Apologies that it has been so long since I have posted, I had to shelve the blog for a time because of Uni but I have finished now, no more uni assignments! Wahoo!
I do have an internship in 2017, but that is a while away and best not dwelt on.
This will be the first of a couple of posts on bible reading for households with teens or adult readers. The reason for this is that I have recently been having conversations with families with young people in them and young people themselves and a common theme that comes up is that bible study, or even reading the bible at home is an unengaging, uninteresting or too hard option. That for many teens the bible is simply too much work to be bothered with.
This perspective is very common and heartbreaking, but I appreciate the honesty. I was completely destroyed after talking with one teen and they summed up their feelings something like this:
I can’t read the bible like you, Dad. When I read the bible it is so hard, I hate having to get something out of it all the time.
When I heard this whilst having dinner with some friends and their son, I was devastated.
I could relate. This feeling, this bible fatigue. came upon me because the bible became like a textbook after 3 years of bible college. By the end of my time at college the passion, the excitement, the beauty of God’s word had been stripped away by exams, essays, lectures and debates all with the premise of the bible as a proof text.
This is a real risk for anyone going to bible college, and one the lecturers endeavour to prepare you for and protect you from. But bible fatigue is common.
What was devastating was to see it in someone so young, a teenager. In past blogs, I posted (Here) I mentioned the need to cultivate a healthy perspective around scripture. I contrasted the perspective of the bible being seen as valuable to the bible being seen as compulsory. Bible fatigue is a product of the bible as compulsory thinking, it has lost its value and is instead a chore that needs to be completed.
For someone with Bible fatigue, a release of pressure is needed. Rather than saying to someone with bible fatigue read more, study more, go deeper. friends, family the individual in question must be invited to read, enjoy, immerse.
It is the difference between the textbook approach to reading and the novel approach to reading.
Textbook = Must learn
Novel = Enjoyment.
I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t learn from scripture, or it is a work of fiction like a novel.
it is the word of God and should be treated as such. That also means though it is not a textbook simply for conveying info. It is the living and breathing God communicating with us via his Holy Spirit. As such for someone with bible fatigue, the goal is to reduce pressure and let the Holy Spirit breath. what follows is a suggestion on how to approach scripture with someone with bible fatigue.
- remove any need to answer or gain something – take all the pressure away, don’t expect your friend, family member, or teenage child to get something from it. Just invite them to read and immerse themselves in the text.
- Read the narratives – move into the Old Testament, the Gospels or Acts and read one of the narratives. We are story based creatures and will immerse ourselves into a story (true, false, historical or fictive it doesn’t matter) far better than a letter or more direct teaching text. Romans is hard work, Judges is exciting.
- No pressure on quantity – rather than expect someone to slab read 3 or 4 chapters, simply invite someone to read regularly (once a week) for as long as they can handle. Again it is about reducing the pressure. That said by making it regular it starts creating a habit.
- Imagine – once a habit is formed, or even before hand if you want to start increasing the engagement (this again needs to be handled carefully) start encouraging I wonder questions. “I wonder how it would have felt for Paul in that moment?” “Would I cope in the world of the Judges?”
- Feelings based understanding – For someone with Bible fatigue, it is important to reduce the cognitive pressure and encourage emotional responses. To do this discussion can be started from the gut. “What stood out to you?”, ” Anything interesting?”, or a good one “Anything disturbing?”. These can be starting points for discussions that go quite deep and can bring in more direct engagement with the text (if done carefully) without it feeling like a textbook. I have had more fruit with teens engaging with Judges when I start with the things that stand out to them like it’s brutality and our gentle Jesus than I have with a starting point of systematic exegesis. I think of this as the book club approach.
I hope these tips help. eventually, we want to encourage our teens to move to a point where scripture is a guide to their understanding of life, God and reality but we can’t do that at all if they refuse to engage because we have forced the textbook down their throat without cultivating a love of the text.
Next time we will explore how to go deeper with the avid teen.