Earlier this year, in a bold attempt to use the “mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9) for godly ends, Pastor Monte Shinkle invited the children of Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, to explore the truth of Scripture. Any child who could read the whole Bible in 2019, he announced, would receive a grand total of $100.
Unbeknownst to me and my wife at the time, my daughter Emma heard the offer and took the bait. As a result, since January, she has read four chapters of Scripture nearly every day. Of course, she started the Old Testament in Genesis. Unlike many adults, she never once complained of the legislative tedium of Leviticus, and she thoroughly enjoyed the stories of 1-2 Samuel – remarking once that this was her favorite portion of Scripture. She has completed every Old Testament book up to Nehemiah, and she has also read the Psalms and is currently gleaning divine wisdom from the Proverbs, as well. Already, she has finished the New Testament.
I thank God that my pastor is eager to encourage children to read the Bible. Not only has Emma been exposed to wide swathes of Scripture as a result, but she is being transformed by God’s powerful and active Word: After several weeks of reading Scripture, she surrendered her life to Christ and was baptized on March 24. For this, I will be forever grateful.
As a teenager, my life was also transformed when my mom challenged me to read Scripture. Ever since that time, I’ve often questioned our tendency to think that God’s Word is too hard or too lofty for children and teenagers to digest with benefit. I’m reminded of the words of sixth-century theologian Gregory the Great, who wrote that Scripture is like a river in which an elephant may swim, but also in which a tiny lamb may wade. I’m also reminded of the example of Catherine Booth, who alongside her husband founded the Salvation Army in the 19th-century. By the time she was 12 years old, Catherine had completely read the King James Version of the Bible – eight times.
For this reason, I’m grateful for pastors, Sunday School teachers and others who devote themselves to helping children read and memorize Scripture. One such person is Don Wilson, a member of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield and state director for the Missouri Baptist Bible Drill – a program that challenges children and teenagers to become familiar with the Bible and memorize ample portions of it.
As a beneficiary of Bible Drill during my teenage years in Oklahoma, I’m happy to pass along some comments from Mr. Wilson, which he sent to The Pathway earlier this month. He asks, “Is Bible Drill still a relevant children’s program for Missouri Baptist churches?” He answers, “Yes,” and here’s why:
“First of all, it puts the Bible in children’s hands. We have a society that thinks all answers come from google and a Bible app. Well, we still need to teach our children how to use the Bible in a manner that they will want to use it over and over. Bible drill does that. Children should learn the Books of the Bible and how to find them. It’s said that if you teach a child at a young age, he will remember it for life. The Bible is a book we should all want our kids to learn, love, understand and enjoy using.
“Secondly, Bible Drill helps our children learn verses. Yes, these children can learn them, and they all seem to be proud of the verses they learn. Not all participants learn all verses, but all participants learn some verses that they carry with them for life in many instances.
“Third, the Bible Drill participants learn Key Passages. These are very specific verses they learn to find. Children love to show how fast they can find their books and key passages in a ten second time limit. As we make Bible learning fun and exciting, kids love it. Bible drill is not a competition, but a demonstration of what a student has learned. I have had pastors say they don’t like the competition. I say, there is no competition, but these kids love to show off what they have learned. You give the kids a reason to learn by setting rewards for doing so.”
On a practical note, Mr. Wilson writes that one-and-a-half hours “is a good time frame for Bible Drill each week,” allowing time for book study, verse study, and game time. “They need that fun to keep their interest,” he writes, adding that students will learn Scripture at their own pace.
“Now,” he asks, “how many participants do you need to have a Bible drill program? “ONE. Bible Drill is great for smaller churches with a small children’s group because they have the same chance to demonstrate what they have learned as any big church.” It also offers senior adults, youth and parents the opportunity to work together to educate children in the knowledge of the Word.
I encourage you all to consider the Missouri Baptist Bible Drill as a method for introducing Scripture to children in your churches. To learn more about the program, visit https://missouribaptistbibledrill.site.