4 Tips for Teaching Students to Read the Bible

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The effects of social media and technology on the life of a teenager can be seen in almost every aspect of their lives.

There is great debate about the effects of social media and technology on the literacy of teenagers. Data shows that teens are reading less, but there is also data to suggest that essay skills are rising in some areas.

My best guess is that it varies greatly depending on other factors. One thing I know for sure is the rules of grammar are non-existent on social media, and teens statistically spend a large amount of their day on social media.

In the work of discipling students, it should go without saying that reading the Bible is a crucial skill.

In his instructions to the church in Colossians, Paul urges them to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.”

How are we to lead students to discover God’s word if they aren’t reading or, even worse, can’t read well?

1. Model correct reading.
When you read aloud for students, take extra effort to pause at commas and rest between sentences. You can even point out to them when the grammar or punctuation makes a clear shift in the meaning or context of the passage.

Just to test yourself, read Romans 7:14-20 NIV to yourself quickly.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Now, read it aloud following the commas and periods. With difficult passages, point out to students that slow and careful reading can unlock the meaning.

2. Have regular “How to Read the Bible” lessons.
Students should be learning how to read the Bible for themselves. Find some great Bible reading methods, and encourage your students to try them. As you are going over ways to read effectively, don’t overlook the obvious grammar rules. Take care not to correct a student if they read something incorrectly. Often in my ministry, if a student reads aloud and misses the point because they forgot to pause at a comma, I will just re-read it to help make the point. Over time, they will learn.

3. Provide paper copies of the Bible.

There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible on your phone. However, let’s take the opportunity while they are in our building (or home) to put a hard copy Bible in their hands and teach them how to use it. As they read off paper, their ability to stay focused, place scripture in context and follow reading and grammar rules will be greatly increased. Remember to model this. No matter what your notes are on, show them your Bible opened to the correct passage.

4. Be mindful of translation.
Without getting into a debate about translation, Christian Book Distributors put out a list of translations (and paraphrases) and their grade reading level. In my recap of that list below, I have listed another popular book of the same level for comparison. Be mindful that although a student is in a certain grade, it does not mean their reading ability is on par. The average reading level for your area may be data that you can easily find. If you are using a version that is more difficult to read, you may have to do a good bit of interpretation for them and your lessons on reading the Bible may be more in depth.

KJV (12) — Hamlet
RSV (12) — Wuthering Heights
NRSV (11)— The Great Gatsby
NASB (11)— The Crucible
ESV (10) — To Kill A Mockingbird
HCSB (7-8) — Oliver Twist
NIV (7-8) — The Giver
CEB (7) — Diary of a Wimpy Kid
CSB (7) — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
NKJV (7) — Lord of the Rings
NLT (6) — Chronicles of Narnia
Message (4-5) — Holes

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