My teen doesn't like reading the Bible. Advice?
Cleaning the bathroom. Studying for an exam. Writing essays. Curfew.
These are the things that make teens groan with dread. Also on the list: Reading the Bible.
If you have a teen who enjoys reading their Bible about as much as cleaning shower grout with a toothbrush, you're not alone. According to a recent study, 37% of teens never read the Bible, and when they do read it, 66% of them feel overwhelmed or bored.
As parents, it's easy to feel discouraged when our kids are disinterested in the Bible. We want our teens to read the Bible because we know how valuable it is. For instance, we know that our kids are bombarded with a whole slew of cultural messages that can be contradictory and confusing. Reading the Bible helps them learn to discern what's true and what's not. Likewise, our teens are in a generation that's becoming increasingly skeptical about religion, and some peers are even openly hostile to Christians. We want them to be encouraged by the Bible's stories of courage and boldness, and show them that they're not the first outsiders to follow Jesus. Finally, we want to pass down a heritage of faith. This has nothing to do with our ego or ambition for legacy, and everything to do with our knowledge about how truly challenging life is. We can't keep our kids from facing hard times and heartbreaks; we really want them to have faith when they do.
So, how can we help our teens not just read the Bible but actually enjoy it? Well, in addition to praying for them (which we're doing every day anyway), here are four things that can help.
Four ways to make the Bible less intimidating (and more enjoyable) for your teen to read
Start with the New Testament
Yes, the entire Bible is valuable, and the Old Testament is rich with wisdom. But can we all just admit that it's hard to read sometimes? Even as an adult it's easy to get bogged down in the Old Testament and struggle to find its modern-day relevancy, and for teens it can feel impossible. Instead, encourage them to start with the New Testament and put their focus there--especially on the stories and teachings from Jesus. The more they get to know who Jesus is, the more they'll like him and become more like him.
Make the Bible more like a story
When we're familiar with the Bible, it's easy to overlook some of the features that make it difficult to read for a young person. For instance, the way the text is spotted with verse numbers and weird line breaks can make reading feel jerky and distracting. To help, look for Bibles and translations that intentionally downplay or strip out these extra annotations, and focus on making the Bible flow as much like a story as possible.
Show comments and notes from other teens
Bibles frequently include extra commentary to provide the reader with background information, devotional thoughts, and mini-teachings. For teens, these notes are particularly powerful when they're coming from their peers--not from adults or professional theologians. So search for Bibles that include commentary from other young people, frequently found in teen Bible shopping categories, or here.
Leave room for their notes
Encourage your teen to record their own notes, sketches, doodles, and underlines. These all help a teen personalize their Bible, and pull the verses and stories into their real life. Plus, reading when partnered with writing makes ideas and concepts sink in, and we remember them more. So look for Bibles that leave room in the margins for your teen's unique imprint.
Finding all of these criteria can be challenging, but your teen can start with the Bible they own. Additionally, consider getting them the Pierced New Testament (NIV) as a powerful companion to their Bible. Pierced is a different kind of New Testament because it does all of the above, plus more. It's an artistic and surprisingly sensible approach to what can be an otherwise confusing (or boring) book to read. And because it includes real notes and artwork from other teens, it connects Bible verses to your teen's world.