Bible reading is down during the pandemic. Here are ways to encourage it.
Thanks to my friend, Rev. Dr. Nicole Martin, at the American Bible Society (ABS), I received this data on Bible Engagement during COVID-19. We discussed this data and a few others in one of my podcast episodes on Ministry Pivot.
As you see from the chart, for most of the ABS Bible categories, engagement is down. Furthermore, we need to make note that it is down by several percentage points among those who are considered Bible-centered. These are your strong, consistent Bible readers, but in the six months between January and June of last year, their engagement went down and not up. We don’t know the exact reasons for this shift, but I have some thoughts on better engaging your congregation with the Bible during this season.
The first point I believe is essential for us as leaders is to share with our people how easy and important it is to access God’s Word. You can help with access by posting daily Scriptures on your social media platforms, and these can be from your daily readings or even from tools like the YouVersion Bible App.
Our church has a daily prayer call, and each leader opens with Scripture and some context before we pray. I do Friday mornings at 7 a.m. The key here is to remind our people of the ease in which they can find and read God’s Word even during this challenging season. As you remind them of the importance and simplicity, it is also vital to excite them around reading God’s Word.
I heard you say it when I wrote the word excite: Isn’t God’s Word already exciting? The answer is yes, it is very exciting! When I used to lead students in youth ministry, I always told them that reality TV shows had nothing on what happened in the Bible if they just read and studied it. However, most people don’t see it that way, and to be honest, with all of the distractions and issues in society today, it is easy to drift away from reading and studying God’s Word. However, you can excite the congregation by teaching and preaching each Sunday with passion and fire.
You can also do churchwide Bible reading plans to engage and encourage them to read the same Scripture together and share it on your church site, in the Facebook group, and even through an online community board you can create. The goal and point here is to invite everyone to read God’s Word together as a church family. Maybe you want to follow a plan on YouVersion and ask groups within the church to follow along, or you can even create your own plan.
A few times a year, our church creates devotionals for our congregation to follow that match our pastor’s sermon series or even just a liturgical time of the year. Check out our Daniel fast plan here. You can also create small-group opportunities for the congregation to meet online around the Bible.
Yes, evangelism can be a tool to increase Bible engagement in our congregation and our community. What if you empowered your congregation to share a Scripture with one friend, family member or co-worker each week? The thought here is to equip your congregation to reach those in their circle for Jesus and prayerfully inspire them to read God’s Word and see God’s heart.
You can also add Scriptures to your outreach event that you host in the community if your church is one of the thousands that serve food to the community a few times a month. What if you added a Scripture card to the handout?
In our church for outreach, we have engaged our children’s ministry by having them write Scriptures with drawings on the bags that we’ve packed with food. You can do this in several different ways, but the point is that outreach and evangelism can be tools to engage someone to read God’s Word.
Based on the American Bible Society data, it is necessary, now more than ever, to help our people reengage and/or increase their Bible engagement. The desired end is for each person to develop a stronger thirst and want for God’s Word. Then for this thirst to drive them toward being more consistent disciples of Jesus Christ.
What are your thoughts on Bible engagement now? What would you add?