How do we engage our congregations in the Advent season?
How do we get people reading their Bibles?
In response to these two questions, the Council of my church (Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan) is inviting folks in our congregation to read their Bibles for Advent using a community reading plan. We decided to center our reading plan around the first half of The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The Storybook Bible takes readers through the Old Testament in a way that illustrates how "every story whispers Christ's name." Each story references the Old Testament passages that it was taken from, so we created a calendar with both the stories and Scripture readings for all ages can participate.
In an effort to make the readings as accessible as possible, we are also connecting folks to some of the following resources:
- Most of the families with young children in our congregation already have a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible since we give it out for baptisms, but to make ensure that everyone has access, we are offering copies of the storybook Bible to those who request them.
- We are offering The Message and NIrV Bibles to those who request them.
- BibleGateway offers The Message and NIrV Bible, as well as audio versions of the Bible, free of charge.
- We have a Kinyarwanda language service on Sunday afternoons. For these members, Bible.com offers the Bible in the Kinyarwanda language. (Unfortunately, it doesn't look like The Jesus Storybook Bible has been translated into Kinyarwanda).
- Our youth director has developed a guide for teens with shortened readings and three questions to ponder with each reading.
Below you will find an attachment with the reading plan that we developed. On the second page of that attachment, you will see ideas for how to engage the readings, including a social media challenge that we hope will build our sense of community.
We encourage you to borrow any of these ideas to try in your church. Like most churches, we will most certainly will learn from our missteps. But we are excited to see what God will do in and through us this Advent season!