What You Need To Know About Watching A Bible Quiz

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Bible Quizzing is an amazing program of the United Pentecostal Church International. It is a bit complicated and confusing, though, if you have never seen it in action. I have put together this primer to help first-time viewers understand what’s going on. A secondary benefit is that it can be a source to help new teams get an idea of how the game works. 

The cast of characters:

Most important are the quizzers 18 years old and younger. At any one time there are 2 or 3 quizzers from each of two teams quizzing at the table. There may be up to 2 alternate quizzers waiting behind the table to get put in the game. The team on the left (from the view of the audience) is red, and the team on the right is yellow. Each quizzer has studied and memorized several hundred designated verses verbatim. (The number of verses is determined by which division their experience and age puts them in.) They are able to quote these verses word-for-word and mixed randomly. This skill and knowledge of the material allows them to answer the questions asked during the quiz. The more ambitious quizzers also memorize hundreds of “charts” which are facts such as what 2 verses contain a certain word or what three verses end with the same five-word phrase. 

Each team has one or two coaches who sit behind the quizzers and keep score, follow the material, help with contests, call time-outs, and bite their fingernails. 

The quizmaster reads the questions, states whether the answer is “correct” or “incorrect”, and otherwise runs the quiz. 

The judges follow along with a copy of the questions and confer with the quizmaster about any questionable answers, consider contests, and listen to a recording of what was said by the quizzer.

The scorekeeper, you guessed it, keeps score. Within the last few years most tournaments have begun using a computer program to make this job more automated. The team score is shown. 

There are other positions such as foul judge and recording operator, but these are not necessary to understand at this point. 

The quiz itself:
For Beginner and Jr divisions (up to age 11) each quiz is comprised of 15 questions: 6 ten-point questions, then 6 twenty-point questions, then 3 thirty-point questions. 

For Intermediate and Experienced divisions (ages 12-18) each quiz is comprised of 20 questions: 8 ten point questions, then 9 twenty point questions, then 3 thirty point questions. 

After each question is read, the quizzers have 5 seconds to hit their buzzer and claim the question.

After a quizzer hits their buzzer they have 30 seconds to give the correct answer. 

There are several types of questions. The quizmaster must identify the type of question unless it is a direct question. Some types of questions are:

Direct: a straight up question with one answer.

Quotation: the answer must be quoted word for word with no stumbles, repeated words, etc.

Quotation Completion: the quizmaster starts quoting a verse and the quizzer finishes the verse, word for word with no stumbles or repeated words, etc.

2 Part, 3 Part, 6 Part, etc: the question has 2 or 3 or 6 or whatever number of parts. An example of this kind of question is the “how many” of something is mentioned and “what are they”. As you can imagine, a 6 part question can be quite complicated. All the answers must be in the order they were asked, or if they are mixed up the parts must be identified by the quizzers as to which answer goes with which question. 

Cross reference: these questions involve 2 or more non-consecutive verses (in the Jr division they will specify a question from any 2 verses as cross-reference even if they are consecutive). These may be combined with the multiple part questions to make up a 2 part cross reference or 6 part cross reference, etc. 

Each team has 4 contests they may use if they think their answer has been incorrectly judged by the quizmaster or if they think the question is invalid. Only quizzers may call a contest. The coach may withdraw 2 of the contests and may present (or the quizzer may present) 2 contests to the quizmaster and judges. If a contest is granted it does not count against the 4 contests. 

Each team has 2 sixty-second time outs to be used between questions during the quiz. The quizzers and coaches may speak to each other during the time out. Usually this sixty seconds is used for telling the quizzers the score, strategizing, stern scolding, and deep prayer. 

A 5-point foul may be given to any coach or quizzer for breaking any rule in the rule book (manual). This includes but is not limited to inappropriate communication between quizzers and coaches, standing at the wrong time during a contest, calling a timeout after a question has started, or any other limitless number of items. Fouls are generally more embarrassing than harmful, but occasionally that 5 points can swing a quiz.

Answering the Questions:

Interrupting: In quizzing, unlike in social situations, interrupting is encouraged. A quizzer may interrupt the quizmaster at any point after the question is begun by pressing the buzzer. At this point the quizmaster stops, the quizzer’s buzzer number is called, and the automated system says “interruption”. The quizzer then must finish the question and give the correct answer. The quizzer does not have to give word-for-word what was on the quizmaster’s paper, but it has to be the same essential question. 

Points: A correct answer gives the team the number of points of the question. A ten point question answered correctly gives the team ten points, etc. 
An incorrect answer subtracts from the quizzer’s team’s score 1/2 the point value of the question. A ten point question answered incorrectly gives the quizzer minus five points. 

An interrupted question, when answered incorrectly not only subtracts 1/2 the point value of the question, but the same question is then reread to the opposing team giving them a chance to answer the fully-read question without interruption.

Quizzing-out: when a quizzer has answered a certain number of questions correctly (6 for Beginners and Jrs, 8 for Intermediate and Experienced) they are given a ten point bonus and removed from the game. This prevents any one quizzer from taking all the questions and adds an incentive for teamwork.

Erroring Out: when a quizzer has answered 5 questions incorrectly they are removed from the quiz table. 

