Best Christmas Gift for Teens: Time Together Reading the Bible

New Report Finds That, While Teens Hold Strongly Traditional Beliefs About Bible, Very Few Read and Understand It

As Christmas approaches, a new report suggests the greatest gift parents can give their teens this year is to sit down and read the Bible with them. American Bible Society’s 2015 Teens State of the Bible survey, conducted by Barna Research, found America’s teens emulate the beliefs of their parents’ overwhelmingly positive views of the Bible but are reading it less than Millennials and all U.S. adults. The same percentage of teens as adults, 69 percent, agree the Bible contains everything one needs to know to live a meaningful life. But the majority of both groups have little engagement with the Bible—64 percent of teens and 54 percent of adults only read the Bible three or four times a year or less.

The Teens State of the Bible survey found 71 percent of teens, between the ages of 13 and 17, said the biggest reason for not regularly reading the Bible was that “life is too busy.” Even though 62 percent of teens said they wished they read the Bible more (a nearly identical percentage as Americans adults, ages 18+), teens do not seem to be dismayed by this fact as only 15 percent said they were frustrated by not having enough time to read it. Instead 25 percent had no frustrations while reading the Bible.

American teens do value God’s Word, with 44 percent saying the Bible has too little influence on U.S. society, while 62 percent said politics would be more civil if politicians read the Bible on a regular basis. Teens were stronger on these two issues than Millennials (ages 18 – 30) and all adults. In addition, 49 percent of teens stated the Bible’s main message is to tell the story of who God is and his desire to have a relationship with the people he created (compared to 32 percent of Millennials and 32 percent of all adults).

The survey found that among teens who read the Bible at least weekly, 76 percent said they are influenced “a lot” by it. At the same time, teens spend less time reading it per sitting—the average time teens read the Bible is 23 minutes, compared with 42 minutes for Millennials and 36 minutes for all adults. A higher percentage of teens report feeling confused when reading the Bible (28 percent) than do Millennials (18 percent) or all adults (14 percent). This may be because only 54 percent of teens feel at least somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible compared with 83 percent for both Millennials and all adults.

Despite teens’ confusion and lack of time reading the Bible, they are the most active demographic represented at church (46 percent), compared with just 26 percent of Millennials and 37 percent of adults.

“If teens are very active at church and believe what their parents believe, then the question becomes, how do we help teens become more personally engaged with the Bible so they develop their own relationships with God. It is a challenge for us at American Bible Society, for parents, and for pastors and churches everywhere,” said Andrew Hood, director of communications at American Bible Society. “One of the ways we are tackling that challenge is to provide them with anytime, anywhere access to God’s Word through electronic resources like apps, games and social media content.”

Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of Orange, echoed these sentiments: “We need a different approach and resources that help kids, especially starting at middle school, contextualize the narrative of Scripture for everyday life. We need to capture their imaginations with the story and credibility of the Bible that happens through a relationally-driven strategy.”

Survey Methodology:

The Teens State of the Bible 2015 report contains the findings from a nationwide study commissioned by American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Research (a division of Barna Group). Online interviews were conducted with 1,056 random teens ages 13 to 17 within all 50 states. The survey among teens was conducted Feb. 6 through Feb. 23, 2015. The survey among adults was conducted by both online and telephone Jan. 8 to Jan. 20, 2015. The sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Millennials are ages 18 to 30, while adults are 18 years of age and older.  

About American Bible Society:

Since 1816, American Bible Society has worked to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation’s first and most enduring ministries, today’s American Bible Society provides resources across a variety of platforms enabling first-time readers and seasoned theologians alike to engage with the best-selling book of all time. For more information, visit American.Bible.