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In Michigan, students compete in Great Lakes Bible Bowl state finals

Blogging from Walled Lake, Mich.
I attended the Great Lakes Bible Bowl state finals Sunday at the Walled Lake Church of Christ, about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.

Amber Hall, left, and Mikaela Kelley, both 13, prepare for the Great Lakes Bible Bowl state finals at the Walled Lake Church of Christ in Michigan. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

The video above features the Walled Lake Miracles — the church’s junior team — studying the Gospel of John during Sunday morning Bible class.
I’m working on a feature on the Michigan event as part of The Christian Chronicle’s ongoing “God’s story” series on Bible-related trends and issues.
I’m curious about other Bible Bowls across the nation.
Among my questions:
• What other Bible Bowls do you know about? What are they like? Do any user buzzer systems and pit two teams against each other?
• Did you compete in Bible Bowls as a child? What do you recall about the experiences? How, if at all, did they contribute to your spiritual development?
• Are Bible Bowls as popular and prevalent as they used to be? Why or why not?
Your comments are welcomed. Please include your name and home congregation in case we decide to quote you.

  • Feedback
    Our congregation hosts a Bible Bowl each year in April. Ours has grown every year for the past five years. The Northwest (Idaho) isn’t the strongest area for the church, but we get a great response. Each team of four (or three) has to reveal their A, B, or C answers to their scorekeeper at the same time. We do 200 questions! Little fatherly bragging here – my son won ours last year in the 7th grade with a score of 195!
    March, 24 2011

    In South Carolina, we have the State-wide Bible Bowl on the last Saturday of February. We have pre-teens, teens, adults, and senior adult division. We pit two teams against each other – double elimination. Yes, we use the buzzer/light system.
    Yes, I competed as a child. I find this time to do an intensed study of a Bible Book. I think by focusing on this book for two-three months, we were able to get down into the deails. I wouldn’t give nothing for this time of study.
    We found this year, as we had a New Testament book (Matthew), that we did not have quite at many has we had last year. However, I understand that one of the larger congregation went to a Youth Rally elsewhere. I know the kids really enjoy the competition and learning.
    I do feel that with children we should concentrate more on the New Testament books so they can get the understanding of what it takes to become a Christian.
    I am a Senior Adult and I still enjoy participating in the Bible Bowls.
    Kay Yenny, St. Andrews Road Church of Christ
    Kay Yenny
    March, 24 2011

    LTC and Lads to Leaders both host Bible Bowls and are still very active and popular. I am the coordinator at my congregation for LTC at the Dallas / Fort Worth area which had to split into 3 venues in different places because of the enormous growth. Our kids love it. Its hard work but the rewards they get by participating are more than worth it. There something about being in a room without thousands of other kids who have all been through the same thing and sharing that fellowship. Also LTC has many other events the kids can participate in. One of members has many wood cutting and wood burning tools and he is now more involved because he taught the kids how to create a sculpture that fits our theme and they will receive an additional medal because of that. It gets more people involved, the kids enjoy it and they study their bibles during times outside of the normal bible class time. Its a win/win for everyone.
    I grew up in the church and I participated in Bible Bowls in the Houston Area. I enjoyed it then and still have many fond memories of the fellowship I shared by studying the Bible with my friends. Back then we used buzzers, but now the kids hold a cube with the letters A – D on it and show their answer to a scorrer. Its a good system and there is very little pressure compared to the buzzer system. I think because of LTC and Lads to Leaders Bible Bowls are still strong and I hope they continue to get stronger.
    John Dunigan
    March, 24 2011

