I have been a “leader” in the church (in one way or another) for several years now. One thing I have come to notice is that different generations view the Bible differently. I grew up going to a small church filled with “old people” (sorry Mrs. Donnelly). Mrs. Donnelly, better known by some as “Blazer Betty” was my Sunday School Teacher growing up. She was the one who taught me about Moses, Samson, Adam & Eve, Paul, Jesus, and many others. She was the one who made church ‘fun.’ I will never forget her passion for the Bible (among other things). It didn’t matter if it was singing, her Blazers, or church; there was one thing that she was WAY more passionate about: The Bible! She made a huge impact on me. Even though the life lessons she taught has taken me years to begin to understand, I am thankful for her passion for Jesus and the Bible.
What seems like a simple word is soo powerful. I graduated from a Bible College, where I was taught how to study, read, teach, articulate, and engage with The Bible. I am thankful for that opportunity I was granted. Like I said earlier, I have been a “leader” to some degree, for several years in a church setting. Youth ministry, children’s ministry, family ministry, college ministry, adult ministry, worship ministry, the list keeps going. But, I have found that there are many different views of the Bible. I have also found that different age groups (generations) view the Bible differently.
I found a study that the Barna Group did in 2009 that discusses how attitudes change among different generations towards the Bible. The study was done within 5 separate studies. It used over 1,000 people to accumulate the data.
Below, I have summarized the study into 6 areas of differences among different generations. If you would like to read the study for yourself, you can check it out here.
Skeptic of the Origins: Young adults tend to be more skeptical when it comes to the “original manuscripts of the Bible” then older generations. Often, they are more vocal about their skepticism.
View the Bible as Universal: The studies showed that those ages 18-25 (56%) believe that the Bible teaches the same exact thing as other sacred texts, then say the 4 out of 10 people ages 26-44 and one-third of those ages 64+.
Less Accurate: 30% of those 18-25 and 39% of those 26-44 embrace the view that the Bible is strongly accurate in all the principles it teaches. Compared to the 46% ages 45-63, and 58% of those 64+ who hold the same view.
Less Sacred: Most Americans identify the Bible as a sacred text. 9 out of 10 ages 45-63 & 64+ describe the Bible as sacred. In comparison to 8 out of 10 ages 26-44 (81%) and just 2 out of 3 of those ages 18-25 (67%).
Not Interested: This study has shown that the younger the person is, the more likely it is that they are to read the Bible. (ouch! Especially for those like me who work with young people). Those ages 18-44 are less likely to spend time alone praying, and reading their Bible for at least 15minutes in any given week. (NOTICE: it said ‘week’ NOT ‘day’)
Interest: Younger adults, ages 18-25 (19%) seem to have a higher interest in gaining more Bible knowledge compared to those ages 45-63 (12%) and those ages 64+ (9%).
This study shows us that younger generations have a deep hunger/desire to know their Bible more, yet tend to read it less, be more skeptical, and consider it less accurate than those older generations. This is discouraging news! However, it can be extremely helpful as well. If those of us in ministry would feed this hunger (for Bible knowledge) through biblical depth in areas of ministry, maybe, just maybe, we would see less skepticism and a higher view of Scripture among our younger generations, similar to that of which I saw in “Blazer Betty,” who happened also love McDonald’s, singing, teaching the Bible, and making people laugh.