By Jennifer Johnson
Bible Bowl tournaments are happening in churches, on college campuses, at conventions—and in a jail in Circleville, OH.
When Kevin Littler became chaplain at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility, he wanted to create opportunities for Bible study, and believed competition could be the draw to encourage participation. Josiah Gorman, executive director at the National Bible Bowl office in Cincinnati, encouraged Littler to contact Bill Thomas, the new minister at nearby Northridge Church of Christ.
“I know the life of a senior minister is very hectic, and I was simply hoping he could recommend a volunteer to coach a team,” Littler says. “Bill stepped up and asked to be that volunteer.”
Thomas completed a short training course and began meeting with the team early last year, creating study sheets and using an old buzzer board for practices. The gatherings included not only memory drills over the assigned texts, but also “spirited and thoughtful” discussions of the material. Last summer, he recruited former players from Northridge and other churches to compete against them—and the CJCF kids won three out of four games!
Littler and the facility’s administration are huge advocates of the program, and Gorman says response within the Bible Bowl community has also been overwhelmingly positive.
“So many people have asked me to share their thanks with Kevin and Bill for the good work they’re doing, and some have even donated to the project,” he says. “Two churches gave buzzer boards, and many are praying consistently for the program and for the young men who are involved.”
After the July tournament, a few people expressed interest in starting Bible Bowl programs at other correctional facilities. Littler says they’re hoping to create teams at each of the four juvenile facilities in Ohio.
“These teams will then compete in tournaments that will correspond to the school breaks, with an annual championship match,” he says. “The tournaments will take place using the video conferencing equipment already in place at each of the facilities. The long-term vision even includes previously jailed youth returning as adults to coach future teams. Many of these youth have never been exposed to God’s Word. Knowing the Bible gives them a new vocabulary for understanding how God’s leading them.”