    Hello Bobby,
    I run the annual Summit / Miami Valley Bible Bowl at the Summit congregation in Cold Spring, KY. We just had our 25th anniversary Bible Bowl on March 5-6 on the book of John. Our competition is in two phases. On Saturday we have a 100 multiple choice where everybody participates and answers the same questions. We call Saturday’s competition Day 1. We give individual MVP awards as well as team awards. We then use the rankings to seed teams for Sunday’s team vs team competition using buzzer panels. We call it Day 2 and give individual MVP awards as well as team awards. The kids love the buzzer panels.
    We had Ohio Valley University, Freed-Hardeman and Crowley’s Ridge College represented and give small scholarships to the top players and teams. We had 27 total teams playing consisting of 132 players this year (eight adults even played) and 275 total visitors from Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. We have children playing who are kids that once played. At our peak 15 years ago we had 52 teams but we average 24 to 34 teams every year.
    A good Bible Bowl takes hard word by those putting it on as well as those studying and participating. There seems to be more and more choices and activities competing for the same time commitment. We always try to make ours fun with fellowship and singing to allow bonds to occur which cannot be duplicated in the world. I have made so many dear friends and met so many people over the years that I count as some of my best friends. I have had the privelege of marrying two young people that met at our Bible Bowl. I know of many, many kids that have put the Lord on in baptism as a direct or indirect result of participating in Bible Bowl.
    Are Bible Bowls as popular as they once were? Probably not. It would be a shame if Bible Bowls fade away simply because its hard work or other choices become more important than the study of God’s word. But as long as I have one team of children that want to play Bible Bowl, I will prepare questions and help them have fun showing what they have learned from God”s word.
    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts about Bible Bowl.
    Bruce Adams, elder
    Summit church of Christ
    Bruce Adams
    March, 24 2011

    I didn’t know they still went on. My grandfather used to talk about being in them as a child, but that was in the 1930’s.
    Wayne Johnson
    March, 24 2011

    The only Bible Bowls I know about these days are through Lads-to-Leaders and Leadership Training for Christ programs. Perhaps some private Christian schools and homeschool groups also participate, but I don’t know of any in particular.
    Janice Milford Enlow
    March, 24 2011

    I know of smaller churches in rural area still doing them in like Oklahoma and Texas panhandles but I work at an much bigger church and never hear anything like bible bowls. Growing once year in southwest Kansas they was always a yearly bible bowl that we would study for and once actually went to OKC to participate in a huge one. My little brother lives in The panhandle of Texas and last year I think won a nice size trophy from a bible bowl.
    Danny Lee
    March, 24 2011

    I grew up in the 70s in the San Joaquin Valley in Calif. We had around 25 teens and competed with area congregations once a month. It was held at the winning congregations church. We had a blast. Not only studying and preparing for the competition but being with the teens from the neighboring churches. We looked forward to getting together for the Bible Bowl as well as the Area Wide Singings. We were all friends and usually one of them were your first boyfriend or girlfiend.
    So around four years ago our minister, Marshall Brookey, decided we would reveive the bible bowl as part of our Youth Rally we have once a year. We put on the registration forms what book of the bible to study.Instead of each congreagtion having a team we put the teens on teams for the weekend and they competed. Marshall asked the question gave the team 1 minute to answer used a bell to signal “times up.” If they could not the next team could answer the question or ask for a new question. They really seemed to enjoy it.
    Thank you for asking us to go down memory lane. Seems like only yesterday (wow, 38 years ago)it was a Tuesday night. I was worrying about what I was going to wear, if my hair was perfect and was I going to get to see that special boy from the neighboring congregation.
    Karen Gilpin/Garrett
    Porterville Church of Christ
    Porterville, Ca.
    Karen Garrett
    March, 24 2011

    Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful responses.
    Keep ’em coming!
    Bobby Ross Jr.
    March, 24 2011

    I can certainly answer your middle questions–I fondly remember competing as a child in the Edmond (OK) area once or twice, maybe at Memorial Road CofC, in the mid-1980’s. I think our church (Dayspring) did reasonably well. More than the competition itself, though, I remember hours of study one particular year when we did Joshua and Judges (and maybe Ruth–escapes me now). Bob Baker was our tireless (and unpaid!) leader and we spent many a fun-filled hour at his house going through the books in incredible detail. I can’t explain exactly why I found it so fun, but it sure was for me. Maybe it was the feeling of really mastering something in a totally different way. To this day I feel a closer connection to those stories, even (or especially) to some of the more outrageous ones, than many others in the Bible. Home church today: A&M Church of Christ, College Station, Texas.
    Kyle Tippens
    March, 24 2011

    We go to the Sycamore Bible Bowl in Cookeville, TN every September. We also have two “in-house” Bible Bowl nights a year where our kids get to play against the adults.
    Curiously, here Bible Bowl is significantly more popular with our younger kids (grades 2-7) than it is with our teens. I wonder how common that is across the board.
    Ben Wiles
    March, 24 2011

