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Biblical Literacy: 7 Neglected Strategies to Help Your Church Become Biblically Literate

Biblical literacy is on the decline. Try these 7 neglected strategies to help you reverse this trend.

Biblical Literacy: 7 Neglected Strategies to Help Your Church Become Biblically Literate
by

Paul Maxwell

Every church wants its members to know their Bibles.

But the Bible can often feel like a complicated book—even for those who have been reading it for years.

How can you demystify Scripture for your congregants so that they have the confidence to open their Bibles, read, and know what to do? 

Here, we’re going to delineate seven strategies for increasing biblical literacy in your church that are both fun and highly useful for your church members.

1. Run a Scripture memory program in your church

Programs such as Awana is highly useful—from kids to adults—can provide great discipleship curriculum that is deeply integrated with Scripture memory programs.

The purpose of Scripture memory is twofold. 

First, Scripture memory enables your members to gain a familiarity with Scripture in a straightforward way that engrains biblical literacy in their minds. So, when they memorize a passage from Genesis, that becomes a psychological anchor for them on which to hang anything else they might hear about the book of Genesis. 

The more Scripture they memorize from a particular book, the more easily and deeply they will be able to comprehend your preaching and teaching from that book. In this model, think of biblical literacy like a large tent, and Scripture memory as the stakes that hold down the tent. The more stakes there are, and the deeper they are planted in the ground (the longer the passages memorized), the more sturdy will be their grasp of Scripture as a whole and in its component parts.

Second, Scripture memory serves as a way for your church members to start more easily making connections between different passages of Scripture. As they work their way through a Scripture memory curriculum over the course of a year, their own lives will prompt them to make personal applications from those verses that will solidify themes across books and chapters to give them a clearer understanding of Scripture’s teaching on a particular topic. 

For example, they might memorize portions of Psalm 91 where David praises God for his care for human beings in danger, as well as portions of Genesis 39 where Joseph is cast into danger and protected by the Lord, and see the hand of God at work in their own troubles.

2. Teach through a book of the Bible at least once per year

Use this as an opportunity to showcase how to understand and apply each of the seven genres in Scripture—narrative, poetry, wisdom, gospels, epistles, prophecy, and apocalyptic literature. Every church brings a different philosophy to ministry in terms of preaching on topics, texts, themes, or cultural touch points.

3. Teach a Sunday School class on Bible study methods

Many Christians would love the opportunity to learn what seminary students learn in their Hermeneutics 101 class. Basic principles of understanding genre, the textual analysis of their English Bibles, extra-biblical tools such as historical background and Greek/Hebrew language resources, and application methods are like gold for Christians seeking to get a better understanding of Scripture.

Perhaps beginner students need more basic tools, and members who have been studying for years would benefit from more advanced information. That will depend on the size, demographic, and unique population of your church—but enabling your congregation to dig more deeply into the issues you’re talking about in your sermon could be an invaluable resource for them.

An easy way to do this is to hold a regular “Behind the Sermon” series that allows you to document the research you put into preaching on your particular text or topic and show Sunday School attendees how you got from text to sermon. The best part about this method is that you don’t have to create a whole new set of content for the class. You can showcase your own method in a way that is easy for you to explain (because the material is already in your head), and instructive for them. They can ask questions, get a handle on the tools you use, and dig deeper into the text themselves.

4. Use a simple model for applying the Bible to real life

Most people don’t just want to know trivia about the Bible. They want to understand the Bible more deeply so that they can connect more intimately with God and serve his church. In light of that, provide your congregation with a simple model for biblical application to real life that they can follow whenever they read a text. 

This could include a prayer method, a simple protocol to travel from text to application, or key questions to ask which prompt personal reflection on the themes in the text.

5. Create small group curriculum that enables deeper study

Getting your church to become more biblically literate doesn’t have to utilize a direct pastor-to-congregation method. You can leverage your church staff to craft small group curriculum based on your sermon content to help small groups go deeper in understanding the text you’re preaching on and applying it to their lives.

This is analogous to what are “membership models” in business. People pay premium fees to get access to behind-the-scenes, extra resources, and more advanced information from their favorite brands. The only difference is that, in church, you’re not trying to make money from your congregants—you’re trying to equip and serve them. There may be a cost if you provide certain books or resources, but best practice in this area is to make these resources as close to free as possible.

6. Partner with a local seminary

Most churches are within a 1-hour drive of a major seminary. Because of this, churches have access to the world’s leading experts and scholars in biblical and theological studies. I recently taught a 5-hour class on the Trinity for a group of churches who get together once per month to dig deeper into the Bible. We had lively Q&A, lunch, facilitated popcorn questions, asked hard questions of the biblical text, and had a lot of fun learning along the way. 

This is a common practice. It may be worth partnering with other churches in your area to financially support an initiative where you bring in a new scholar each month, or each quarter, to teach on a book of the Bible or a practical issue facing the church. It may even be worth bringing in a “pastoral studies” professor to teach and do live Q&A on going into ministry for those in your church whom God has called into church leadership positions.

7. Do a “Bible Q&A” event with the pastor

Events like this are a fantastic opportunity to create a night of fun for the church. Throw a party. Bring food. Start and end with a couple of worship songs from the creative team. When you market this event to your church, have them prepare their most interesting and nagging questions about the Bible.

The best way to facilitate this in order to make it most valuable for your congregants is to have a text-messaging service to which members can text their questions. But before that, you want to have as many questions as possible submitted as early as possible so that you can spend the weeks and months prior preparing your very best answers to the questions. Then, have your team send you a few vetted questions. 

Over to you

Your church members want to understand the Bible better. It’s that simple. And as a church leader who is regularly creating Bible-oriented content, you can scale that content into all of these opportunities for your church to grow in their knowledge of the Bible beyond the content of the sermon.

Here they are again, in summary:

  1. Run a Scripture memory program in your church.
  2. Teach through a book of the Bible at least once per year.
  3. Teach a Sunday School class on Bible study methods.
  4. Use a simple model for applying the Bible to real life.
  5. Create small group curriculum that enables deeper study.
  6. Partner with a local seminary.
  7. Do a “Bible Q&A” event with the pastor.
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Biblical Literacy: 7 Neglected Strategies to Help Your Church Become Biblically Literate