This is a repost from last year, but it bears repeating, as I am more convinced than ever that teachers need to make this a priority. Please pass it on.
Before advocating for teaching children and youth primarily from a printed Bible, I want to fully affirm that the following are true, whether we teach the Bible from a digital device or from a traditional printed book:
- The Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
- The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
- The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
- The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.
The medium we use does not change or alter these truths. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. One media theorist went so far as to famously say, “The medium is the message.” This means that the vehicle—book, TV, iPhone, etc.—used to transmit a message can’t help but shape and even alter the meaning of the message it brings.
There are four reasons I advocate primarily using a physical, printed Bible for teaching children and youth.
- A printed Bible helps remind our children and youth that the Bible is utterly unique, “set-apart,” holy. Consider one example: By the time my grandson was five years old, he knew how to use his parent’s iPad and was able to use it to access educational games, videos, family pictures, and more. That same iPad can also be used to access God’s holy Word. In his mind, the device is a smorgasbord of options. Will God’s Word stand out to him as unique and holy when it is among these other fun options? Won’t it more likely be diminished to merely one more app?
- Using a printed Bible reinforces the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Every time we look up an individual text, we are reminded that it is tied (and literally “bound”) to the whole of Scripture and occupies a certain historical place (i.e., Old Testament and New Testament).
- A printed Bible lends itself to a better understanding of the permanence and unchanging nature of Scripture. Digital devices lose power, get viruses and bugs, and are constantly being improved upon. Yet my husband still has his grandfather’s Bible from more than a century ago. Will the device your child uses to access the Bible today still be usable in even 20 years? It’s not likely.
- A printed Bible can assist our children and youth to make a more personal connection with Scripture and, by God's grace, embrace it. I still have the Bible my parents gave me 40 years ago. It has underlining, notes in the margins, and other personal reflections. It records the testimony of how God personally fed and nourished me with His holy Word during those early years as a Christian. Printed Bibles provide this same opportunity for our children and youth.
I do believe there is a place for using a digital form of Scripture, whether it be on a device, PowerPoint, etc. There are times and situations where digital may be preferred and beneficial. But in the classroom and for our children’s personal study and devotions, I believe the printed Word is preferable. Even if you use a digital device to prepare your lesson, I would encourage you to read from a printed Bible in the classroom and encourage your students to do the same. This is invaluable modeling for impressionable children.
Finally, I would encourage you to read Matthew Barrett’s article, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church.” Although it is directed at pastors, all the principles are applicable to teachers. Here is his conclusion:
No doubt, my warning touches an uncomfortable and irritable nerve. To insult our use of technology is one of the seven deadly sins in the 21st century. Technology infiltrates and saturates everything we do, and therefore defines everything we are, for better or worse. But is this subtle shift changing the way we read the Scriptures? Is it ever-so-quietly removing the visual centerpiece of the local assembly? I think so.