By Robert Spruill
Three years from now National Bible Bowl will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Since Bible Bowl’s creation, thousands of youth have benefited from the opportunity it provides for in-depth study of the Scriptures. Each year a portion of the Bible is chosen as the text that serves as the basis for competitions at the local and national tournaments. Participants study that text for the entire Bible Bowl season, which runs from October through May, but extends into June and July for teams that compete beyond local round robin tournaments.
Many players memorize all or part of the text during the year and compete for a chance to win scholarships from Christian colleges and other prizes. Those who have participated in, helped with, or attended a Bible Bowl competition can attest to the competitiveness of the games and the time and effort many of these kids invest in studying the Word of God.
However, I think Bible Bowl, and its goal as a ministry, has been underrated and misunderstood for some time. I believe Bible Bowl impacts its participants far beyond their time in the program. I would like to share a few of these benefits.
An objection I hear regularly concerning Bible Bowl is that the program is too focused on winning games and not on internalizing the Word of God. It is unfortunate, but true, that within Bible Bowl you may find some players and sponsors who fit this stereotype. However, every organization has a few people who lack vision and principle, and that fact should not be used to judge the value of the entire program.
The overwhelming majority of Bible Bowl coaches and players are involved with the program because they desire a more detailed knowledge of the Bible. Fewer than half of the Bible Bowl teams in America attended this year’s national competition, and only a handful of teams that came to Cincinnati expected to win the national title. This fact alone should demonstrate that winning is not everything to the vast majority of Bible Bowl teams.
Instead, most of the coaches in Bible Bowl give their time and energy because they see firsthand how much their players are learning every week. There are few things as impressive as hearing an eighth-grade student quote entire chapters from Genesis verbatim, but this isn’t at all unusual at Bible Bowl practices! While Bible knowledge is the most obvious benefit, it is certainly not the only reason to love the program.
The goal of the Bible Bowl program is not just to give kids “head” knowledge. Ultimately, the desire is for these children to use Scripture they learn in Bible Bowl as a foundation for Christian maturity. The program’s leaders believe the Word of God, more than anything else, will produce positive change in the lives of young people.
We live in a time when many children who are raised in the church leave it after they go off to college. While no one thing can fix this issue, Bible Bowl leaders believe instilling more of God’s Word into our students is a great place to start. I think of Bible knowledge as a natural resource from which the Holy Spirit works to help all of us become more like Christ.
One of the most important long-term benefits of Bible Bowl is that it lays a foundation for Christian growth. Coaches and ministry leaders commonly help participants move beyond simply knowing the text into the realm of life application.
Another benefit of Bible Bowl is better experienced than heard. Spend some time with the “Bible Bowl crowd” at the next North American Christian Convention and you will realize how much these kids love one another.
Bible Bowl introduces kids in our churches to hundreds of other kids who, like them, are committed to learning the Bible. Players are serious about the competition, but still encourage and pray for one another. This camaraderie builds a lasting fellowship that connects students and provides them with a trusted Christian support network that can last a lifetime.
It is hard to believe Bible Bowl is almost 50 years old. It’s impossible to measure the impact the program has had on individual Christians during that span of time.
Our movement has always been committed to standing firmly upon God’s Word as our only rule for faith and practice. Bible Bowl exists as an organization to help immerse our youth in that great tradition so they carry the banner of Christian truth and unity into the future.
If you are interested in learning more about Bible Bowl, visit www.biblebowl.net or e-mail me at Robert@biblebowl.net.
Robert Spruill is director of outreach with National Bible Bowl.