Who Reads the Bible?

The Bible Society of South Australia, Scripture Union, YouthWorks, the Lutheran Church and The Salvation Army are currently sponsoring a study of Bible reading among young people. The CRA is currently visiting youth groups around Australia talking with young people about their attitudes to the Bible, their reading habits (if any), the catalysts and the hindrances for reading, and how they interpret the Bible. As a prelude to this study, the CRA re-visited the research it has done on young people in the Spirit of Generation Y Project (2002 to 2008) and the associated Schools Spirituality Project. It summarised the results of that earlier research in relation to Bible reading. The full report can be found on the CRA website. Here is a summary of the findings.

Conservatively interpreted, the surveys show that around 4 per cent of young people read the Bible daily, another 6 per cent read it weekly, and 15 to 20 per cent read it very occasionally. About 70 per cent never read it. The frequency of Bible reading is a little greater among older young people, although this is probably a result of changing historical patterns over generations and not related to age. Of those who read the Bible daily or weekly, most attend church services and youth activities, such as a Bible study group. Most also have parents and friends who attend church frequently.

Most of those who read the Bible frequently have made a personal commitment to God, feel close to God, and expect God to give definite answers to their prayers and specific guidance. They read the Bible as a means of communication, expecting God to speak to them through the Bible. Those who see faith primarily as providing them with values for life, who do not put the same emphasis on access to God, or expect God to intervene in the daily events of life, read the Bible less frequently.

Among most young people, religious faith is seen as having little significance to their thinking about life. Overall, about 9 per cent of students in church-run schools said it was a very important influence. Technology is one of the drivers of social change. It has changed the nature of community, which is now largely based on electronic communications, with occasional face-to-face meetings rather than being dependent on such meetings. The change in the nature of community has meant that it has been harder to involve young people in regular face-to-face gatherings such as a church, Bible study or youth group.

Bible reading is largely a product of communities which value the Bible as a means by which God speaks to the individual. If these communities are to be developed, then efforts need to be placed on the building of youth groups in which Bible study is a significant component.

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 20, No. 4, Pages 11-13

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