A Year in the Bible with a 10-Year Old

A Year in the Bible with a 10-Year Old

When my daughter Avery turned ten, we began a journey that lasted a little over a year where we endeavored to read through the whole Bible together. We got up early, using a Bible reading plan we developed, and spent about an hour a day reading the selected chapters, discussing and praying together. We made the agreement that if we did this together, we’d take a trip to Israel, just the two of us, and go explore the places and the stories we’d just read about.

Needless to say…it was a wild ride that didn’t go exactly as i’d planned! (BTW: A special shoutout to my friends Jon Tyson and JR Briggs, who each had unique contributions in starting and shaping this journey.)

If you’re reading this, I think there’s a high likelihood that, like me, you believe in the centrality of the Word of God and have daily engagement rhythms that are built around that principle. Knowing that, I’d like to share 5 lessons that I learned over the course of Avery and I’s year together.

 

Lesson #1: I had to adjust my idealized picture of what this was going to be like.

Look. I’m a man who likes a plan and I had a very specific plan going into this year and a very specific feel for what this was going to be like. I could envision the breakthrough she was going to experience, the discussions we’d have and all of the ways she’d grow closer to the Lord as a result of this.

About three weeks into the process, I had to pivot. What I was trying to do was use my own process for reading the Bible and prayer and apprentice her in that…while doing my best to make allowances for the fact that she was ten years old and I’m…well…I’m older than that.

But truth be told, that age gap was significant and we are very different in temperament and personality. So I flexed the plan, but if I’m honest, that was difficult for me. I had a very specific idea in my mind of what was going to happen, how things would unfold and what her response would be. But as I saw the young woman in front of me who God has entrusted to us, it was most important that it was built around where she was at and what Jesus was doing in her. While that felt a little bit like a death, it felt incredibly necessary. Bonhoeffer talks about how the idea of Christian community can often kill the reality of Christian community. That was definitely going on here.

One addition we made was using The Bible Project videos as both a teaching tool and a carrot. She LOVED those videos. So she knew that when we finished a book, we’d be watching a recap of what we just read, and we’d get to watch the recap of a book that we were starting to read. It really motivated her and gave her life. I really can’t recommend this more highly for both kids and adults!

 

 

Lesson #2: The Discussion is where it’s at.

Of course we know this…but do we know this? I’ve been doing my own individual daily rhythms with the Bible and prayer for such a long time, it can be difficult to remember that the Bible started as a communal document that was read out loud and then people would immediately engage. Only a few hundred years ago did people start having Bibles in their homes.

I was struck again how potent and powerful it is to discuss what we’re reading. Our normal progression was to have discussion around three central questions: 1) What does the text say? 2) What is the Spirit stirring in me? 3) What am I taking away for the day?

Doing this out loud and not just in silent prayer or in a journal for a whole year was different. And quite refreshing.

 

 

Lesson #3: The win was the consistent rhythm, not just the content.

Over time, breakthrough can work a little bit like interest in that it compounds over time. Another way of thinking about it is what Eugene Peterson says; it’s a “long obedience in the same direction” that ultimately brings about spiritual transformation.

I was struck by how often our prayer times returned to questions around the Fruit of the Spirit…where we were seeing God at work and where it felt like we were stuck. (I’ll readily admit that when things didn’t go like I wanted them to, the fruit of patience was regularly lacking.) The consistent rhythm of responding to the Spirit, praying, and then almost asking, “How did it go yesterday?” was a major key for us as the months rolled on.

 

 

Lesson #4: The Bible is hard. It’s especially hard for girls.

There’s a sociological principle called The Curse of Knowledge that says once you know something, it’s hard to un-know it. If I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that to begin with, I definitely do now.

I grew up in a house that read the Bible and talked about the Bible all the time. So many of the stories and passages are things that have been in me for decades. I’m so familiar with them that the prospect of reading for the first time can make them become unfamiliar. 

But let’s be real: There are some CRAZY stories in there and having a lens to understand those stories is really important. Case in point — The first book of the Bible (just a few pages in!) has stories about genocide, mass slaughter and some really difficult stories about rape. I mean…if you haven’t had the “sex talk” with your kids yet, it’s going to come up. The Bible is grisly, earthy and gives a full picture of the darkness of humanity.

