On the Importance of Kids Actually Reading the Bible
I was reading an interesting article from Mike Johnson on the Future of Kidmin yesterday as part of the wonderful Kidmin360.com series in which a variety of leaders in the field are answering the question, “What is the future of kidmin?” In the article, Mike explores the idea that, more and more, kids will use video as their means of accessing and understanding the stories of the Bible. I don’t disagree, and I think those of us who are parents and/or in children’s ministry should find ways to leverage this technology, and kids’ affinity for it, for the Kingdom of God. That said, the article also got me thinking. It got me thinking about the importance of kids actually reading the Bible for themselves rather than just viewing prepackaged videos of Bible stories. Before I start though, I should say that I don’t believe Mike was advocating in his article that video should replace reading, just that we should capitalize on the power of video. I agree with that contention. That said, his article was just the jumping off point for my own thinking on the subject which I will explore further in this article.
So, why is it important that kids actually read their Bibles? Don’t videos accomplish the same thing in terms of transfer of information? Are videos bad? How, in an age when more and more kids are leaning on electronic transmission of information, do we encourage them to crack open the pages of the Bible? These are all important questions that we need to address.
So, why is it important that kids actually read their Bibles?
God is very intentional in all that he does, and he chose to transmit the Bible to us through the written word and not through video transmission. Some might argue that that was just as matter of timing as video is a relatively new phenomena in the history of the world. To those people, I would remind them that God spoke the entire world into existence and had he wanted the ancient Egyptians to watch the construction of the their pyramids on flat screen televisions, I’ve no doubt that he could have made that happen.
So, why then did God choose to transmit his Word in written form? I believe it is because God created us in his image, as intelligent beings, and reading (or hearing) and comprehending his Word requires more brain power than simply viewing it. In a video, much of the work of interpretation is already done by the screen writers, directors, animators, producers and everyone else involved in the process. A video robs a child of the chance to use their imagination to picture the battle of David vs. Goliath, to ponder what it must have been like to watch the walls of water form in the Red Sea, to picture a tiny baby in a lonely manger in Bethlehem. Video inherently superimposes the interpretation of others on the original text. Written words allow the reader to form their own opinions and interpretations. The written word also affords its reader the chance to move along at their own pace – stopping to ponder, reflect and meditate on those parts of the word that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention. This is generally not an option in a video which moves swiftly from one scene to the next.
You also can’t “mark up” a video, though maybe this technology will be available at some point. When something strikes me in God’s Word, I make a note in my Bible whether it makes sense to me right then or not. Many times, upon further reading, or at a later date, that note means something to me. A good Bible is almost like a spiritual diary which should reflect, in notes and other notations, what we were learning at any particular point in time. It is for this reason that I often date the notes in my Bible. We should teach kids how to “mark up” their Bibles, and that is something that they can not do with video.
The Bible is not a series of unrelated stories. It is one story of God’s creation and work in human history. A series of videos can capture any of the wonderful stories of the Bible, but it is hard, if not impossible, for those videos to capture the totality of the story presented by the Bible. That is only accomplished by reading through the whole story, noting how things relate and following cross references that show the consistency of scripture.
Finally, the written word requires a level of commitment and concentration that video does not. By reading, rather than viewing, God’s story we are forced to pay closer attention and see things that would surely be missed in a video presentation.
Don’t videos accomplish the same thing in terms of transfer of information?
The simple answer is, No! Videos are fun, and engaging, and a great way to convey the basics of a story, but only the written word allows us to go deeper and go further in our understanding. Don’t get me wrong. I love a great story. I love the video medium as well. But, when I come away from a movie I remember the basic plot and some “zinger” lines that stick out during the movie. I do not walk away with a full understanding of the nuance of the story and how it related to every other movie I have ever seen. In the end, video is fine for transferring basic high level plot points, but it can not reach the depth and breadth of knowledge that the written word can.
So, are videos bad?
The simple answer, yet again, is No! Videos are fine. Using videos to teach kids about the Bible is fine. Using videos to tell biblical stories is great. I am a proponent of using all means available to teach kids about God and the Bible. But, like a good John Grisham novel where the book is always better than the movie, kids need to understand how much better the Bible is than any video presentation of what it is in it.
How, in an age when more and more kids are leaning on electronic transmission of information, do we encourage them to crack open the pages of the Bible?
This is a critical question that those of who work with kids must continually ask ourselves. So often, we fail kids by giving the impression that the Bible is some dry and stale bit of ancient literature which we have to “improve upon” to present it to kids. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is active and alive and chocked full of stuff to keep the attention of any elementary age kid. Our job is to convey that excitement to kids. So, how do we do that? Here are some suggestions:
- Let them see your excitement.
- Hold your Bible.
- Teach them how to use it.
- Explain where it comes from and what it is.
- Give them a place to start
- Show them how it can be useful to them.
- Encourage them to memorize it.
- Find out what excites them and show it to them in the Bible.
- Use it in your class regularly.
This list is from an article I wrote previously called “10 Ways To Get Kids Excited About the Bible.”