Have you read about the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey? This nationwide survey included hundreds of churches and more than 80,000 people. The results revealed that the most powerful catalyst for moving people through the stages of spiritual growth is reading and reflection on Scripture.
As pastors, we know firsthand how important and life-changing daily devotions can be. We know the Bible changes lives and understand the power that transcends mere words on a page.
The challenge for many of us, however, is how to get our members to become regular readers of the Bible. What can we do to help our people develop a habit of daily reading and reflection in God’s Word?
Watch Pastor Dave Barr’s Connection 2013 QuickTalk, “How to Start Doing Daily Devotions.”
I’ve always longed for those in our congregation to be readers and doers of God’s Word. Our church had stressed the importance of following the Life Journal daily devotions reading plan for many years. This was an important and frequent message communicated on Sundays. I thought many in our church were reading the Bible, because we talk about it so frequently.
My assumptions were shattered two years ago. We began anonymously surveying our congregation about the frequency of their Bible reading. The results were discouraging, as the survey revealed only 20 percent of our congregation was reading the Bible several times a week. Considering how often we taught on the subject of daily devotions, I was so bummed.
My longing for a Bible-reading church soon turned into a mission. I met with some attenders to find out why they didn’t regularly read the Bible. The most common responses were: “I want to read the Bible, but I’m too busy,” and “The reading plan is too long.” Guilty looks ensued as these words flowed from the mouths of these wonderful people.
Armed with the most common hurdles mentioned, I met with a few of our team leaders to strategize some options to help more people get into the life-changing habit of daily devotions. Someone suggested giving our congregation devotions consisting of a single scripture at a time on which to journal. Initially, my thought was that it was too simplistic, and would not be enough to nourish their souls and catalyze significant growth.
Then I realized that our S.O.A.P journaling system (an acronym for Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) usually focuses on journaling a verse or two. Bam, I was sold on the idea of providing bite-size feedings of God’s Word to potentially help spur our congregation toward more reading and reflecting.
We printed 30 days of single-verse devotions with room to journal underneath using the S.O.A.P. method. We chose verses that tied into the Sunday messages and placed the devotion book within our small-group handout.
We have done this seven times in the past year and a half, with encouraging results. Our 2013 survey revealed a 41 percent increase of those reading the Bible regularly. This first-step tactic can be executed independent of a sermon series, and is something that small and large churches can do.
In addition to infusing our series into small-group handbooks with daily scriptures, we have promoted technological advancements that can make reading the Bible more convenient.
People with smartphones are encouraged to download free apps such as YouVersion®, which allows them to listen to and read Scripture on their phones. Not only does this make it easier to keep up with the Life Journal reading plan, but also it allows our people to listen to devotions around the house or while driving.
As D.L. Moody once said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge; the Bible was given to change our lives.” Our church will continue to explore new ways to help make that happen on a large scale.
By: Dave Barr, senior pastor of New Hope Windward Christian Fellowship (Kaneohe Foursquare Church) in Kailua, Hawaii
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