January 17, 2015

Donuts + Bible Study

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed some of my comments about "donuts + Bible study." It's one of the best parts of my week. Every week, my oldest son and I gather with other boys in the neighborhood for donuts and a Bible study. At first, they asked for a Bible study on sports... that was rough. Eventually, I talked them into thinking about other stuff. They decided to study different personalities in the Bible. During Advent, we studied Jesus. We are now doing a study on Paul. In the spring, they asked to go back to Jesus. This summer, we'll be studying Moses. Their choices.

We've been at this since the summer time. This last Saturday, I asked them if they wanted to keep doing this. They said that they did so I asked, "Why? What do you get out of this?" This image is what I wrote out as they responded:

With no prompting, these kids offered that they look forward to this. They said that they enjoyed being able to pray together, read the Bible together, share their thoughts about the Bible and how it makes them feel. And they felt as though they were learning something. That's pretty much verbatim. Their words.

I really get a lot out of this group of boys between the ages of 10 and 12. They really push me. When I tell stories from our studies in sermons, it's not to brag (well, maybe a little–I'm really proud of them). It's simply that some of the best theology I experience comes out of their pushing and questioning. Since I do talk about this group from time to time, some folks have asked what we do: "How is it that you're getting kids to study the Bible?!" It's not hard. I don't do anything special with these kids. I follow a few basic principles (most of them picked up from my friend, Neil Cole). So, here's what I would recommend:

Eat together.
Food brings people together. Simple. They asked for donuts. I buy them donuts every week. It costs me about $6 a week.

Read together.
Everyone reads. We take a paragraph at a time and go around the room.

Focus on the stories.
Everyone enjoys stories. The Bible was not written for 21st century ears. So, I often retell the story in my own words after we read it together.

Ask questions.
We take turns being the person to ask the question after we read the story. The questions are simple: What stands out to you? What questions do you have? What did you like about this? Those simple questions typically create a 20 minute conversation. When I get asked a specific question, I tend to reply, "That's a good question! Does anyone else have an answer?" And then I share mine. But I never hesitate to say, "I don't know" if I don't actually have an answer. Nobody seems to worry about this. We end our conversation with a simple question, "How should we respond to this?" That is to say, what are supposed to do with this information. Everyone responds and then...

Pray together.
We end by asking if there is anything else that we ought to pray for and then we each pray. Oh, and we always start with someone praying before we start each week. They ask everyone to share their high's and low's of the week, and then pray for these.

Keep it brief.
We try to keep within 30 minutes. It is Saturday after all and they want to go play as soon as possible. But this way, no one gets bored. We end while the energy and attention is high.

That's it. Not rocket science. Simple. But really fun and fulfilling.

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