Young People and the Bible

I’m preparing for a presentation I will give at the Chicago Catechetical Conference this Friday morning – my topic is “5 Steps to Increase Your Students’ Bible IQ Dramatically.” Lo and behold, I find that the bishops at the Synod focusing on Scripture have something to say about the “secret” (I hate when they use that word!) for getting young people to read the Bible. Rather than the “secret,” I think what they are talking about is the “key” and it comes down to the person of the catechist. Surprise! No surprise here. Time and again, we hear that it is the authentic living faith of the catechist that serves as the foundation for any effective catechesis. Here’s what the bishops are saying (from Zenit):

A Secret for Making Youth Read the Bible

Cardinal Bertone Tells How to Spark Interest in Scripture

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2008 ( Benedict XVI believes the Bible can be a compass for young people, but his secretary of state says they need to be taught how to appreciate it.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke about sparking youthful interest in the Bible when he addressed today the world Synod of Bishops, meeting in Rome through Oct. 26.

The cardinal referred to three statements from the Holy Father that indicate his outlook on Scripture: “If the holy Book is consulted with due attention, young believers will find an indispensable guide or compass, and the meeting with the Bible will also become a meeting with Christ.”

But, Cardinal Bertone acknowledged, according to the summary of his statement released by the Vatican, the Bible often does not “rouse particular interest and affection in the young, especially adolescents.”

“Compared to the living testimony of a believer, faith transmitted through the holy Scriptures largely provokes only indifference, indifference which is accompanied by a large dose of ignorance and above all by a great difficulty in perceiving its vital value,” he said. The cardinal cited a 1995 study that showed those who most frequently fail to come into contact with the Bible are between the ages of 14 and 19.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Bertone noted, “many of these young people show a surprising interest in the Bible” when adults who are credible witnesses of Christ present Scripture with their patience and testimony: “In other words, people who, when they say the Word of God, demonstrate it with their own life.”

“If the adult as teacher-friend manages to persuade the youth to open their hearts, then the Scripture will be seen as a gift which brings with it all the qualities of the Word of God according to Biblical codification, with special concern for the youth’s soul,” he added. “In this way young people will grow and appreciate the role played by the young in the Bible, especially in the Gospels […] they will also appreciate the many sporting images in the Bible with their original applications for the virtuous life.”

The cardinal noted the Holy Father’s own summary regarding a pedagogical approach to Scripture: “I think that we should learn to do three things: to read it in a personal colloquium with the Lord; to read it with the guidance of teachers who have the experience of faith, who have penetrated sacred Scripture; and to read it in the great company of the Church, in whose liturgy these events never cease to become present anew and in which the Lord speaks with us today.”


About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. Hi Joe,
    It is a dificult task for all the catechist to achive,here at St. James, we are involving children in their first year of preparetion for confirmation in the Liturgy of the Mass, reading eather the lectures or psalm every sunday. We think that this way will help us to spred the easy, fan, and veneficial way it is to read the sacred Scriptures. Because, ones we send the participant with the psalm or reading home to practice it for next sunday, we know that the parents, brothers, sisters, and other relatives will help him or her, and then not only the child is reading the Scriptures, but his or her family to.It is working very well.
    Joe, might God bless you always
    Yours in Christ our Lord
    JuanAngel zavala

  2. Juan Angel Zavala, thanks so much for sharing a description of the wonderful work you and your fellow catechists are doing! The kids are lucky to have such dedicated people like yourself and your fellow catechists!

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