For my tradition, our younger kids, ranging from about 3rd to 6th grades, would spend several weeks in preparation for Bible Bowl. We had a booklet and everything: questions, answers, and readily available teachers to supervise us. The only year I participated willingly, we went through the Gospel of John.
I must admit that, for a long time, I detested going to Bible Bowl. I struggled with knowing what the point of this exercise was. Years later, I came to this conclusion: If you know the Bible, you can get a prize for it.
It was very easy for me to conjure up reasons why this was a bad idea: it turns the Bible into a list of trivia questions, creates the issue of knowledge worship, and people can lose for not knowing their Bibles well enough. What is difficult is to figure out how this was beneficial. Not until today did I consider what good it might do, so I have attempted to figure out some reasons for its beneficial nature.
- It gets us reading. Even if at a shallow level, we were reading the Bible!
- We read together. Too often, we spend our time reading religious literature alone, when such literature is indeed borne of community. 3rd-6th graders reading together with older and wiser adults should be the rule, not the exception.
- We ask questions. For some, the questions are already written in a handbook: "How many people did Jesus raise from the dead in Mark?" "When Lazarus died, what was Jesus' response?" "Romans 12.1 asks us to offer our bodies as what?" For others, they begin to ask their own questions: "If heaven is better, then why did Jesus raise them from the dead?" "Why did Jesus cry?" "What is a living sacrifice?"
Some of the dangers of Bible Bowl can probably be avoid, perhaps even bypassed altogether. The competitive atmosphere provides motivation, but Christianity itself is not about a competition. We run the race and fight the fight, not for ourselves, but for others and for the glory of God. May that ever be our goal.