One time a middle school mom asked me: “How can I get my middle school son to love the Bible?” That’s an important question with which I constantly wrestle.
First a quick story. One time I was hanging out with a group of middle school boys. We were planning to play basketball, then eat dinner at Chick Fil A, and then go to a movie afterward. It turns out the boys weren’t excited about that plan and they begged me to instead let them hang out at a Starbucks the whole time. I asked why, and they said it was because they wanted to read their Bibles. So we sat at Starbucks for three hours and the boys sipped on lattes, read their Bibles, and intermittently paused to discuss the theological implications of what they were reading.
Yeah, right! That has never happened, nor will it ever happen during my tenure as a middle school pastor. I think every middle school student who goes to church knows that Christians are supposed to read the Bible. In reality, though, it is a monumental challenge to teach students to develop a Bible-reading lifestyle in a way that is realistic, encouraging, and not guilt-inducing.
I long to raise up young men and women in my ministry who cherish and know God’s Word, but raising students who love to read the Bible is a challenge for multiple reasons:
- Many middle school students, especially boys, aren’t huge readers.
- Middle school boys, in particular, are squirrelly and can’t seem to pay attention to anything for more than a few minutes.
- Students are busy with school, homework, sports, and other activities. It can be difficult to find time to read the Bible.
- They perceive the Bible as boring to read.
- The Bible requires a high level of reading and comprehension skill.
- The Bible can be daunting and confusing to tackle no matter how old you are!
Despite these challenges, we must help students love God’s Word! If not us adults who love and care for them, then who?
I have discovered one tool that has made it much easier for me to encourage students to read their Bible. It’s called the YouVersion Bible App. If you want to help a middle schooler dig into God’s Word, encourage him to download YouVersion onto his phone or tablet. YouVersion is the most popular Bible app in the world with almost 250 million downloads worldwide.
Here are some basic reasons why you should encourage boys to download YouVersion:
- It’s electronic. Students are already used to doing lots of things on their phones anyway, so why not embrace technology?
- It’s totally free.
- It’s easy to use and easy to customize to your preferences including font size, Bible translation, etc.
- It’s constantly being updated, tweaked, and improved.
Here are my favorite features of the app that, in my mind, set it apart from other Bible apps:
- It offers numerous Bible reading plans that allow readers to engage in manageable bite-sized chunks. The plans cover a wide variety of topics, including things like school, leadership, and spiritual growth. The plans also vary in depth, complexity, and length. Some only take a few days to complete, while others take months or an entire year.
- You can highlight your favorite passages. It’s easy to review your highlights in the future. I usually read the Bible in the morning. It’s nice to open up the app for a few minutes later in the day and read through my highlights as a refresher of what I read earlier.
- Like Facebook, you can add “Friends” who are also using the app. You can easily see what your Friends are reading, highlighting, and commenting on. Since YouVersion is such a popular app, you and your student will probably be surprised to find many of your real-life friends already using the app. I have found this to be a great way to keep tabs on students in my ministry. I love seeing tangible evidence that they are reading the Bible!
If you don’t have YouVersion, download it on your phone or tablet. Then invite your student download it on his or her phone or and invite him or her to be your Friend on the app.
DO NOT use this as a means to yell at him, punish him, or shame him when you find out he hasn’t been reading the Bible.
DO use it as a means of…
- Challenging him. (“Hey, I found this Bible-reading plan on YouVersion called ‘A Jolt of Joy.’ Do you want to read it over the next few days? I’m planning to read it myself and it would be fun to know you’re reading it at the same time as me.”)
- Encouraging him. (“Hey, I saw that you completed Day 4 of that reading plan that Tim Tebow wrote. That’s awesome!)
- Asking him questions. (“What’s one thing you learned in your Bible reading from yesterday?)
- Being a good example. (He will be able to see what you are reading, highlighting, and commenting on!)
Envision a young man or woman whose life is rooted deeply in the truth of God’s Word. He cherishes Scripture more than the opinions of his friends, the media, and his school textbooks. The Bible shapes his worldview. He thinks and lives biblically. He is regularly sharpened and transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as he nurtures his soul with regular Bible reading.
My heart leaps when I consider the possibility of current middle school students soon becoming those young men and women!