How to Teach Teens to Read the Bible on Their Own - Dare 2 Share
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Helping youth leaders empower
students to reach their world.

How to Teach Teens to Read the Bible on Their Own

7 steps to changing the way your students engage with Scripture



Let’s be honest: Reading the Bible can be intimidating. It’s a giant book filled with difficult words that cover a ton of history and deep theological themes.

But just because something is intimidating doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We do hard things in life all the time when we see the value in them, and taking in God’s Word ought to be the highest value for every Christian.

When people read the Bible, they learn who God is and discover how to have a personal relationship with Him. It’s crucial for our teens to learn how to read the Bible on their own, because they won’t always have someone around to teach them. In their teen years, students are like sponges, absorbing all that you’re teaching them, so why not pass along one of the most valuable skills they could ever possess? 

In my youth ministry, we primarily teach our students how to read the Bible using an approach called the “Swedish Method” (although I like to call it the “Swedish Fish” method, because then you can enjoy candy while you study God’s Word). This isn’t something we developed. It’s been posted by John Piper’s ministry Desiring God and is similar to David Helm’s One to One Bible Reading. The Swedish Method includes seven quick steps that are easy to implement and create an active learning environment:

1. Pray.

This is an easy way to start your time in God’s Word, and it’s essential for us to teach and model this for students. Beginning our time in prayer helps us focus on what we’re about to read and reminds us to rely on the Holy Spirit. 

2. Read the passage twice.

This might just sound like extra work, but it really helps students slow down and understand the passage. Reading it aloud and in multiple versions can make this step even more beneficial.

3. Make observations.

Ask the student to write down a few observations: what stands out in the passage, what is interesting, which verse is their favorite, etc. They don’t need to go in depth here—just make a few quick notes. 

4. Ask questions.

Encourage the student to ask a question or two about the passage. It could be something as simple as “I don’t know what that word means” to something more complex like “Why would Jesus say that?” Help them ask questions and find the answers if possible, or encourage your student to go to reliable sources to find answers. Don’t miss this step.

5. Make a Gospel connection.

Now your student is ready to make a connection with the Gospel. Help them consider how this passage helps us understand who God is, why Jesus came, or the importance of the Kingdom of God. This can be an easier step in books like the Gospels and a little harder in the Old Testament, but it helps students recognize that the Bible is one big book that tells one overarching story. 

6. Summarize the author’s point.

As adults, summarizing is often something we don’t enjoy, but your students are actually really great at summarizing and synthesizing large passages because they do this all the time at school. Get rid of the phrase “What does this mean to you?” and ask them “What is the author trying to say?” As they write a one- or two-sentence summary about the passage, they’re using basic reading comprehension skills while studying the Bible. In this step, the goal is for them to identify a key point of the passage. 

7. Application.

Often, the application step is one of the first steps students want to run to, but when they do that, they often miss what the text is actually saying. Once they’ve spent time reading, observing, asking questions, and summarizing, then they can accurately identify an action or application that applies to their life and to the text. When we understand a passage and apply it to our lives, we follow the advice in James 1:22 and become doers of the word, not just hearers of the word.

That’s it! As students are equipped with this method, they develop the skills to read the Bible on their own. While devotional reading is good, the skill to read the Bible for themselves will aid them in life even more. They’ll start to believe that they can read the Bible on their own, despite the big words and challenging concepts, and it will transform and grow their faith in Christ.

I hope this encourages you to start reading the Bible with your students. Buying some Swedish Fish might also help!

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