“The Bible forms the basis for how I should act and treat people around me,” says Bethany Christian Schools senior Alex Reinhardt. Yet at the same time he admits that if not for Bible classes at Bethany he probably wouldn’t engage with the Bible like he should.
If we are honest, many church members—not just youth like Alex—would find a disparity between the time we wish we spent with the Bible and actual time spent with the Bible. A 2013 study by Lifeway Research found that only 25% of adult churchgoers study the Bible at least weekly and 53% admit to never or rarely studying the Bible.
Helping youth become more biblically literate and develop practices they can continue as adults is a significant benefit of Bethany’s Bible curriculum. Bethany provides biblical instruction in grades 4-12 that includes engaging students with reading and understanding the Bible.
An important starting point for engaging the Bible is learning to know the books of the Bible. While students may have some familiarity with the Bible from home and church, few students arrive at Bethany already knowing how to find biblical passages (e.g. less than half of the sixth graders this year).
These basic skills are important to using the Bible regularly in (or outside of) class, whether fifth graders studying the Pentateuch, seventh graders studying the life of Jesus in Luke, or high school students digging deeper into the Old and New Testaments.
Memorization of scripture is another tool that helps Bethany students engage with the Bible. For lower grades this may be a significant verse related to a unit of study, whereas high school students memorize larger portions. Sophomore New Testament students memorize the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). A year later juniors still know portions by memory, but more importantly have internalized the scripture and can paraphrase the rest.
Seniors engage in hermeneutics, examining different ways that people study and interpret the Bible. Part of this study includes students’ writing a series of reflective essays on authorities in their lives, the role/importance of the Bible for them, and who helps them interpret passages they find confusing.
Senior Lindsey Riddle uses a multi-step hermeneutical approach that includes studying different translations, consulting others individually or in a small group, and prayer.
Senior Alicia Thomas stresses the importance of church community, saying, “I look up to people who helped raise me. Though I may not agree with some of their beliefs, I still find them valuable to hear.”
Reinhardt too values the importance of community in reading, discussing, and understanding scripture. He says, “I am a man of faith, but also a man of reason and science. God gave us the power of reason and thought, and we should use that to the best of our capability.”
Church History students learn how early Anabaptists used their power of reason as they discovered new insights on Christian faith and practice through reading the Bible and concluded that not all Christian practices at that time were biblically based, e.g. indulgences. Likewise, youth today must also learn to read and understand the Bible themselves, so that in the context of community they can discern God’s call on their lives and for the church.