reading the bible with 6th grade guys

my church is working through the community bible experience, a program for reading through the new testament, in small groups, using a particular packaging of the bible that’s more like a book club (stripped of verse numbers and columns and other notes that clog things up). we have hundreds of people engaged in this.

our junior high pastor was smart enough to realize that it was unlikely many of our middle schoolers could or would read the quantity of scripture needed to stay up with the 8-week plan the rest of the church is using. so she, creatively, took the CBEmini version of community bible experience, that The Youth Cartel worked on and promoted (never too late to try out this great, free resource, btw), and created a customized version. CBEmini takes groups on a 9-day journey through luke and acts. but in our middle school ministry, we’re reading through luke and acts over an 8-week span. so the readings each day are substantially shorter (but still a chunk for middle schoolers!).

as a result, each week when our 6th grade guys small group meets in my home, we’re recapping and talking about the passages they read that week. honestly, about 4 or 5 of my 12 guys are earnestly trying to keep up with the readings (and i think those are guys whose parents are doing the full new testament 8-week thing, a good endorsement of parents modeling something for the family). but i’ve noticed a few things:

1. these are the easiest small group times i’ve ever prepped for. the curriculum is the bible. and, each week, i simply select a few small portions from the week’s readings, and we read those aloud together. then, i have a small handful of open-ended questions to get discussion going (stuff like: what did you notice? what might this mean for you?).

2. the guys actually listen! when one of their peers is reading scripture, they seem to automatically understand that they shouldn’t interrupt or crack jokes or take us on wild tangents about what their dog did this week.

3. my guys are incredibly patient with each other. no one laughs when the reader mispronounces something or reads too slowly. really, i’ve never seen them be this gracious with each other.

4. normally our small group time is rather hit-and-miss in terms of substance. but during these weeks, every small group discussion has been rich with insight and exploration.

5. i’m not ready to chuck other curriculum out the window. there are topics we need to talk about in our small group that would be better handled with other approaches. but i’m loving the simplicity and hidden curriculum in this whole thing: beyond the individual insights and comments, we’re teaching these 6th grade guys that reading the bible doesn’t have to be scary or impossible.

i’m lovin’ it (thanks for that, mcdonalds). and i’d encourage you to try something like this.

3 thoughts on “reading the bible with 6th grade guys”

  1. It’s so encouraging to hear about your experience, Marko. I’ve been doing something similar as a sort of experiment with three guys (6th, 7th, and 8th grader) where we get together for what we call Discipleship Huddle. The only difference really is that we are using the Sermon on the Mount. Each week we cover one new section. Sometimes it’s 20 verses, sometimes it’s only 2 verses. But regardless, the discussion is both deep and full of substance because, as you mentioned, the guys understand that there is something powerful behind other guys reading Scripture. And yes, it is the easiest discussion to prepare for because the Bible is the curriculum. I agree with you that we shouldn’t just throw out other curriculum (as it is very important for topical discussions), but I love the simplicity and reproducibility of using the Bible and just a few pointed questions. Great stuff!

  2. It’s pretty crazy Marko. Last week all I had the chance to do was introduce the passage and the discussion erupted. Miracles led to angels. Angels led to demons. Demons led to hell. Hell led to Heaven. Heaven led to ice cream? Ice cream led to suicide? The guys asked so many questions, some tied to the passage, and some not even on topic. But one thing is for sure, that they have a hunger to learn. I assured them that if they continue to read the Bible, many of the things they often wonder about will get answered. I also think we should bring back the 3×5 cards for questions so that everything gets answered– or at least in an upcoming week. 6th grade guys = crazy good.

  3. Wow, this must be God’s timing in this. I started doing a similar read through the Bible with my small group in September. We read through all of Daniel and are now mid way through Matthew. I have the same experience you’re having and it’s awesome. The other awesome thing is that it lets me see how deep my guys can really think about the scriptures and how reading the Bible can be a “non-scary” experience. Thanks for taking the charge with this and the Youth Cartel.

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