    The Weber Road Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas will have its 28th annual Bible Bowl in November. All congregations are welcomed to participate. Attendance has been increasing each year. For more info see http://bb.theseeker.org/.
    Jay Crook
    March, 24 2011

    s a teen (late 80’s), I participated in both locally held (Texas panhandle) and at ACU & OC. Been living in Ohio for the past decade, and found out about OVU last year. Some of my children participated, but I don’t really hear about them much at all.
    Laura Tokosh
    March, 24 2011

    There are several congregations in SoCal that get together every year for Bible Bowl. We just hosted the 13th annual at Cany View in San Siego. We were blessed with over 130 young people that studied hard. It was great fun.
    Gayla Giles
    March, 24 2011

    I competed in Bible Bowls in high school and coached teams while in college. I have decidedly mixed feelings about their value. On the one hand it does get students into the word, and provides motivation for those who need it. The fellowship during the competitions is wonderful. However, in my later years I have had some serious misgivings about Bible Bowls. The focus on medals, trophies and awards is completely opposite of the biblical teaching to consider others above yourself. Also, the focus on the tiniest little bits of Bible trivia is misdirected. Memorizing the exact route of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey or the camping locations of the children of Israel complete with the NASB spelling means nothing when it comes to the purpose of Bible study – the transformation of our hearts and minds. We can memorize entire chapters of the Bible and remain biblically illiterate. I would have to have some significant assurances about the goals of a particular program before I allow my daughter to participate. Sorry to be a “gloomy Gus,” but I have seen the beast from the inside and I am no longer convinced that the end result is what we want it to be. I hope I am wrong.
    Paul Smith
    March, 24 2011

    There used to be several congregations that would get together through the fall and winter months and the children up to age 18 would compete against each other. As I said “Used To Be”. My children took part in the Bible Bowls, way back when, and they made friends with kids that were their age from other congregations. This friendship has lasted for years. It’s a shame that there isn�t more of Bible Bowls. I am fascinated by watching and listening to these real young people answer questions. What we have been doing is having our own Bible Bowl for the children of our congregation because we don�t know of any other congregations around us that still participate in Bible Bowls.
    Rusty Hutchinson
    March, 25 2011

    Our congregation (Friendly Avenue Church of Christ) is going to have a “Battle of the Brains” Bible Bowl at the end of April. It is pitting the older adults against the teens on Wednesday night on the book of Romans. The teens have been studying it for the LTC program.
    Polly Scott
    March, 25 2011

    There should be lots of Bible Bowls. Hosea says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”.
    Donna Horne
    March, 25 2011

    I was never exposed to Bible Bowls growing up, but would have thoroughly enjoyed participating and the competition. The congregation I attend currently participates in the annual Bible Bowl in Cookeville, TN. As a Sunday School teacher, I spend the summer helping my kids prepare. However, I must agree with Paul Smith. The preparation and types of questions that are being asked tend focus on memorization and figuring out how to best guess the answer even if you don’t know it. You have to know correct spellings, and the chapter and verse of a specific edition of a specific translation. The questions are difficult for even adults to answer after multiple indepth studies of the material. But there seems to be little emphasis on life application, cultural context, biblical background and context, etc. In my class, I try to focus on a more complete knowledge, understanding, and application of the selected material. To me, if you truly know the Bible and understand it, then you can’t help but do well in the Bible Bowl competition, but only if it focuses less on the linguistic and technical aspects of the verses and more on its content and meaning. The content and meaning is what will stick with the kids as they grow into Christian adults.
    March, 25 2011

    The Heber Springs Church of Christ in Arkansas, has a had a yearly Bible Bowl for the past 7 years. We meet the first Saturday in April and the students (ages 4th grade through high school) take 4 tests of 25 multiple choice questions. Then they take the “big” fill in the blank test.
    Out of the first four tests the team results are decided and the out of all five tests the individual results are decided. We do not use the buzzer system.
    In our first year, we had 31 participants and this year we have over 160 that are currently signed up to pariticipate. I don’t know if Bible Bowls are common or not, but we are very excited about it here in Heber Springs. I don’t know if they are growing or declining in popularity but if this one continues to grow, we are going to have to rent out a bigger facitily.
    I believe that there is nothing more important than getting everyone, young and old, into the truth of the Bible.
    Lance Mays
    March, 25 2011

