A Senior Minister’s View of Bible Bowl

By Dale Harlow

After graduating from Bible college, I had two goals for ministry. The first, and I believe most important, was to help lost people find Jesus. The second was to help Christian people grow in their walk with the Lord through prayer, Bible study, and worship. Twenty-four years later, those goals have not changed.


My first experience in full-time ministry was in a youth ministry position. In my efforts to find a way to encourage youth to study the Bible, I became involved in the Bible Bowl program. To this day I have not found a better way to encourage youth in Bible study than Bible Bowl.

Bible Bowl is a quizzing game where young people commit large amounts of Scripture to memory. Players press a buzzer to answer Bible questions posed to two teams on a panel. The quickness of recall combined with an amazing amount of Scripture memorization makes it an exciting game to watch!

When I started in the program, I noticed many of the young people knew the text (the section of Scripture they studied for that year) extremely well. These days many young people memorize the entire text word for word!

This school year the text is John, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2, and 3 John. Not a bad text to memorize! Even the young people who don’t memorize the text know it well. That alone would be enough of a reason to encourage this program, but it is only part of the benefit.

Through summer tournaments, participants can visit many of our Bible college campuses. They also get to know other young people from around the country who share their commitment for God’s Word. The adults involved also benefit by learning the text. (But I would never want to actually compete against players in a game! I know they’d always beat me.)


You may be reading this article with some of the common criticisms in mind. The most common is, “Bible Bowlers learn the information, but they don’t apply it.”

My response is, “You can’t apply what you don’t know.” When I graduated from college, I did not immediately apply everything I had learned, but it sure came in handy later. Knowledge always precedes application.

My two oldest sons were in Bible Bowl for all seven years they were eligible. They now attend a state university and possess a solid foundation of the Scriptures. Their campus minister says he can tell what books of the Bible they studied for Bible Bowl, because they know them incredibly well, even years later.

We have sent many young people to Bible college from the Bible Bowl program, and I have always felt their Bible knowledge is a great benefit to them. But now I see it is every bit as important for those who go to secular universities. As their faith is attacked, what better way to stand firm than with a solid grounding in God’s Word?

Another concern of many churches and parents is the cost. While the price of materials is comparable to Sunday school curriculum, the bigger expense comes for those who travel long distances to monthly round-robin competitions or those who choose to compete in summer tournaments.

I feel it’s well worth the expense to have young people travel with committed adults (great discipling!) and to join with other young people and adults who are equally committed. As a dad, I would be willing to pay for my sons to memorize large portions of the Bible. They won’t do it for the money, but they will do it for the competition. So I’m willing to pay for the competition.

I have made many lifelong friends through the Bible Bowl program, many of whom never played for my team. We even had one former opponent from the late 1980s stop by our house this summer. Since we live in Iowa and she lives in Kentucky, it wasn’t exactly down the street! Those friendships are, as the popular commercial says, “priceless.”


My challenge to you is to give Bible Bowl a try. Contact the National Bible Bowl office (www.biblebowl.net) and ask for a starter pack. You might also want to talk to someone from a church that has a program. Most Bible Bowl sponsors are eager to help other churches begin a Bible Bowl program. The round-robin season begins in October and continues through May.

As a senior minister who is looking for ways to impact the world for Christ, I see sending youth into the world with a detailed knowledge of portions of the Bible to be a HUGE step toward the goal. I will continue to support Bible Bowl!

Dale Harlow is senior minister with Northfield Church of Christ in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and a member of the National Bible Bowl Board of Directors.

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