Booklet part of campaign challenging participants to read the Bible daily for 40 days
By Connie Faber
Each summer youth pastor Kyle Goings and the youth leaders at Bible Fellowship Church in Rapid City, SD, evaluate their own spiritual growth and that of the 7th through 12th graders that participate in Turning The Tide Youth Ministries, the combined program for junior high and senior high youth. Are adults and teens having personal devotions? Are they living out the fruit of the spirit? Are they maturing in Christ? When it comes to spiritual things, where do adults and teens fall on a line between apathetic and passionate?
While the number of teens participating in youth activities was increasing, Goings and his team were concerned that indicators of spiritual growth were not what they should be. Particularly when it came to personal Bible study.
“Knowledge wasn't the issue,” says Goings, “but rather the need to apply the Bible to their lives.”
Out of this spiritual evaluation, The Crave Project, a six-week daily Bible reading challenge that incorporates a devotional book produced by the Bible Fellowship congregation, was born and has grown to include the whole congregation.
“Youth ministry is a microcosm of the whole church,” says Goings, “and we saw that personal Bible study was something we all needed. We realized there were some people that didn’t even have a readable translation of the Bible.”
Beginning October 7, BFC ministries—children, teen and adult Sunday school classes and small groups for adults and teens—are involved in a campaign that challenges people of all ages to read the Bible every day for six weeks.
While many of the resources BFC is using are produced by Saddleback Resources, a nonprofit organization that distributes resources used by Saddleback Church, The Crave Project is unique to the South Dakota congregation.
As Goings and this team of 12 sponsors discussed how to inspire teens to read their Bibles and to apply what they were reading to their daily lives, “we realized youth tend to more excited about what they are reading if they know the author or know it was personally written for them,” says Goings.
So the youth leadership team invited any of the 160 to 170 people who attend BFC to write a one-page devotional aimed at teenagers. Interested writers were provided with an information packet that provided writing tips and guidelines.
The congregation enthusiastically adopted the project. People who didn’t see themselves as writers offered to pray for the project. Others helped Goings with the logistics of printing the booklet.
“It was a very fun process to go through all the devotions and put them together with my team,” says Goings. “I am hearing nothing but good things from the youth and the church.”
The finished devotional includes 46 devotions from 18 to 20 writers. The booklet begins with a page of practical instructions describing how best to have personal devotions. Each entry includes a Scripture passage to read, a place to date when the material was studied, a story-based devotional, follow-up questions and the name of the author.
Goings, who describes himself as a very organized person, wasn’t concerned about the logistics of tackling a project like this.
“I had been wrestling with wanting to do something like this for four years,” says Goings. “What worried me was the unknown.”
His concerns primarily related to the content: Would adults be able to incorporate illustrations that appeal to students? Would there be duplicate topics? How do you graciously reject a submission? Would the project require lots of editing? And most importantly: Would the students use the devotionals?
As Goings reviewed the devotions, most of his concerns quickly dissipated. “God directed this entire process,” says Goings, several times during a phone interview.
No Scripture passages were duplicated and neither were any themes. While some authors struggled to write application questions, 90 to 95 percent of the writers completed the devotional and questions themselves. The writer’s guidelines helped to simplify—and almost eliminate—the editing process.
Several of the authors are students, and those devotionals have been among the most talked about, says Goings. “The strong impact of students writing to peers is one side effect I didn’t anticipate,” he says.
Goings is impressed with the time some writers took to understand what questions junior and senior high school students would like have answered and what topics interested them. He also learned more about the lives of people in the congregation he has served for seven years as writers shared personal stories.
Goings asked for 40 devotionals and received 46. So the final six readings are intended to give students time to prepare for how they will continue personal Bible study. Goings hopes that challenging teens to read their Bibles every day for 40 days will help them develop a new habit.
“We are doing everything we can to get youth into the Word of God on a daily basis,” says Goings. “If we’re going to be people of the Book, we need to live it.”
One devotional during the first week of the 40-day challenge asks students to evaluate their faith on a scale of one to 10. A follow-up devotional during the transition week asks the students to measure their faith again in order to see if they have grown.
The final pages also provide a list of resources for Bible study, including a number of devotional books and websites that send daily e-mails directly to subscribers.
Because Goings wants The 40 Day Crave Project to culminate in a celebratory event, the youth began their 40-day challenge Sept. 27, one week prior to the start date used by the entire congregation. This schedule allows the students to finish just before the Central District Youth Conference.
“Weekly youth cluster groups are using The Crave Project devotionals as the basis for their discussions,” says Goings. “They are holding each other accountable and discussing that week's devotions every Wednesday night leading up to CDYC.”
One hundred copies of the devotional were printed and just over half were distributed to the students. Adults from the congregation quickly snatched up the rest. So Goings has ordered another 50 copies. Each day’s devotion is also uploaded daily to the youth ministry Facebook page.
The students as well as the entire congregation are very excited about The Crave Project. “I’m loving the fact that youth are dreaming big,” says Goings. Publishing additional devotional books and selling this first devotional book to raise funds for a ministry project outside the United States are two ideas that have surfaced.
Goings isn’t surprised that reading the Bible is prompting people to think about ministry beyond Rapid City.
“When you read the Bible, you see what you could be doing,” he says.
“I feel that this project has been one of the greatest accomplishments I have had the privilege to lead,” says Goings.“The Bible really is the most transformational tool known to man. And I really wanted to get the youth craving the word of God.”