A national "Bible Bee" contest planned for this summer aims to not only improve Scripture verse memorization for children, but encourage participation from entire families to do an in-depth study.
"Our desire is to help your family move closer to God and closer to one another as you learn, live out, and celebrate His Word," said officials at Shelby Kennedy Foundation, the ministry offering the contest.
The foundation is registering children ages 7-18 for the 2012 Bible Bee online on its website through midnight May 31. The ministry hopes to "equip and encourage a lifestyle of investing in and living out your relationship with Christ."
The Bible Bee, which is in its fourth year, was significantly redesigned this year in order to facilitate more family participation, the foundation's CEO, Mark D. McMahan, told The Christian Post.
"Previously, while we were already shifting away from focusing on the contest and toward family discipleship, there was still too much emphasis on Bible memorization and appeal to those who were able and willing to spend their summers memorizing hundreds of passages," McMahan explained. "By drastically dropping the summer requirements to the same 25 passages for all participants, the Bible Bee became something that any family could include in their summer.
"Plus, the memory passages are tied into the 'Sword Study,' an in-depth, inductive study of one book of the Bible, comprising the other half of the family discipleship program."
Top national winners of the bee receive $260,000 in prize money for "knowing and memorizing the Bible." However, McMahan said there is a much better reason to enter the contest than the chance for financial gain.
"Yes, we really give away that much money each year for our top national winners, but our ulterior motive is to promote something of far greater value, and that is to help families step into a lifelong habit of getting into God's Word together, as a family," he said. "It is not unusual for our participants to be drawn in by the significant prizes, but then to get hooked by the lifestyle of walking with Christ in a way they hadn't previously experienced. Those who do win the large prizes, cite their growth in their relationship with God and their families as the greatest gain."
The $30 registration fee includes several items, including a parent guide and the Sword Study. Most importantly is a chance for the entire family to be involved in the process of the contest, say ministry organizers.
"Often parents aren't comfortable in the role of leading their children in the Word. We give them the tools they need to lead even while they learn alongside of their children," McMahan said. "Our Sword Studies are uniquely age-leveled and synchronized so that the whole family can study one book of the Bible together, yet each at their own ability and understanding. Better yet, the Sword Studies teach a method of study that can be applied to any book of the Bible, and also offers basic guidance on cultivating strong habits in prayer and application of the truths being studied."
When asked by CP why the Bible Bee is important for Christian families to participate in, he said, "The church has become painfully aware of its failure in raising our own children to be healthy, committed disciples of Christ. We feel that this breakdown has partly stemmed from parents feeling ill-equipped to fulfill their God-ordained responsibility to raise their children in the knowledge of the Lord (Deut. 6).
"To combat this crisis, we are providing simple yet effective tools to parents that often feel helpless or unsure where to begin; parents who lead their children to stand on the rock of the Word will be blessed by the impact on the spiritual lives of their entire family."
McMahan said he would like to see families enjoying the study and memorizing aspect of the contest so much that they can move on to study another book in the Bible as soon as they are done with confidence.
"Our mission is to 'help families strengthen their personal relationships with the Lord and dynamically impact the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ,'" he said, quoting from the foundation's mission statement.
More information about the contest, including registration, can be found at www.BibleBee.org.