The Lament of the Boring Bible
by Nancy Rue
Recently the girls on my blog for tweens owned up to the fact that they found the Bible, well, um, boring. I asked them to be honest…and they were.
As adults responsible for our kids’ spiritual foundations, our first instinct when we hear that is to recoil in horror and assure them that the Holy Scripture is NOT dull, yawn-inducing, mind-numbing. That’s because we’ve forgotten what it was like to be nine years old, staring at a list of “begats” longer than our weekly spelling list.
I’m thinking if we want to make any headway in nurturing our offspring in a relationship with Scripture, we need to look at the reasons why our children wail, “Do I HAVE to?” when we want them to pick up the Bible. Don’t be surprised if this list takes you back to your own wailing days…
- Some parts of it are about things they can’t relate to yet. Leviticus and Proverbs have a bunch of stuff about marriage, when, hello, they can hardly stand the opposite gender at this point. Or the symbolism that’s used goes right over their heads. Song of Songs is for everybody because it describes God’s love for his people, but when you’re 10 years old, you’re not going to get the whole love poem thing. (Not to mention hair like a goat—what?)
- Unless they’re using a very modern translation, the language is just plain hard to understand. I’ve been studying the Bible for decades and I have a Master’s Degree, but sometimes I have to look up words, especially ones nobody uses any more—like “shekel” and “mote” and “cubits.” Kids are not going to get far before their eyes glaze over.
- Very few children are fascinated by lists of ancestors or kings or by every detail of how a calf is to be slaughtered or the bricks arranged in the building of a temple. It’s not dissing God for them to ask the question, “Who cares?”
Yes, there is definitely a great deal in the Word of God that’s hugely important for them to know and understand right now. There’s also a lot that can be saved for later. What’s up to us is to help them find what they need and bring it to life with them.
From my 30 years of working with tweens and teens on this very topic, I’ve learned how to do that—and am learning more all the time. This is the guidance I give them, exactly as I offer it.
DON’T start from the beginning of the Bible and try to read all the way through on your own. You’ll get to Leviticus and quit, unless you’re giving yourself chocolate chip cookie rewards every five verses.
DON’T try to plow your way through stories and passages that send you into snooze mode, just to say you read them. What’s the point in that, right?
DON’T put a time limit on reading the whole thing. It will take your whole life to really read the entire Bible on a deep level. It’s not like you do Genesis to Revelation when you’re 12 and you’re good to go.
DO use a translation you can understand. If you have to spend all your time just trying to untangle the language, you won’t be able to see what it means to you.
Do focus on one short passage a day. That’s all even grown-ups can absorb at one time if they’re really thinking about it and applying it to themselves.
Do choose passages and stories that relate to your life today. Make a list of the things you’re struggling with. Take that list to a grown-up you trust, an adult who knows where to find stuff in the Bible, and ask him or her to suggest stories and passages for you to read that will help you in that area.
Do have a conversation with God as you read. Write in the margins. Write in a Talking to God Journal. Or even talk out loud (unless you have siblings lurking, of course)
Most of us aren’t looking for our kids to tote the NIV wherever they go, or even proudly proclaim that they got through Lamentations without lapsing into a coma. We just want them to draw closer to God through the story of his relationship with his people and know that they ARE those people. This is a simple, not-so-daunting start. And hopefully a distinctly UN-boring one.
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