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Bible Bowls: Textual preparation or trivial pursuit?

Jonathon Haven and Kira Spencer from the Bristol Road Church of Christ in Flint, Mich., celebrate winning Bible Bowl medals. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

A number of readers weighed in last month on Bible Bowls across the nation.
Some of that excellent feedback made its way into The Christian Chronicle’s Page 1 print report on that issue, published as part of our ongoing “God’s story” series:

WALLED LAKE, MICH. – It’s no secret that today’s young people value hands-on ministry: feeding the hungry, painting houses for the elderly, providing coats for the homeless.
Youths go on international mission trips and seek to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus.
But do they devote themselves to in-depth study of the Bible?

Read the full story.

  • Feedback
    Bible Bowl can be successful if the participants learn how to study the Bible and if the emphasis is on higher order thinking and not short answers. Also, what is the purpose of a contest? Wouldn’t it be better if students prepared to meet together for a discussion, or a debate?
    Teresa Nystrom
    April, 8 2011

    While the study method does not lend itself to a true understanding of the Word, it DOES get our kids reading.
    Having been involved in many “Bible Bowl”/”Bible Jeopardy” competitions, I can speek to both the lack of understanding with the “Cramming” the kids do to learn, but when it is also part of classes that ask about what they have read the understanding comes along. My own sons have talked to me about this, and how they both quit the competitions for that reason, and that the ones who would do anything to win.
    If done right, I believe that these competitions can help get kids into the bible and eventually learning about Christ and living for Him. The key is remembering that winning is not the goal, rather teaching about Christ.
    Paul Johnson
    April, 8 2011

    Bible Bowl competitions for kids and youth, while they obviously aren’t a deep study of the sacred text, do one thing very well: they spark curiosity and get kids reading. These days, anything that gets our youngsters away from the TV, the video games, and the cell-phone is a big positive step. Bible Bowls get the seed planted, and even if there are those who misuse them, they deserve to be supported.
    Steve Wicker
    April, 8 2011

    We teach Bible Bowl for the LTC program at our congregation. We spent from Aug.-Dec. teaching the text of Revelation and the spiritual applications. We felt that was more important than just knowing the answers to the questions. We do hope they bring home golds, but would much more prefer for them to lead faithful lives pleasing to God. I hope all Bible Bowl teachers feel the same way.
    Rebekah Chappel
    April, 8 2011

    I was discussing this topic the other day with my daughter. In Churches of Christ we have a tendency to study the Bible by looking at it through a straw. We are very good at studying words and verses but we seem totally ambivilant about the big themes of scripture. Bible bowls just seem to strengthen that notion. Once when I ught a class of middle schoolers I asked them, “What is the plurpose of God? What is he trying to do in the world?” many of the kids had never considered the question before. Something is wrong with that. I’m not against Bible bowls but we need to be teaching a systematic theology as well.
    Joel Maners
    April, 8 2011

    I played Bible Bowl as a teenager and have coached Bible Bowl as an adult. I can understand the concern about if the proper emphasis is placed on learning God’s Word rather than on winning trophies and medals. To me, that is the coaches’ responsibility to make sure kids are actually learning the text rather than focusing on trivial minutiae to win a trophy. It is possible to achieve both goals.
    In the end, God promises that His Word will not return empty. If you teach kids to hide God’s Word in their heart…and Bible Bowl is a good method to do that…what is the problem?
    Erin Haven
    April, 9 2011

    My late husband was a Bible Bowl Coach for several years and
    I made up the study sheets. The kids pushed us to study with them. It was fun, exciting, and challenging. Now, over 30 years later, I have the privilege of seeing the wonderful Christians they have become. Without exception, all of the team members are active in the Lord’s work. Some of the boys have gone on to become Elders, the girls are good Christian mothers, Bible Class teachers, and involved in the work of the Church. Just recently in a small group Bible Study, one of our former “Bowlers” was very vocal about the Biblical teaching in a certain subject. Afterwards, I told her, kiddingly, she shouldn’t be so shy, she should just say what she believes. She grinned back at me and said, “You and Richard shouldn’t have taught me to think for myself.” That statement tells me that the College Bowl style of competition was more than just quick answers to questions. I’ve decided that studying the Bible by whatever method is a good thing. As adults we might think roundtable discussion is the best way but to kids who are competitive, bright, and are accustomed to playing games, the more challenge in the studym, the more they learn. As a footnote, our teams retired undefeated.
    Edna Osborn
    April, 11 2011

    I know these parents and I am proud that they have a home life that involves true Christian ideals of service for the Lord. God, give us many such homes.
    Paul E ckstein
    April, 14 2011

    I’m a Wesleyan Bible quizzer who stumbled upon this page while searching for some study methods. Bible Bowl has been an amazing experience for me- the verses we memorize have stayed with me years after I first learned them. Without quizzing, I would never have met many of the people I call my closest friends. My team emphasizes not only putting the Word in our heads, but in our hearts as well. Before each practice, one of the coaches leads a devotional time in which we look deeper into the book(s) we are studying. I love quizzing; competitions and practices are a lot of fun and I feel that I’ve grown in my relationship with Jesus because of Bible Bowl. It’s a great experience!
    June, 16 2011

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