    In northeast Arkansas, we have a monthly Bible Bowl of various congregations which compete for ‘banners.’ There are two divisions: a junior division (grades 1-6) and a senior division (grades 7-12). There has also been talk of adding an adult division!
    The attendance has been down this year, but we hope that the interest level increases next year.
    Chad Wagner
    March, 25 2011

    I wish Bible bowls would emphasize learning the point being made in the Bible over the dates, locations, & names. It is important to me that my son knows what John has to say about some specific topic and where that can be found. I sometimes fear Bible bowls turning into trivia contests where the point is to gain knowledge for knowledge sake instead of the application of that knowledge.
    Mark Maxey
    March, 25 2011

    Our young people at North Central Church of Christ in Indianapolis have enjoyed doing Bible Bowl through Midwest LTC. I love that it is not competitive – just doing the best you can and getting some recognition for your hard work. My children have learned thoroughly the contents of three books of the Bible in a way they don’t learn in Sunday school. I notice when a story comes up in the sermon from one of the books they’ve learned, they immediately start listening more intently. Bible Bowl study is helping to lay a foundation of Bible knowledge upon which they via the Holy Spirit can build their lives.
    Sarah Palmer
    March, 25 2011

    I had a son in Bible Bowl in the 80’s in Texas. They studied
    quite a bit and learned a lot of Bible. I believe this was with the Lads To Leaders as well.
    However, by the time my daughter was in the Bible Bowl (late 90’s) at same congregation they gave her choices of Bible Bowl competition OR
    puppets, memorization,art,singing, acting in small plays,etc. and more which I cannot recall.(It was all related to a Biblical principle or scripture) Unfortunately, I could not persuade her to do the Bible Bowl Competition. She was into the other “fun” things but really not learning the Bible as much as if she’d participated in the Bible Bowl. I’m not blaming anyone in our church or our programs. It’s just I did not have as much control over her decisions by then, unfortunately.
    I have neices & nephews in WV and who participate in Bible Bowl but don’t do any of those other things. It’s not offered. In my opinion, these sometimes smaller churches have their priorities right.
    When I was a child and teen back east we received a Sunday and a Wed. night class workbook with lessons. It really was just a fill-in the-blank and very easy. However, it did get us into reading our Bible story and at least get involved a bit. It seems like lots of classes today we just sit and listen and not everyone HAS to study except our teachers ofcourse. As a child I knew my mother would check if I did my lesson and if I was prepared for class. As an adult of course it’s MY responsibility and mine alone. But I still feel like
    we & our children could get away without studying and no one would know! (except God) because all we do is sit and listen…and maybe that’s not enough for many of us because we do not have the self-discipline. What do you think? I know that there are many different ways to learn.
    Sincerely, Sue
    March, 25 2011

    I have been involved with Bible Bowl sponsered by the Sycamore Church of Christ in Cookeville,Tn. for over 20 years as a “coach” and I think it has been the greatest thing that my children have ever been involved in. Is it competetive? Yes sometimes too much . Did they get tired? Yes! But they learned so much about the Bible that they would not have otherwise by just sitting in Bible class.No offense to regular Bible study but concentrating on 1 book for several months really leaves a lasting impression on the young minds.some do not like the competition but we tell our kids they are all winners for studying the word of God! We do reward them with a special trip or outing fot all who participate. We have teams of 4 who study together from June until September. It does focus a lot on memorization but what does not in this world of facts.We have about equal numbers of Junior teams (up to 6th grade) and Seniors (7-12 grade). Come to Cookeville, Tn. on the 1st Sat of September at Tennessee Tech Univ. and see the entire gym filled with young folks(approx 1000)and coaches (another 400 or so)plus plus onlookers) who have spent their summer studying God’s word.I was not raised in a Christian home & I never had the opportunity to study the Word.I have learned so much myself as a coach.It’s a great opportunity to study and learn! Bible Bowl is still alive and well in the South. There are problems with everything but the good outweighs the problems that some see with Bible Bowl. Study to show thyself approved unto God.
    March, 25 2011

