Christian athletes. Although they may not have a lot of scripture, the author will usually point out how much they gained from God’s Words. Many Christian authors have podcasts or other online interactive materials. What you want to find is something to hook your child’s interests on reading the scriptures for himself.
- Encourage your teen to participate in a regular Bible study.If at all possible the other attendees should be peers and/or friends of your teen. Find a study led by a strong Christian adult your teen admires. Encourage the leader to give Bible reading assignments between meetings. Done well, small group Bible studies can be the foundation for regular Bible reading.
- Challenge your teen to help you find specific examples of things in the Bible. This is great if you have a curious child who enjoys research. Often a controversial sermon or news topic or preparing to teach a class can spur you to ask your teen to help you find examples of a godly principle or concept. They may stumble upon other interesting and meaningful scriptures while they are helping you search.
Reading your Bible daily can be a challenge for anyone, but especially for our over scheduled teens. For them to be well grounded in God’s Word though, they have got to get in the habit of searching the scriptures for themselves on a regular basis. Take advantage of the fact that they still live in your home to make one last effort to get them in the habit of regular Bible reading. It will make an enormous difference in their lives.