And that is particularly true if you’re a girl. The number of questions and discussions we had around what was happening with women in the Bible never waned over the year together. Some of these discussions were quite powerful, and some of these discussions were quite frustrating. But it renewed my perspective that the Bible gives a full picture of the human condition (which is why the Gospel is such good news), but that if you want people to read the Bible, you better have a legit hermeneutic that can handle the scrutiny. (PS: My daughter never stops asking questions, and if I wasn’t giving a good enough answer, she kept pushing and pushing. I really like that about her.)

Read the Bible with a ten year old girl for a year who’s going through its entirety for the first time and you’re going to get a front row seat to how the rest of the world is skeptically looking at the Bible and Christians. This isn’t a sign of unhealth, but of legitimately wrestling with the text.

 

 

Lesson #5: It was totally worth it.

My daughter grew in her relationship with the Lord, we made deposits in her life that will last for decades and it grew our relationship in some really deep, beautiful and unexpected ways. I learned so much from this year together. As a father, as a lover of the Bible, as someone discipling other people. And there are so many things I’d probably do different if I could.

But you know what? I’ve got two more kids who will someday turn ten. And I’ll be doing it again for each of them.

How we got 10,000+ Leaders in Coaching Groups

How we got 10,000+ Leaders in Coaching Groups

When we started the COVID-19 coaching groups, Daniel Yang, Todd Milby, and I were hoping we’d have somewhere between fifty churches join in. As we continued to talk with leaders of other networks, we began to realize the number might be a little bigger, but our expectations didn’t massively shift.

Early on, we made a strategic choice: We decided not to brand the work under any particular organization. If we believed we were better together, it needed to function and be communicated as a collaboration. It was a trade-off: No single organization got the credit, but it meant more people (Mass) might be part of it. So from day one, these coaching groups were a combined effort of Catapult, the SEND Institute, the NewThing Network, Christ Together—a collection of leaders who were already working together in one way or another, with each of us bringing some of our coaches to the table.

We made another strategic choice: We would not charge for participation in a coaching group. Every coach gave their time away. That made it accessible to anyone in the world with internet access. We offered groups on every day of the week (except Saturday and Sunday), including some with early morning slots, to account for global time zones. We asked coaches to help lead at least two groups. This was our radical minimum. Not surprisingly, the first and fast followers of our coaches quickly turned into a hotbed with a center of gravity. And as more groups developed, more hotbeds started to emerge and multiply, and they started to share best practices. Very quickly, a tribe was developing, and it had all the relational thickness that Alan Hirsch calls Communitas—the friendship, community, and relational bonds formed in the fires of being on mission together.

The groups themselves happened on Zoom, so if we had five hundred people register for one time slot, the only thing keeping us from scaling was the number of coaches, because each virtual breakout room required one coach to every six to eight participants.

We started Week 1 with a few hundred churches participating in groups, and we decided to lower another barrier that might hurt scalability: We didn’t close registration after Week 1. As it turns out, the experience of the first week was sticky and sneezable. We grew to 1,094 churches at the end of Week 2.

But it didn’t stop after Week 2. Word got out what was happening; not only was it helping people stabilize and re-normalize in the midst of the crisis, but it was helping leaders mobilize their people into mission. We had more and more people clamoring to get into groups.

Like Rent the Runway, we had a problem on our hands: a lot of new churches wanted to get into coaching groups, but our infrastructure was starting to creak. We were running out of coaches, the IT support needed to sustain the team maxed out, and the logistics of running that many groups, with that many people, were redlining the effort. At this point, the way we were scaling the innovation was using the Resourced model. This was only possible because everyone was donating their time, and we were using technology already in our budget.

A number of networks, denominations, and mission agencies asked if we could start groups for churches in their tribe. There was just one problem: the infrastructure built for the Resourced model was tapped out. But if we pivoted to the Groundswell model? It was suddenly scalable to a new level. However, doing this would mean sacrificing control.

In the end, we made a choice. We gave those leaders everything we had and held nothing back: Detailed notes of every session, scripts, worksheets, slides, training videos we’d recorded for coaches, video replays of each week, email templates. Everything we had, we gave it to them, free of charge. We trained the leaders of those tribes of churches, walked them through the essentials of the radical minimums and what they’d need to do. We then released them to be the yeast in the dough of their specific tribe.

This pivot worked.

At the end of Week 2 there were 1,094 churches in a coaching group. At the end of Week 5, there were more than ten thousand churches in a coaching group, spread across thirty-nine countries, speaking eleven languages.

And after that? We simply stopped counting.