When I first started thinking about how I wanted to address the topic of the Bible’s influence on the life of an average preteen student, I wanted to start with a bold statement such as: The Bible is a non-factor in the lives of your preteen students. It’s getting lost in the shuffle of all the other things in their lives. It’s just another app on their phone, or another school book in a collection of school books.
But that would be a blanket statement that at its core would be untrue. Our American society is built upon Judeo-Christian values that influence the morals and decision-making of preteens on a daily basis. We do teach preteen students about God’s Word in our Sunday School lessons and weekly devotions.
However, it is true is that fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students don’t regularly turn to the Bible as a source of inspiration or wisdom or power to affect change in their lives.
And make no mistake, preteen students today are desperately seeking for something powerful to affect change in this broken world they see every day. They’re dealing with divorces and hurricanes and tornadoes and wars and disease and some very scary things for 11-to-13-year-olds to have to deal with. The world has no sufficient answers for them. They want so badly to know that there is something that can make a difference for good, and that as they grow older they’ll have the ability to affect change.
The Bible gives them that hope and that source of inspiration. But too often we share stories from the Bible in our weekly lessons as mere stepping stones into conversations about practical application surrounding issues that they encounter on a day-to-day basis. That’s a great thing to provide a preteen student, but it’s not teaching them to access the Bible on their own. It’s merely giving them the nugget of help they need for that week.
Remember the old adage that if you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he’ll eat for a lifetime? That principle applies with preteen students and the Bible. WE MUST START TEACHING THEM ABOUT GOD’S WORD.
It’s tempting to push back against this idea and say to yourself, “But I DO teach them about God’s word! Our lessons come from the Bible every time!”
That’s great! Don’t stop doing that! But ask yourself these questions:
1. How many of your preteen students have a Bible that they bring with them?
2. How many of your preteen students use a Bible app on a regular basis … or even know how it works?
3. How many of your students could name the 66 books of the Bible … or know that there ARE 66 books in the Bible?
4. How many of your students know there’s an Old and New Testament, or what those testaments mean, or where individual books of the Bible can be found within those testaments?
5. When was the last time you read from a physical Bible in front of a large-group setting during a teaching time?
6. When was the last time you had a student read from a physical Bible?
In preteen ministry, we have a great opportunity to teach these students—who are just starting to own their faith for the first time—about the power the Bible can have in their lives. We have the opportunity to teach them how to read it, how to search through it and how to memorize it. We have the opportunity demonstrate what it means to love the Word of God. We have the opportunity to model what it looks like to memorize scripture and how to locate passages in the Bible and how to search for topics or historical references.
Most importantly, we must demonstrate for them that the Bible is an important part of our own lives. They need to see us reading the Word. They need to see us teaching from the Word. They need to see us reciting scripture from memory and finding books of the Bible without having to use the Table of Contents, and knowing off the tops of our heads the appropriate places in the Bible for specific historical references.