Locking a Game: there often comes a point in the game where even if a team were to answer all of the remaining questions correctly they still couldn’t win. At this point the game is locked and often the coaches will instruct their quizzers to not hit any more questions. So you really can’t tell how close a game was (or not) by just looking at the final score. 

Bible Quizzing: A Great “Thing”

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I think it’s very important for teens to have something positive they’re good at: something that is their “thing” during this phase of life where identity formation is so important.

For me this was music. I was good at academics, but music, and the friends associated with it, occupied much of my time in middle school and high school. Someday I’ll post about that, but not today.

For my husband this was Bible Quizzing. He had been picked on and bullied during elementary school, and Bible Quizzing gave him back his dignity. It was something he did well. He did it better, in fact, than all those kids who had picked on him. It became his “thing”, his way to show himself and his world that he was fine just the way God made him, thank you very much.

Our kids are also involved in Bible Quizzing, and though they don’t need it in the same way he did, it is still their “thing”.

Bible Quizzing is a ministry of the United Pentecostal Church International through which children and teens memorize a set of verses (the verses change each year) and then answer questions based on their knowledge of the material. This is an amazing program. These quizzers learn word-for-word between 180 and 530 verses a year, depending on their age (and therefore quizzing division). Many of them learn “charts” as well, picking out items, words, phrases, or ideas that occur in a few verses, and memorizing the references so they can come up with them quickly in a quiz.

The most important positive is that they are hiding the word of God in their hearts. I am not minimizing that; how could I? That’s huge!

However, there are so many other benefits as well. They are expanding their minds through memorization. They are learning logical thinking and critical thinking in interrupting and completing questions. They are learning grammar as they figure out how to interrupt a question at the proper place. They are learning public speaking skills in both answering questions and contesting. They are learning to think quickly; 30 seconds is all they’ve got!

Meanwhile, they are learning about themselves and their natural tendencies. How do they handle pressure? How comfortably do they take risks? How well do they move on from mistakes?

Another important lesson is teamwork. Especially in the Sr division, it is mathematically impossible for a single quizzer, no matter what his or her skill, with teammates who aren’t contributing to beat a well-rounded, well-functioning team. They need each other. They must forgive each others’ mistakes, shore up each others’ weak spots, and let each others’ strengths come shining through.

They spend hours, yea even days, with their teammates, other kids close to their age. They are sometimes hormonal, sometimes moody, and sometimes delightful. Forgiveness is necessary. Accepting forgiveness is also vital.

Often families are involved, so it doubles as family time. Brothers and sisters on a team also have to work together, not fuss and fight, or they won’t win.

The quiz community is an amazing thing as well. All kinds of adults, from all walks of life, put out their time and energy and money for these kids. And the kids are enough to give you hope for the world. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met have been in the quiz “family”.

Bible quizzing gives kids confidence. Every answered question, every quiz pulled back from the brink of losing, every contest granted (or even if not granted, well executed), gives a little boost to these teens who are trying to figure out who in the world they are and who they are in the world. They know they’re smart, they’re accepted, they’re okay.

And when these teens are hitting those rough spots in their teen years, Bible Quizzing has them prepared. They know the scriptures. They know themselves. They have positive friends who are quizzers. They have a network of adults whom they trust, even when their parents suddenly become dumb and uncool. Basically, they are hooked on Bible Quizzing.

Then when it’s all over and they hit “real life”, their brains are sharp, they can memorize anything, they speak with confidence, they process information quickly, they work well on teams, they have friends all over the country, and best of all, they know thousands of scriptures. What a great “thing”!

Prayer IS Allowed in School

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I’ve heard many people say that “The Bible is not allowed in public schools”. However, this is not at all true. To ban the Bible from school would be a blatant infringement of the students’ rights. Students are allowed to take Bibles to school and read or discuss it on their own time as they would any other book. They may not use it to disrupt class in any way, but they are free to carry, read, and discuss it just like any other book. In fact, it may even be taught as literature, as it is an ancient source of history, poetry, etc. I even know of public schools that have religion classes in which they study, compare, and contrast different religions.

How about “They took prayer out of school”, which I’m sure we’ve all heard? There is no teacher-led prayer, and students may not disrupt class with a prayer, but students are free to pray at school. They may pray aloud any time they would normally be allowed to speak freely, as long as it’s not a disruption, and they may also pray silently at any time as long as it doesn’t disrupt class. (They do need to pay attention, for example, and not just meditate all the way through algebra.)

Also, did you know that Bible Clubs are allowed in public schools? If the school allows other non-curriculum clubs to meet on school property, they must give the same rights to religious clubs.

For more specific information about students’ rights, click here.

Similarly, laws exist to protect religious rights in the workplace. An employer doesn’t have to accommodate something that causes an “undue hardship” or threatens safety, but they do have to accommodate most things. Click here to read more specifics about religious rights in the workplace.

So why do these fallacies abound? I think it’s because we too often don’t ask, don’t request, don’t use our rights, and then wonder why we don’t have any. The answer is that we DO have them, we just don’t use them.

Besides, I’ve always said that as long as there is calculus class there will be prayer in school.