    In June, Lincoln Christian University will be the site of the Lincoln Land Classic regional Bible Bowl. My understanding is that LCU is perhaps the place that Bible Bowl tournaments originated. In July, the national Bible Bowl will be held in Cincinnati and it’s a pretty big deal. A number of colleges, including LCU, award some fairly sizeable scholarships at the national tourney. I can connect you with the coordinator of the LCU event and the national tournament, if you’d like.
    Palmer Muntz
    March, 26 2011

    Hello Paul,
    Your understanding of where Bible Bowl started is incorrect. There were small accapella congregations that were doing a form of Bible Bowl during the Great Depression.
    Bruce Adams
    March, 27 2011

    My daughter and 11 other students from our congregation just participate on the Bible Bowl hosted by the Camp Hill Church of Christ last weekend. I know this one has been going on for over 20 years.
    Doji Dove
    March, 27 2011

    We started a Bible Bowl program for second through fifth graders at our church in 1991 when my oldest son was in the fourth grade. The following year, we took a team of middle and high schoolers to Freed-Hardeman University to compete in their Bible Bowl and had a wonderful experience. FHU had a great Bible Bowl that we went to each year in the 90s and into the 2000s. Unfortunately, FHU discontinued their Bowl in 2007.
    The Bible Bowl for the elementary-aged kids has continued and we eventually invited other local congregations to participate. Typically, the local Bible Bowl in Knoxville has anywhere from 75 to 100 kids from 6-8 congregations participating.
    I think Bible Bowls have declined over the years because of the number of competing activities kids have today. Our congregation’s participation has remained strong over the years because of the emphasis we place on daily Bible study and our children’s desire to do well. Parents have typically encouraged their children and we try very hard to make learning the Bible fun (we use Jeopardy as a tool for learning and playing each week).
    I personally have grown through my continued participation in our Bible Bowl program even eight years after my oldest child graduated. It gives me a better perspective of learning God’s Word and helps me stay in touch with our congregation’s younger families.
    Mark Kohring
    Hardin Valley Church of Christ
    Knoxville, Tennessee
    Mark Kohring
    March, 28 2011

    My children have participated in Bible Bowls in Hooker,Ok; LTC, Monahans,TX; Abilene,TX; LubbockTX; and ACU(who discontinued their Bible Bowl a year or two ago due to lack of response.)
    I fondly remember Bible Bowl when I was a kid. We went to Duncan, Ok, OCC and ACU. The facts I learned studying for those Bowls have stuck with me even after all these years. What I learned from the chapter quizzes helps me to find scriptures even now.
    Not only that I have fond memories of the fun we had in preparing the kids for Bible Bowl.
    The popularity of Bible Bowls seems to be declining with all the other activities that kids are involved in today. I believe Bible Bowls play a valuable role in getting our kids in the word. With a little hard work congregations could see improvement in participation.
    Stephanie Skelton, Seymour Church of Christ
    Stephanie Skelton
    March, 29 2011

    I participated in Bible Bowls in the early to mid 1990s up and down California, including Chico, Vallejo, Pleasanton, Modesto, and Fullerton. All of them that I remember were a 5 round, 20-question, A-D multiple choice. 3 rounds on Saturday morning, lunch, followed by two rounds and an award ceremony. There were 3-4 people on a team. The winner of the two teams got to stay in their seats for the following round, while the other team moved along to the next table, like a circuit. You got to meet folks from other churches, which was fun. Afterwards was an evening fellowship activity, whether Six Flags, lazertag, Disneyland, or wherever.
    Part of Bible Bowls was a lot of fun, diving into God’s Word and learning about books that you didn’t always cover in Bible classes. I was trained to memorize facts, places, names, etc. You hope God provides the “teachable moments” to not only add to Bible knowledge, but convert a little of that into wisdom.
    March, 30 2011

    i would lie to join you in bible bowl.
    i am from kenya
    my church is mogesa church of christ
    in kisii
    God bless you
    but pliz help with a bible
    jackline nyarusa
    p o box 1906 – 40200
    kisii – kenya.
    April, 1 2011

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