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Bible drills undergird kids in faith, grades, daily life

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Two years ago, Calvin Mincey knew little about the Bible and attended church because he played on the basketball team. Now the newly baptized Christian handles the Bible as well as he does the ball.
Mincey is the only African American boy among the sixth-graders at Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. His Bible skills and Scripture memorization were developed well beyond those of his peers — surpassing youngsters who have been in Sunday school since the cradle roll — through his year of participation in Bible drill.
After qualifying in the Jacksonville Baptist Association Bible drill, Mincey competed in the State Bible Drill April 19, advancing to the Super Drill and receiving a perfect score.
Such a story does not surprise Katherine Salter who for 20 years has been bringing boys and girls from Lake Maggiore Baptist Church in St. Petersburg to compete in the State Bible Drill.
Bible drills are “a wonderful way to learn about God,” Salter said. But they also teach children “how to learn. Most of our children improve in their school grades” after competing in Bible drills, she added.
Salter recalled one girl in the exceptional education program at school improved her grades to the point where she is a consistent honor roll student. “It’s a good way to teach self-control,” Salter observed. “I’ve seen children improve in all phases of life.”
The purpose of the children’s Bible drill is to help fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders increase in knowledge of the Bible, develop skills in effectively handling the Bible and begin developing memory skills. Participants are expected to learn names and locate books of the Bible in proper order; memorize specific verses and references; and memorize and locate titles and references of key passages.
After children qualify in church and association drills, they can advance to the state drill. Children compete with themselves and are graded on form as well as accuracy.
“We don’t stress competition with the children,” said Bill Carmichael, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s discipleship training department. “We stress participation. Every child involved is already a winner. Children are awarded on their proficiency in using God’s Word and commitment to using God’s Scripture.”
Youth Bible Drill is for teens in grades seven through nine and encompasses all of the same materials as the younger age group, but with attention given to doctrinal and ethical passages found in the Bible. The youth compete against each other in the quarterfinals, with the 36 highest scores competing in the semifinals. The 12 top scores advance to the finals, where a winner and runner-up are declared.
Perhaps most obvious to the onlooker when arriving at the State Bible Drill is how big an event it is. This year, 476 youth and children participated in this year’s drill at Trinity Baptist Church in Apopka. Another 110 were involved in children’s drills at Florida Baptist Theological College. Twenty-eight teens also competed in the Speakers Tournament, which is held in conjunction with the Bible drills.
The children and teens are accompanied by parents, teachers and well-wishers, bringing total involvement to more than 1,000. Some churches bring busloads of youngsters to compete. During introduction of the final 12 participants, fellow church members cheer on their youth, creating a friendly, partisan rivalry between churches.
Although Florida Baptists have participated in the Bible drills for the 27 years Carmichael has served at the state convention, he reported he saw no indication that interest in the drill is diminishing.
Once a church gets involved in the Bible drills, “they never want to give it up,” he recounted. “They are so valuable to the children in developing their skills, quoting verses and learning the truths of Scripture. It helps them learn God’s Word and put it into their lives.”
For a number of years now, Greg Champagne, pastor of First Baptist Church, Brooksville, has served as one of more than 50 judges and callers used to staff the statewide competition. He said he treasures his annual involvement. “I do this for me. It’s so exciting to be a part of those kids’ lives and see the culmination of their six-month-long preparation, commitment and dedication to learning Scripture.
“I can’t help but believe that the words they are hiding in their hearts today will not return void in their futures,” Champagne said.

    About the Author

  • Barbara Denman

    Barbara Denman is communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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