Building habits takes time. Sometimes, these habits are easy to establish, like brushing our teeth. We understand the importance of it — keeping our mouth healthy — and we recognize the consequences of not doing it — bad breath and, eventually, losing our teeth.
Some habits are more challenging to build, like regular exercise. This habit takes more time and energy and may require additional resources. We may have to pay for a gym membership, running shoes, water bottles, or home exercise equipment. And, we have to endure pain and suffering as we build strength and endurance.
Studying the Bible can be a challenging habit to build. We have to spend time reading the Bible, we may need to invest in additional resources to help us understand Scripture, and often, we need to continue the habit even when it is the last thing we feel like doing. When we do make studying the Bible an established, regular habit in our lives, the benefits of doing so flow out into every area of our lives.
If we, as adults, struggle to establish good Bible study habits, so do our teens. We can help our teens develop good Bible study habits that will last throughout their lives. Here are 5 practical tips for helping your teen (and yourself) build good Bible study habits:
1. Make It Enjoyable
Studying the Bible should not feel like more school work, an additional chore, or a punishment. Charles Spurgeon told a story of a young girl reading her Bible:
“A well-known and renowned unbeliever of the last generation, traveling in Wales, said to a little girl he saw reading her Bible, ‘Well, my dear, I see you are getting through your task.’ ‘Task, sir?’ she said, ‘What do you mean? I am reading the Bible.’ He said, ‘Didn’t your mother set you a chapter to read.’ ‘Oh no, sir. If my mother wanted to punish me, she would not make me read the Bible. It is the most delightful book in the entire world, and it is a great joy to me when I can get a little time alone to read my Bible.’”
Reading God’s Word is not a chore, a punishment, or a means to an end. It is a way of growing in our relationship with our heavenly Father, a way of knowing Him. Incorporating things your teen loves into their Bible study can help it not feel like homework. Does your teen love board games? Play Bible trivia! They’ll quickly realize that the more they read their Bible, the better they’ll be at Bible trivia! Does your teen love running or exercise? Encourage them to listen to a book of the Bible during their workout. There are also a number of ministries and companies today that create beautiful, engaging tools to help with studying the Bible. Grab a pack of designed memory verses for your daughter to hang in her bedroom. Find a well-designed leather journal for your son to take notes in as he reads Scripture. Incorporating things your teen enjoys will help them want to study God’s Word.
2. Use Resources to Build Understanding
When I was in middle school, my class studied the battles of the American Civil War. My group was assigned the Battle of Gettysburg, and I was tasked with explaining the tactics of the battle in our presentation. As soon as my dad found out, he was ecstatic. As a 13-year-old girl, however, my interest in 19th-century warfare went only so far. But my dad spent hours with me, helping me study the battle, explaining what had happened and why it was important. That next summer, my family visited Gettysburg. The experience in Gettysburg was far more enjoyable because I understood what had happened and why the places we visited were so significant. Without that understanding, I would have missed the significance of where we were standing.
The events recorded in the Bible are real, historical events that happened to real people in real-time. However, the timeline of the Bible can be difficult to understand. Without understanding what is going on when we read the Bible, we often become frustrated and confused, and more likely to give up. If you can equip your teen with helpful resources, like a Bible atlas, timelines, or a book of charts and infographics, their understanding will grow. There are many resources available today, designed intentionally to aid in understanding the Bible. Have your teen go with you to a nearby bookstore, or spend time together shopping online for a helpful resource.
3. Habit Stacking
I’ve recently heard of this concept of “habit stacking.” It’s when you take an existing habit (like brushing your teeth) and add another habit with it. Let’s face it: no teenager is going to wake up early to read their Bible if they’re not already. But, we can help them build lasting habits of being in God’s Word throughout the day by habit stacking. For example, have your teen select a verse to memorize, and write it on a notecard. Tape the notecard to their bathroom mirror, where they can read it and practice reciting it while they brush their teeth. This can work for time-consuming habits as well, such as praying while they drive to school or to books of the Bible while listening more friends household chores.
4. Focus on Consistency
Any personal trainer will tell you that consistency is better than intensity. If you want to get in shape, it is better to run one mile, six days a week, than six miles, once a month. Consistency is key with Bible study too. Even if you can’t do it every day, build a habit by starting small with something you can accomplish. Expect to miss days, even weeks. But always jump back in, remembering that something is better than nothing.
Reading our Bibles, no matter how regularly, creates spiritual deposits. When we face difficulty, feel lost, or need encouragement, the time we have spent in God’s Word will add up. Even if your teen can only focus on reading his or her Bible for five minutes, twice a week, help them feel successful with their habit by praising and encouraging consistency.
5. Model it in Your Own Life
The best way to help your teen develop consistent Bible study habits is by modeling it. Show them how to spend time in God’s Word by doing it yourself. Talk about what you are learning, how you enjoy reading the Bible, and what God is showing you. Share with them how it changed your day when you spent your five minutes in the checkout line reading your Bible instead of scrolling social media. Make reading and studying your Bible a priority and a blessing, not a chore or an item to mark off a list.
When we study the Bible, we learn about the character of our God, of His great love and sacrifice for us, and the incredible lengths to which He has gone to redeem us from sin and death. Without a personal habit of studying the Bible we miss out on much that God wants to teach us. His word is a deep well, never running dry, and always providing exactly what we need. Let’s commit to studying God’s Word consistently and helping our teens do the same!
Melissa Fuller serves as the Content Director for Love God Greatly. She loves God’s Word and is committed to seeing women all over the world fall in love with Scripture and its author. She has served as the managing editor on several Bible projects including the She Reads Truth Bible. (in)courage Devotional Bible, Love God Greatly Bible and the Young Women Love God Greatly Bible. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.