Encouragements and Discouragements for Young People in Reading the Bible
About 4 per cent of young people read the Bible daily, another 6 per cent read it at least once a week, and 15 to 20 per cent read it occasionally (Hughes, 2010). In 2009 and 2010, the CRA conducted 333 interviews with young people and youth leaders in youth groups across Australia to discover what encouraged and discouraged young people in reading the Bible. The project was commissioned by a group of organisations including The Bible Society, Scripture Union, YouthWorks, the Lutheran Church and The Salvation Army (Southern Territory).
There are many discouragements for young people, such as: Church Practice. Many young people, including many who attend church, never consider reading the Bible personally and are not encouraged to do so by their churches. The Bible is certainly read in Church services and seen as the starting point for sermons and homilies. But that does not translate into reading it at home. The Chore of Reading is also a discouragement for some. Many young people read very little, especially in the form of books. Some younger people said to us that they much preferred activities, such as sport, to reading. When they do read, it is often brief messages from friends or from news sources on their computers. Bible reading requires a sustained effort of a kind that is ‘uncomfortable’ for many young people.
There are also some encouragements, such as: Group Practice. Most young people who read the Bible were members of churches, youth groups and Bible study groups which encouraged them in their reading and which assisted them in the interpretation. In some churches, young people read the passages of the Bible that were to be discussed in the Sunday-night youth service. Some young people need encouragement in Finding Relevance. Participation in groups or in courses can certainly help young people find the relevance of the Bible. Most Bible study groups focus as much on the application of the Bible as they do on the content. Experiencing the Bible as relevant depends on the attitudes one brings to it. If young people read it simply as stories of long ago, it had little relevance. If they read it as God’s communication today, they were far more likely to experience it as relevant to life.
It is very easy to use the Bible for predetermined purposes. The challenge for the contemporary Church, and particularly in its work with young people, is to develop the skills of identifying the wisdom of the Bible, including that which makes us uncomfortable, that helps them to evaluate how they live and the norms of our society. Only if that occurs will engaging the Bible be truly transformative.
For more information see: Pointers, Volume 22, No. 4, Pages 11-12