Do you remember when you got your first Bible? I received mine in kindergarten, at church. It was a big deal. But by the time I reached my teen years, the Bible had lost some of its luster. I knew I was supposed to read it, but it just felt overwhelming and confusing. It was more exciting to play a video game than to read a book I barely understood.
Parents, does this sound like the teenager living in your home? Teens need help with their questions and understanding of the Bible. Yet, the Bible can come alive for them, and parents can lead the way.
Key Questions to Help Your Teen Find Life in Scripture
1. What is the Bible?
Your teen may have questions about the Bible. This comes with growing and maturing. They have to learn for themselves that the Bible is God’s word—not just a book of stories. Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Strike up a conversation with your teen about how we can know God without the Bible. God is invisible, and we don’t hear his audible voice. We can catch glimpses of his glory in nature, but only through the Bible can we know who he is or what he is like. God chose to reveal himself to us through the Bible. This is how we can know him.
Teens also may wonder if they can really trust the Bible. The answer is key. In addition to archeological and historical evidence that continues to support the Bible, believing that the Bible is God-breathed helps us gain trust in its words. 2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that God spoke through human authors as they were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.” God worked through human authors to reveal himself. As we read the Bible, it is like reading no other book. It is God’s words to us.
As teens grow and develop, they need to make their faith and beliefs their own. Parents, you can help them in this process by initiating conversations about the Bible as the primary way to know and trust God.
2. Why is the Bible important?
The “Why?” question is critical for teens. Why does the Bible matter? Just as they might ask “when am I ever going to use this in real life” as they study algebraic equations, they also want to know why reading the Bible is worth their time.
Many teens know the Bible is a source of truth about right and wrong—and that is important in our age of relative truth. However, your teen needs to know the Bible is far more than a rulebook.
The Bible teaches us how to know God personally and how to be with him for eternity. Paul says the Holy Scriptures can make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Bible is able to lead your teen to eternal life through faith in Jesus.
Have you ever read a passage of the Bible and found God was speaking directly to you in that moment? The words leapt off the page and penetrated your heart. Maybe you had read the same verse a hundred times before, but on this day God spoke to you. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
God speaks to teens today, through his word. Teens not only need to hear this, but they need to see it. So, don’t just talk about it generally. Get specific about what you are learning about God from his word. Share how you are being changed by reading the Bible. If teens see fruit in their parents’ lives, they will be motivated to pursue that for themselves. Teens want to hear God’s voice, and it will be helpful for them to see, in your life, that the Bible is God’s primary way of communicating to us.
Teens and parents often ask me, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” To really hear God’s voice, we have to read his word. Of course, God can use other people as a means of speaking to us what he wants us to know or think about. And God uses his Spirit to instruct us as we pray. Yet, how do we know if what we learn from other people or from prayer is truly in line with God’s will for our lives? We can only know by measuring it against his word. God will never contradict his own, eternal word. Your teens want to hear from God, so help them understand the Bible’s importance as the primary way that God speaks today.
3. How can I understand the Bible?
My wife recently ordered a table on the internet. It came in a small, well-packaged box. Inside were dozens of parts and a single instruction page, with sketchy pictures and poorly-worded steps of assembly. It didn’t take long before I wanted to give up, box it up, and send it back to Amazon! Sometimes the Bible can feel like this. Teens will struggle to read the Bible if they don’t feel like they can understand it. Here are three simple ways you can help your teen persevere in reading the Bible.
a. Remind your teen of the purpose. Reading the Bible isn’t an assignment to check off. The goal is to hear from God. There is no need to rush through it. The Psalmist says, “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (Ps. 77:12). It is more fruitful to ponder one verse, meditate on it, and let God speak to you personally than to read a whole chapter and forget everything you read. Teens are learning to hear God’s voice, and this takes time.
b. Encourage your teen to make a commitment. Help your teens approach Bible reading with a goal. Maybe they commit to reading and meditating on God’s word each day before school. Maybe your family decides to read through a certain book of the Bible at the same time. Parents and teens can hold each other accountable by talking about what God is saying to each of you through his word.
c. Guide your teen in making a plan. It can be helpful to adopt some structure in reading God’s word. While read-the-Bible-in-a-year plans are well organized, they are often overwhelming for teens. It may be more helpful to focus on one particular book of the Bible that is easily accessible, such as Proverbs, Philippians, Acts, or one of the gospels. If your teens have specific questions or needs, you can guide them to additional passages of Scripture that address these areas.
It is not uncommon for teens to struggle with reading the Bible. Yet, with a parent’s gentle instruction and active modeling, they can move past some of the common roadblocks that hold them back from finding life in the word of God. The Bible can be a light for their path through the challenging teen years.