Building habits takes time. Sometimes these habits are easy to establish, like brushing your teeth. We understand the importance of this – keeping our mouths healthy – and we recognize the consequences of not doing so – bad breath and eventually the loss of our teeth.
Some habits are more difficult to develop, such as regular exercise. This habit takes more time and energy and may require additional resources. We may need to pay for a gym membership, running shoes, bottled water, or home exercise equipment. And, we have to endure pain and suffering as we build strength and endurance.
Studying the Bible can be a difficult habit to develop. We need to spend time reading the Bible, we may need to invest in additional resources to help us understand the scriptures, and often we need to continue the habit even when it’s the last thing we feel like. to do. When we make Bible study an established and regular habit in our lives, the benefits of doing so reverberate in all areas of our lives.
If we as adults struggle to establish good Bible study habits, so do our teenagers. We can help our teens develop good Bible study habits that will last a lifetime. Here are 5 practical tips to help your teen (and yourself) develop good Bible study habits:
1. Make it enjoyable
Bible study shouldn’t feel like extra schoolwork, extra drudgery, or punishment. Charles Spurgeon told the 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 whom he had seen reading his Bible: ‘Well, my dear, I see that you are accomplishing your task.’ “Task, sir? she said, ‘What do you mean? I read the Bible.’ He said, ‘Didn’t your mother give you a chapter to read.’ ‘Oh no, sir. If my mother wanted to punish me, she wouldn’t make me read the Bible. It is the most delicious book in the whole world, and it is a great joy for me when I can have some time alone to read my Bible.
Reading the Word of God is not a chore, a punishment, or a means to an end. It is a way to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, a way to know Him. Incorporating things your teen likes into their Bible study can help them take it from feeling like homework. Does your teenager love board games? Play Bible Questions! They will quickly realize that the more they read their Bible, the better off they will be when it comes to Bible questions! Does your teenager like to run or play sports? Encourage them to listen to a Bible book during their practice. There are also a number of ministries and businesses today that create beautiful, engaging tools to help with Bible study. Grab a packet of memory verses designed for your daughter to hang in her bedroom. Find a well-designed leather journal for your son to take notes as he reads the scriptures. Incorporating things your teen enjoys will help him 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 to the Battle of Gettysburg and I was assigned to explain the tactics of the battle in our presentation. As soon as my father discovered it, he was over the moon. As a 13-year-old girl, however, my interest in 19th century warfare went no further. But my father spent hours with me, helping me study the battle, explaining to me what happened and why it was important. The following summer, my family visited Gettysburg. The Gettysburg experience was much more enjoyable because I understood what happened and why the places we visited were so important. 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 Bible’s chronology can be difficult to understand. Without understanding what is happening 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, intentionally designed to help understand the Bible. Ask your teen to go with you to a nearby bookstore, or spend some time together shopping online for a helpful resource.
3. Habit stacking
I recently heard about this concept of “habit stacking”. It’s when you take an existing habit (like brushing your teeth) and add another. Let’s face it: no teenager will wake up early to read their Bible if they haven’t already. But, we can help them develop lasting habits of being in God’s Word throughout the day by stacking the habits. For example, have your teen select a memory verse and write it on a note card. Stick the card on their bathroom mirror, where they can read it and practice reciting it while they brush their teeth. It can also work for habits that take longer, like praying for friends while they drive to school or listening to Bible books while doing 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’s better to run 1.6 km, six days a week, than 10 km, once a month. Consistency is also essential in Bible study. Even if you can’t do it every day, create a habit by starting small with something you can accomplish. Expect to miss days or even weeks. But always go back, remembering that something is better than nothing.
Reading our Bibles, however regularly, creates spiritual deposits. When we encounter difficulties, feel lost, or need encouragement, the time we have spent in God’s Word accumulates. Even if your teen can only focus on reading his Bible for five minutes twice a week, help him feel good about his 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 to model them. 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 at checkout reading your Bible instead of scrolling through social media. Make reading and studying your Bible a priority and a blessing, not a chore or something to mark on a list.
When we study the Bible, we discover the character of our God, his great love and sacrifice for us, and the incredible efforts he has made to redeem us from sin and death. Without the personal habit of studying the Bible, we miss many things that God wants to teach us. His Word is a deep, never-drying well that always provides exactly what we need. Let’s commit to consistently studying God’s Word and helping our teens do the same!
Melissa Fuller is Content Director for Love God Greatly. She loves the Word of God and is committed to seeing women around the world fall in love with Scripture and its author. She has served as editor of several Bible projects, including the She reads the Bible of truth. (in)courage Devotional Bible, Love God Much Bible and the Young girls love God Bible very much. Melissa holds a Master of Divinity from Dallas Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.