How to Promote Bible Literacy Among Teens: Be Authentic

William Bradford's Bible sits on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14, 2017. | (Photo: The Christian Post / Samuel Smith)

As a child, Lauren Green McAfee remembers waking up each day before the sun rose to learn math from her dad before he left for work at 7 a.m. And every time she entered his study, he would always be reading his Bible.

That left a deep impression on her.

"Me seeing him take the time every morning to be reading the Bible … was a spark that communicated to me this is a book that's important. He's carving out the time to spend time reading the Bible … I want to know what this is about," McAfee said during a Parenting Teens Summit session on Wednesday.

She made it clear that her father was a busy man. He had four children, homeschooled all of them, and was part of a family business of getting Hobby Lobby started. Her father is Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, the world's largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer. 

McAfee recalled her dad's devotion to the Bible as she was commenting on the rise of biblical illiteracy in America and how more and more people are simply not engaging God's Word anymore.

"I think a lot of young people today don't see how the Bible relates to what they're living out, just kind of every day life — with their friends, at school and all the things that's going on in their world. And also, they see the Bible as complicated," she said. "So it's this complicated book that doesn't seem to apply to my life, so why should I spend time in it?"

Today McAfee is the director of Community Engagement for the newly opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The museum has incorporated technology throughout the entire museum in order to help people, particularly young people, engage with the Bible in a way that helps them make more sense of it and see it come to life.

Her husband, Michael, who is director of Bible Engagement for the museum, pointed out that while young people are distracted in this internet age and while he sees an increasing gap between actual understanding of the Bible and its message, he has a lot of hope for this globally connected generation.

The McAfees stressed that while the Museum of the Bible aims to get more young people excited and curious about the Word of God, it all begins in the home — just as Lauren experienced with her father growing up.

Parents must be intentional about sharing their faith with their children, reading the Scriptures together and talking about what the biblical passages mean to them, Lauren McAfee advised.

"Those kiddos are watching every move," she said. "It makes a big difference."

Michael also warned that the younger generation is "really quick to sniff out inauthenticity."

"So the best thing a parent can do is just be very authentic in their own relationship with God and their own Bible engagement and not try to sort of arm wrestle with their child to engage the Bible when their child is looking at them experientially and seeing they're selling this to me but they're not really buying what they're selling," he stated.

There's one more thing parents need to be wary of when trying to raise their child to read the Bible. They should not neglect the church, Michael McAfee said.

In the past, regular churchgoing meant attending church at least three times a week. Today, it's once a month, he pointed out.

"With churches changing how often they meet to match the pace of culture, by necessity children are experiencing the Bible in community less often," he observed. "So to prioritize that time, not just in a church service but with the capital "C" Church and making that regular normative positive experiences that you sacrifice to be at will have a lasting impact."

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