How to develop a life-changing Bible reading habit
Five simple steps to help you spend more and better time with Jesus every day.
How many times has your pastor, youth pastor, or parents told you you should be reading your Bible everyday?
I know what some of you might be thinking… reading the Bible is super boring, I don’t have the time, I don't understand it.
I get it.
But here's the thing. The more time you personally spend with Jesus the better you will know Him and the clearer His voice will become in your life. It's worth it!
1. Make a plan for long-term success
Don’t start by trying to read through the whole Bible in a year and spending an hour a day at dawn with Jesus. Perhaps you can do that for a while but can you keep it up long term? Probably not. And then you’ll get discouraged and give up.
Start small and make a plan that works for you:
- Decide where in the day you can most consistently find 10-15 minutes to spend reading the Bible and praying
- Choose a time where you aren’t super tired or rushed
- Choose a place where you aren’t distracted
- Choose a translation that is easier for you to understand
- Finally, know where you are going to start reading before you get there
Pro-tip: I suggest starting with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) which tell you all about Jesus or with one of the other New Testament books like Romans or Philippians. If you are brand new to the Bible find a devotional plan on something like the YouVersion Bible app that will help you.
2. Aim for quality and consistency over quantity
Spending time with Jesus seven days a week is awesome, but it can be hard.
- If seven days isn't possible, aim for three or four days out of seven and then work your way up
- I think it’s better to have three days where you make time with Jesus that are quality rather than rushing to check off a to-do box all seven days
- God isn’t giving you gold stars for perfect attendance, his goal is that you are growing and learning
Pro-tip: Taking just a couple of seconds to ask God to teach you something as you read His word can make a huge difference in the quality of the time you spend with Him. It also preps your heart and mind to be on the lookout.
3. Don’t read fast, read intentionally
- Grab a pen or highlighter as you read, and watch for words or sentences that stick out to you
- If something stands out, circle it, underline it or highlight it
- If you don’t want to write in your Bible, keep a notebook with you to make notes in
- If you don’t understand something, write that down too so you can ask your parents or youth pastor about it
- The key here is not just to say you’ve read and be done, but to really pay attention to what you’re reading
Pro-tip: Find a friend you can check in with, someone will help keep you accountable to not only doing the work but who will ask you what you learned, thought, or didn’t understand about what you read each week.
4. Ask specific questions to dig deeper
I tell my students to ask two questions of what they are reading/studying in their Bible. These questions can apply to the general chapter you read or to those words/phrases that stuck out to you.
- What is God saying here? This might be obvious (e.g. 'Love your neighbour'), or it might require a couple more minutes to explore the context and dig a bit deeper.
- What am I supposed to do with this? Often we read the Bible and even see and learn some cool new things but we never apply them to our lives. Take time to find a practical step you can take to put God’s Word into action in your life.
Pro-tip: If you can’t answer these questions on your own, get help. Talk to your accountability friend, youth pastor or parents and get their take on it. It’s easy to go, “well, I don’t get it”, and just move on, but that breeds boredom and apathy. Choose to push yourself to get something out of each day’s reading, even if it is a very small something. Nothing in God’s Word is insignificant.
Bonus tip: Sometimes one thing we can get out of our reading is a moment of self-assessment. Take it. If you are reading a chapter or verse and thinking, “oh, yeah, I do that, I’m good.” Pause and ask Jesus. Too often we assume us and Jesus are good but we never take the time to ask HIm. Maybe you are good in that area, maybe you aren’t as good as you thought, maybe it’s just time to stretch yourself a little more.
5. Memorize scripture to carry it with you
Psalm 119:11 tells us to hide God’s Word in our heart. When we do that we will always have it with us even when we don’t have our Bible handy. We can have God’s Word right there in our minds to help us fight the negative voices and find the right direction to take. So choose one verse a week to memorize.
Pro-tip: Write the verse down and put it where you will see it often, or make it the lock screen of your smartphone. You’d be surprised how easy it will be to memorize it if you are seeing it a few dozen times a day. If you and your accountability friend do this together it’ll be even better. Read three awesome hacks for memorizing Bible verses here.
One final thought
Reading God’s Word and spending quality time with Jesus won’t always come with goosebumps. Sometimes we think we are doing something wrong because there isn’t some big emotion to go with it. Becoming a mature Jesus-follower means learning not to judge your progress or success by your emotions. Those goosebump moments are nice but they aren’t everything. When you sit down to spend time with Jesus, He is there, He will speak to you, you just might not feel it. That doesn’t mean you can’t know it.
Now, go back to Step 1 and start making a plan!