Yes, I will admit in advance that I have Bible apps. They have great resources including multiple translations, word searches, and commentaries. I also have been known to forget my Bible and use the app (even when teaching or preaching but don’t tell anybody. It will be our secret). This post is not a dogmatic plea to throw away apps. It’s to encourage you to consider using the “real thing” over an app, especially with your students. Here are a few advantages to using a printed Bible over a Bible app.

1. It allows me to avoid distrac . . . “Hey look! Someone just tagged me on Instagram and sent me a Snapchat. I wonder what they said?” The book allows students to keep their phone in their pocket. How many times before service have we seen students sitting next to each other staring at their phones and not engaging one another? I want to provide an atmosphere that encourages students to engage the physical world around them. This includes people and God himself. If we can help limit distractions, it will greatly help with engagement.

2. It feels complete. This may sound archaic, but there is something about the physical Bible that reminds me it is the complete work of God. My apps don’t do that for me. My mind does not comprehend it. It only sees and considers what’s on the screen. Our students will have the same struggle. When you were a baby, your understanding of existence was what was in front of you. If it wasn’t right in front of you, it didn’t exist. This is why the game peek-a-boo works with kids. When playing the game, children actually think the person disappears and then reappears. I would suggest the same is true for the baby Christian. They need the growth that comes from having it all in front of them.  Since I do not have the whole Bible figured out, so do I.

It not only feels complete but also helps me to communicate that the Bible is complete. One of the key elements to studying God’s word is context. We are not only teaching what we want out of a few verses. Those Bible verses have to stay true to their original context. Our students need to learn the value of how verses relate to the original context of the passage. While scrolling through verse on a phone does make it possible, it is visually easier to see when all the words are one page. I also want students to know that those verses relate to the whole of Scripture, usually the divine work of God throughout history.

3. Books matter. We live in such a digital age. I think physical books provide a culture shock to some people today. Scripture is the inspired, authoritative Word of God for reasons other than the fact it is paper and ink. However, I think the paper and ink communicates that the words and ideas are from God. As a minister who teaches from the Bible, I want the people I teach to know that my notes on my iPad are different than God’s Word. If I read from God’s Word and then return to my notes, students see and know the difference. I am not the authority; God is the authority. I rely on God’s Word as much as the people in front of me should. By example, I communicate my dependency on God’s Word for life. If I use my Bible app on my iPad and need to find a Scripture, then I have to close out my notes, open the app, find the Scripture, then go back to my notes and remind myself where it fits in my notes. However, my physical Bible lets me have my notes, hold my place, turn to the passage, read the passage and then return to the original passage.

4. Students have not been taught how to properly use Bible apps. I think the apps are a wonderful resource. I realized in my 8th grade Sunday School class last week, that students are not equipped to use them. When I asked the student to read, he read from the King James Bible from his phone. He either had an app that was limited or did not know you could change the translations. Did he even know there are translation options?

In my ministry, I have bought Bibles and made them available for students who only have phones. It wasn’t an option. Every student had a Bible in hand. I taught them how to use the real thing. I also didn’t buy paperback. Through the generosity of my church, I bought Tru-tone or imitation leather (under $10 each). For the student who wasn’t very familiar with the Bible, this made it easier for them. If students have similar Bibles, you can refer to page numbers.

I also encouraged students to take a Bible home if they didn’t own one. If they liked using the physical Bible, I would buy them their own study Bible. Church members will be willing to buy Bibles for students who don’t have one.

Yes, I encourage the use of phones but only as a resource to the Bible. Teach students to use the tools, and that the Bible is not just another app. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.”

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