Compiled by Facts & Trends Staff
There are probably more Scripture-hungry people around you than you think.
A recent Barna State of the Bible study found two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) express some curiosity to know more about what the Bible says, including 29 percent who express a strong desire. Two-thirds of American adults (63 percent) are interested in knowing more about who Jesus Christ is, including 31 percent who agree strongly.
How do church leaders go about engaging different groups of people within their congregations and their communities with Scripture? We had several ministry experts offer suggestions.
1. How do you engage the lost or unchurched with the Bible?
Joel Southerland, executive director of evangelism for the North American Mission Board and lead pastor of Peavine Baptist Church
One of the best ways to do this is through Facebook. Our church has expanded our Facebook page reach—hopefully to include the lost and unchurched. Then, we post one- to three-minute sermon snippets from that week, which we hope the lost and unchurched are watching.
When we develop the snippet, we do so considering context and understanding of someone who didn’t hear the sermon and doesn’t know much (or anything) about the Bible.
We try to give them a taste of what Bible teaching looks, sounds, and feels like.
2. How do you engage women with the Bible?
Kelly King, Lifeway women’s ministry specialist
Facilitate gatherings of women in small groups that have a Bible reading plan. The idea is that women would read the same passages each week, memorize Scripture together, journal what they are learning, and then discuss what they learn in a non-structured setting.
Whether they meet in a home or a coffee shop, these types of groups offer accountability but in a relaxed environment.
One trend I’m seeing is that people aren’t bringing their Bibles to church. Many people will use their phones or tablets, but I love encouraging women to have a printed copy where they can write notes or highlight passages. Your Bible becomes an ongoing journal of God’s activity in your life.
3. How do you engage men with the Bible?
Aaron Wilson, associate editor of Facts & Trends and regular contributor to Stand Firm, a monthly devotional magazine for men
Men tend to like solving problems more than they enjoy discussing their feelings. When engaging Scripture with men, it can be helpful to lead with questions like, “What do you think the author means when he says this?” or “Why did the author use this particular word?”
After you’ve done this, you can then dive into questions like, “How does this make you feel?” or “How do you find yourself personally wrestling with this truth?” Ask personal questions, but help men wrestle with the text before they wrestle with their feelings.
Men also like to receive practical and timely suggestions for how they can apply Scripture to their lives over the next 24 hours. Send them away with spiritual assignments that allow them to immediately respond to what they’ve studied in God’s Word.
4. How do you engage millennials with the Bible?
Chris Martin, content strategist and co-creator of Lifeway Social
What has been most helpful for me as I’ve engaged millennials with the Bible is giving them some structure—instead of saying, “Read your Bible.”
This structure can take a number of forms—Bible reading plans, various curricula, or other tools—but some structure can be very helpful when young people aren’t sure how to read their Bibles or where to start.
5. How do you engage teenagers with the Bible?
Ben Trueblood, Lifeway’s director of student ministry
Give students a reading plan and a strategy for studying the Bible. The strategy can be simple, like a specific set of questions that you ask every time you read a section of Scripture.
It’s also important to connect students with adults who can help them process what they are reading and hold them accountable to reading consistently. One-on-one mentorship is critical at any age, but this age in particular.
Another important thing is to make a big deal about memorization. Even among students who read the Bible consistently, many are still not memorizing God’s Word.
6. How do you engage kids with the Bible?
Jana Magruder, director of Lifeway Kids
Choose an age-appropriate Bible in a great translation (Christian Standard Bible is great for kids and teens).
You may want to consider making room in your budget to provide a class set of Bibles all in the same translation so kids can learn to read and use their Bibles at church. Children come from different socioeconomic and spiritual backgrounds. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s been made available to them at home.
Then, practice Bible skills—such as looking up books of the Bible and searching for topics in the back—in children’s classes. Let parents know what you’re teaching their children and, when possible, encourage parents to implement these practices at home.
Parents, make sure to read the Bible to your children and let them see you reading your Bible. It’s important to model this at home.
Another effective method for church leaders and parents is to turn Scripture into songs so kids can memorize verses in a fun way. This also helps them retain more accurately and for a longer period of time.
7. How do you engage groups with the Bible?
Ken Braddy, manager of Lifeway’s ongoing Bible studies
Engage in studies that take you somewhere. The appeal of series like Explore the Bible, Bible Studies for Life, and The Gospel Project is that they have a well-defined plan for navigating through the Bible.
Group members need to see a rhyme and reason to study. They want to know they are not wasting their time.
Engage people in studies at strategic times of the year. There are about three times a year when people are most receptive to engaging (or re-engaging) in Bible study:
- January (resolution time/fresh start)
- Post-Easter (new groups/topics that start after Easter can be promoted to Easter worship service attenders)
- Fall (almost every church’s highest period of growth is between September and December)
Pastors can align their sermons (for a season) with church group studies. If all groups aligned for one or more quarters of the year, the church could emphasize studying God’s Word together as a larger group, with pastoral support in the pulpit to explain and teach more about the lesson passages each week.
Let the people speak. Pastors should have members of their congregations provide testimonies during worship services about the impact that Bible engagement has made on their life.
This could be done once a quarter or perhaps twice a year in a panel setting. Peers speaking to peers is often more effective at changing behavior than an authority figure telling people what they should be doing.
8. How do you engage senior adults with the Bible?
Seniors, like most of us, benefit from a provided plan. Daily reading and study seem to suit them best. Type size is more important to this group, so a large-print Bible is invaluable.
Linking their Bible reading to an action seems to be effective. For example, missionary birthdays are provided in Open Windows, and many readers make a point of not only reading the Bible each day but also praying for the missionaries listed.
Seniors also appreciate the community of a Bible study group and the relationships it provides. They have proven to be faithful responders to challenges from the pulpit. Consider offering a Scripture reading plan or additional “Scripture for the week” based on the message.
9. How do you engage families with the Bible?
Josh Straub, Lifeway’s marriage and family strategist
Engaging the Bible as a family is as much about the time spent together as it is about the actual reading. Set up a weekly family Bible time for the entire family—a time meant for uniting you as a family where you can talk about what you’re learning and pray together.
Don’t force more than your kids can consume each week. Also, don’t put unnecessary guilt on yourself for not covering a specific number of chapters or verses. Your time together will quickly fizzle out this way. The focus should be on building your relationships with the people under your roof.
One of the best ways to instill the love of the Bible in your kids is to show them how you read, pray through, and learn from it. Our children aren’t born knowing that our basis for right and wrong is the Bible. We have to tell them—and, more importantly, show them.