There is a serious problem facing the church today, especially student ministries: biblical illiteracy. The Barna Research group discovered a few things in their research of biblical illiteracy, such as over 50% of graduating seniors believed that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife or that over 60% of Americans cannot even name five of the Ten Commandments. This biblical illiteracy problem is in every church.
The part that grieves me is that it exists in many of our student ministries as well. Al Mohler made a great statement about student ministries and asked an excellent question that every student pastor should be asking. He said, “Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?”
Mohler makes a great summary of the expectation of student ministries today. Student pastors and volunteers live under the pressure of helping parents fix problems, provide a fun and entertaining environment for students, and keep them busy so they do not get in trouble. Because of this pressure, whether public or private, student pastors and volunteers sacrifice the teaching of God’s Word and more importantly helping students meditate and memorize God’s Word. Mohler’s question is one every student pastor and volunteer should ask. Is substantial Bible knowledge being produced in the students in your small group? Your weekly youth gathering? Your camps and events?
About a year ago God specifically convicted me of not providing and equipping students with the tools necessary to spend daily time in the Bible. He also placed a conviction upon my heart about the meditation and memorization of Scripture in the lives of our students. Our children’s ministry has done an incredible job partnering with parents to help children know the Bible, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the books of the Bible, how to navigate the Bible, and to memorize Scripture. The problem I saw was as a student progressed in our student ministry the reading, knowledge, meditating, and memorizing of Scripture was no longer an important part of their life. This led our student ministry staff to put together a plan that would emphasize the importance of the Word of God. Here are some of the steps we took:
We started a Bible reading plan for our student ministry. We chose to implement it in our small groups. Each week students are asked about their reading, what they are learning, and how it is transforming their lives. We are still learning how to do this better, but many of our students have been actively reading through their Bible this year. In our weekly mid-week services we talk about our readings for the week. In our announcement sheets we give them the current week’s reading.
We started a Scripture memory plan for our student ministry. We again chose to implement it in our small groups. The first half of the school year the students memorized one verse per month. After Christmas they memorized two verses a month. Small group leaders keep track of verses the students memorize. It is encouraging each week to hear the small group leaders share about the students who have been memorizing Scripture.
We make sure that the Word of God is present and taught every time we gather together in our student ministry. Whether its summer camp, disciple now weekend, a Sunday night after church fellowship, or our mid-week service, the Word of God has a prominence and priority. Our students will hear the Word of God and be challenged to apply the truth and principles of Scripture.
Two important passages of Scripture come to mind; 1 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 4:12. Many of us know these two verses by memory, but are we actively seeking out ways to make sure our students understand the importance of the Word of God? How have we encouraged them to read and memorize God’s Word? How have we partnered with their parents in achieving biblical literacy and understanding? Let’s commit and work together to not allow biblical illiteracy to take root in the lives of this generation of students.
Jeff DeGiacomo is the Student Pastor at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, OK. His desire and hope is to see students come to know and love Jesus with their heart, soul, and mind while living in complete obedience as they love others through prayer, service, and making disciples.