By Aaron Earls
Do teenagers care about the Bible? Probably more than you think.
“American teens sometimes get a bad rap as being uninterested or even anti-faith,” said Arthur Satterwhite of ABS. “But today’s Teen State of the Bible report shows that a majority of America’s teens have respect for and interest in the Bible.”
This is vital because, as Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources, says: “Remaining in Jesus is the key to the Christian life, and the primary way a person can do this is by reading His Word.”
Here are nine facts about teenagers’ regard for and use of the Bible.
1. Some have never read it, but some read it often.
More than a third (37 percent) say they have never read the Bible, but 25 percent say they read it at least weekly. Three percent of all teenagers say they read the Bible every day.
2. When they read it, they spend a lot of time reading.
Among teens who read the Bible regularly, 68 percent say they spend at least 15 minutes reading at each sitting. Seven percent say they spend an hour or more each time they sit down with God’s word.
3. Most wish they could read more.
More than half (53 percent) say they wish they could read the Bible more.
Around 1 in 7 (14 percent) say their Bible reading declined in the last year. The biggest reason: They are too busy (41 percent).
4. They read it for the right reasons.
Most (54 percent) read it to grow closer to God. Far fewer say they read it because they know they are supposed to (12 percent) or it’s part of studies at school (10 percent).
5. Teens prefer a print Bible.
When asked how they interacted with the Bible, 70 percent of teenage Bible readers say they use a print Bible.
But that’s not the only way they interact with it: 46 percent search the Bible on a smartphone, 35 percent use the internet, 33 percent use a Bible app, 16 percent listen to an audio version of the Bible, and 16 percent use podcasts of Bible teaching.
6. They hear the Bible at church.
Almost 9 in 10 (87 percent) say they hear the Bible read during worship services and 50 percent say they hear Scripture during a small group study.
7. They also interact with the Bible at home.
Half of teens say they see their parents reading the Bible frequently or sometimes. More than half (54 percent) say the Bible has “a lot” of influence on rules at home and a third (32 percent) say it has “some” influence.
8. Christians get hope from Scripture.
Almost half (47 percent) of all teens say the Bible is a source of hope, but there is a deep divide between certain groups.
Almost all practicing Protestant teenagers (96 percent) see the Bible as a source of hope. Most practicing Catholics (67 percent) agree.
But only 44 percent of non-practicing Christians and 18 percent of teenagers from other faiths or no faith say the same.
9. Half say God inspired the Bible.
Fifty percent of all teens say the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error. Again there is a divide between practicing and non-practicing Christians (92 percent versus 50 percent).
How can you get your teenagers in the Bible?
So how can churches encourage students to stay in God’s word? Trueblood says the teenager needs to develop the habit of consistent intake of Scripture. He gives three ways to help make this happen:
Teens need a workable plan. Trueblood says he uses the word ‘workable’ here because teenagers are in many different places in their spiritual maturity.
“While you might want all of them to begin with spending an hour or more each day in God’s Word, that just isn’t going to happen right away for all students,” Trueblood says.
“Discipleship isn’t a conveyor belt. It should be tailored to each teenager as an individual to help them take the next step with Jesus.”
Trueblood suggests asking this question: What is a plan that will challenge students while at the same time give them something they can accomplish?
He says an effective Bible-reading plan should include what to read each day as well as a way to study what they read so it begins to make sense to them.
Teens need to see God’s Word matters for everyday life. “A teenager needs to learn how to take application from what the Bible says and put it into action in life,” Trueblood says.
“When they begin to see God is really speaking to them through His Word, it will serve as a motivator of its’ own for them to keep returning to it.”
Teens need community. They need a group of people, preferably with a clear leader who is further along in their faith, says Trueblood, with whom they can share and process alongside.
“This is for much more than accountability, though that is part of it,” he says.
“This group gives the teenager an opportunity to share what God has been teaching him or her, as well as hear the same thing from others. For a teenager, seeing and hearing how God is working in the lives of others is a powerful experience.”
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@LifeWay.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.