Confession time: my family hasn’t been going to church regularly. We were heavily involved in our congregation for twelve years, we felt overconected. We decided to take a break to discern if we wanted to stay there, or go somewhere else. What we thought was going to be a few months hiatus has turned into several months. My teenage girls are not clamoring to go back, or anywhere else.
Upon reflection, my parents did not read the Bible with us at home. As I mentioned in a previous post, the fact that my dad is an Episcopal priest meant we were in church every Sunday. I went to Sunday school, then youth group and confirmation class. We did “church stuff” at church. My mom taught Bible study at church, and modeled it at home. I can safely say I never picked up a Bible and flopped down on the couch for a good read.
Now that it’s been a while since we went to our church, I’m concerned about the girls not engaging with the Bible. Since I work for an Episcopal organization, I’m engaged with the Bible most days of the week. We have worship opportunities. So I’m feeling spiritually connected. My daughters, raised on Godly Play, are now drifting away from the Bible, just as I’m finding it super interesting. So I thought I would ask my 16-year-old why she doesn’t want to read it. My girls and I can talk about anything, usually…
- Me: So Kaia, what do you think about reading the Bible?
- Kaia: Ummm… well… I don’t know… Seems boring.
- Me: Boring? Really?
- Kaia: Yes, well, every time someone tries to get me to read the Bible it’s somewhere I don’t want to be, like church camp.
- Me: Okay, I can understand that. But there’s a Bible over there on that shelf, and one upstairs. Would you ever pick one of those up and read it?
- Kaia: Probably not.
- Me: Why not?
- Kaia: I mean, look at it. It just looks boring.
- Me: Well, I can tell you, there’s plenty in there that’s not boring, and we don’t teach it in Sunday School.
- Kaia: Mhmmm…
- Me: Ok, what about when you were younger? You seemed to love the stories then. Parable boxes, the desert box – you liked the lessons.
- Kaia: Yeah, I did.
- Me: So what about now?
- Kaia: I DON’T KNOW! I JUST…
Break in transmission – frustration set in and we had to suspend the interview.
The takeaway is that my teenager finds the Bible is simultaneously intimidating and boring. It’s also clear that despite good intentions we haven’t done Bible reading or study outside of church. Is it too late to change that? I don’t think so.
The teacher in me believes it’s never too late for any of us. So here is what my family came up with, and agreed to try:
McKenney Family Bible Study
- When? Every Sunday evening. Since we rarely have plans, everyone can be there.
- How long? We agreed on :15 minutes max, unless everyone agrees to extend. Brevity got a grudging guarantee of participation without too much grumbling.
- What will we read? We will rotate choosing the scripture. We could choose a daily lectionary reading, a favorite story, or open the bible and point, wild card style. Perhaps we’ll try a different translation, and compare it to NRSV. It’s up to the person whose turn it is. Letting the girls have a say in the readings should increase the buy-in. (I pray.)
- What will we talk about? We will keep it simple, but here’s a model I enjoy that we use at Forward Movement:
- Read the passage aloud.
- Summarize the passage. What happened? Put the scripture into your own words. Make it yours.
- Read the passage again. (optional)
- Discuss: What surprised you? What confused you? What amazed you?
- Discuss: What can we learn from this passage? How does it apply to you as an individual? As a part of your family? At work? At school?
My generation constantly fights against forcing kids to do things they don’t want to do because we had parents who forced us to do things, no questions allowed. Or maybe that’s just me. Well, this is one of those times I’m going to require participation, and hope it has the effect that the Word can have on us.
Sometimes, parenting is about making kids do things because we know better. Teens shouldn’t get to opt out because they’re challenging to parent at times. During the teen years, stand your ground for what you think is important. I’ve decided that this is important. Instead of berating myself for not doing family Bible study sooner, we’re doing it now. It’s not too late.
Our first Family Bible Study takes place this Sunday. After a few weeks, I’ll let you know how it’s going. If you have a Family Bible Study going at your house, comment below and tell us about it. Meanwhile, please pray for my family as we begin our journey into the Bible. Our Bible study could go well, or it could be a disaster. But it will be.
How do you engage your children or teens with the Bible?