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”!