By Gayle Gresham
On the surface, Bible Bowl appears to be a simple quiz game requiring good memorization skills and speed in answering questions, but those who participate in Bible Bowl will tell you there is much more to Bible Bowl than the game.
“Students involved in Bible Bowl acquire a vast amount of Bible knowledge they can apply to their lives as they mature in their Christian walk,” says Bret Talley, National Bible Bowl director. “The knowledge, experience, friendships, and spiritual growth they gain through Bible Bowl is something they will carry with them throughout their adult lives.”
Knowledge of God’s Word
Making Bible study fun and exciting is one of the goals of Bible Bowl. Coach and former player Bill Thomas, minister of Stony Point Christian Church in Kansas City, Kansas, says, “I have found no program better to get kids into the Word and the Word into kids.”
“Learning so much of God’s Word gives you a better grasp on the things of God and has strengthened my relationship with God,” says Christian Kelley, who plays for Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Taylor Harlow, a player for Northfield Church of Christ in Fort Dodge, Iowa, adds, “I know much more of the Bible than I would have known if I hadn’t competed in Bible Bowl. I think now I could defend my beliefs much more easily, and I have a better foundation for the rest of my life.”
The challenges of Bible Bowl help build Christian character in the players. The players learn self-discipline by studying the Word of God and using memorization skills. They also learn to work together as a team. Josiah Gorman, a former player for Stony Point Christian Church, says, “It has taught me social skills—how to deal with people, how to make friends, and how to get along with people you would not normally get along with.”
Some students learn life lessons in handling success. Josiah, who led his team to the 2006 National Championship his junior year and placed third his senior year, says, “My greatest challenge in Bible Bowl was to remain humble in my later playing years and to take the Word into my heart and not just my mind.”
Christian Kelley adds, “The most important thing I learned through Bible Bowl was how much pride I had in my abilities and also how to become more humble.”
Others learn through less successful years. Tracey Chamberlain, a coach from Austin, Minnesota, who serves on the National Bible Bowl Board, says, “We have won a college tournament or two over the years, but never a national championship. Frankly, we’ve had years when we could barely answer a question. In all these cases we were able to provide our players with the opportunity to make Christian friendships, fellowship with a wider range of Christian young people, and introduce them to quite a few Christian college campuses; so even in the years we were less competitive, we were able to reach our primary objectives.”
Providing opportunities for students to build Christian relationships is another goal. “By playing Bible Bowl I’ve met a lot of different people and made so many good Christian friends,” says Chelsea Gass, who plays for Beavercreek (Ohio) Christian Church. “Even though Bible Bowl takes a lot of time and effort, it’s worth it for the relationships you make and the experiences you have.”
Bill Thomas says, “I’m not on Facebook or MySpace. But my Bible Bowl kids are, and they have connected with other Bible Bowl kids from across the country. They add to a huge social network of Christian kids. That’s exciting.”
Carie Turner, Mid-South Round Robin coordinator from Franklin, Tennessee, tells students interested in Bible Bowl, “You’re going to learn the Word of God, but you are also going to find fun, amazing, close Christian friendships with others—some of whom will be your teammates and some of whom will be Bible Bowlers from around the country.”
Bible Bowl also enhances discipleship relationships. Bill Thomas says, “I am in full-time ministry now partially due to what I learned in Bible Bowl. I have met some incredible men and women who have dedicated their lives to work ‘in the trenches’ with young people. Without fanfare or accolades, they labor to mentor and instruct kids in God’s Word and in life itself. I hope to be like them.”
For Josiah Gorman, the discipleship in Bible Bowl made a great impact. He says, “Bible Bowl has influenced my life more than any other single factor. It has provided me with a college education and a sound biblical knowledge, as well as a job. It has provided me with a mentor and many, many lifelong friends.”
The influence of Bible Bowl often carries on beyond high school. Tracey Chamberlain explains, “I know former Bible Bowlers who have decided to enter various areas of ministry and mission, including teaching positions in our Bible colleges. Several players from our teams have made good use of large amounts of scholarship dollars, earned while playing Bible Bowl, to access Christian higher education.”
For more information on the National Bible Bowl program, e-mail the Bible Bowl office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A young person interested in Bible Bowl should try it. You can make a lot of great friends in Bible Bowl, and you can have a lot of fun. The Scripture you learn will stay with you forever, and I think most people would enjoy doing it.”
—Taylor Harlow, Northfield Church of Christ, Fort Dodge, Iowa
“I would advise every young person to play Bible Bowl. While everyone will not play at the highest levels, the lessons are still there to be learned. The ability to memorize quickly and effectively, the social skills and friends to be gained, the enjoyment and fun that result from traveling with your team. Every kid should play, at least for a year; there is just too much value in it.”
—Josiah Gorman, Stony Point Christian Church, Kansas City, Kansas
“Bible Bowl provides experiences you will never forget. It enables you to grow as a person, a Christian, and as a friend to others. I encourage everyone to participate in the program for at least one year.”
—Bret Talley, National Bible Bowl director, Cincinnati, Ohio
“Sometimes the commitment to Bible Bowl looks overwhelming, so we ask youth who try Bible Bowl to have a little patience with the process. I overheard my son (a former player who now coaches with me) telling one of our new players, ‘You have to walk before you can run, but if you want to learn to walk or run, I can help you make it happen.’ The most important thing a new player can do is give himself or herself a chance to get to know the game.”
—Tracey Chamberlain, Coach, Austin, Minnesota
Gayle Gresham is a freelance writer and an active member at Elbert (Colorado) Christian Church.