How frequently do we find ourselves using Scripture at youth gatherings, on retreats, to choose a theme, or even in our personal prayer? I would dare say your answer is “all the time,” which means that Sacred Scripture is central and primary within youth ministry (or at least it should be). If we’re going to effectively incorporate it and make it a foundation of much of what we do, we need to utilize good resources to help us teach it, answer questions about it, and allow it to animate us. After all…The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, and now we can read that Word and let it come to life and dwell within us.
Firstly, you need a good Bible. Whether you want to go with a Study Bible with tons of notes or the cheapo red paperback Bible the Serra club hands out to the Confirmation candidates each year, you need a Bible you can write notes in, shove papers in, and go to on a regular basis as “your Bible.”
I’m a personal fan of the Revised Standard Version translation and Ignatius Press has a great leather version that is quite durable (unless you accidentally set it in a puddle, in which case, you’ll find yourself transferring all the notes from your first copy over to your new copy while sitting first class on a flight from California to Montana…don’t ask). ** The study version of the New Testament of the Ignatius Press RSV has stellar (and thorough) footnotes, and is an excellent resource as well.
Next, you should invest in some tabs to help you organize your Bible. I used to not like tabs on a Bible…I thought they were unnecessary and just made it look tacky. But, if you get the Great Adventure Series tabs that are color coordinated according to the timeline of salvation history, you won’t be sorry. Buy the accompanying timeline and keep it in the back and you won’t be sorry.
The same guys that put out those tabs and timeline also wrote the great book Walking with God: Journey through the Bible. Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins help explain Sacred Scripture as a whole, telling the full story of salvation history. It’s a quick and easy read and chapters are manageable in both size and depth.
Dr. John Bergsma gives us an illustrated (and easy) version of salvation history in Bible Basics for Catholics: A New picture of salvation history. I’ve read this book twice, using some of his illustrations in my freshman theology class (which are always a hit). I would put this book in the hands of anyone who wants to learnScripture in an enjoyable and fun way, especially the story of Scripture and not just the isolated moments of certain verses. Buy it. Read it. Give it as a gift. Just get it and keep it on hand, because you’ll reference it frequently.
Anything by Scott Hahn is stellar, but one of his lesser known (in comparison to The Lamb’s Supper or Rome Sweet Home) is his 2003 work Scripture Matters: Reading the Bible from the Heart of the Church. Like the title says, this book explains how and why Scripture is read the way we read it as Catholics. Drawing on titans like Aquinas and Cardinal Ratzinger, Hahn’s signature style explains the senses of scripture, the methods of interpretation, and historical criticism. **Similar to Hahn’s book, but perhaps a little easier to read, is Dr. Edward Sri’s The Bible Compass. My favorite part of this book is probably the dorkiest part, where Dr. Sri outlines Biblical archeology, geography, and history. Short of going to the Holy Land yourself, this chapter helps you place a visual on “Bible world” so you can picture where events occur.
Dr. Sri also gives a fantastic Scriptural explanation of the greatest prayer in our Church in A Biblical walk Through the Mass. He goes line by line of the Mass referencing Scripture to explain the Liturgy in great detail, even focusing on gestures we make and postures we assume.
Lastly, you should want to not just “use” Scripture, but pray with and engage with the depth of Scripture on a personal, spiritual level. The Better Part: A Christ centered resource for personal prayer by Father John Bartunek gives beautiful meditations and teachings on all 4 Gospels, each part giving reflection questions for either personal journaling, small group discussion, or prompts for meditative prayer.
Scripture can be somewhat intimidating with the funny names, seemingly contradictory concepts, and the occasional (read “frequent”) out of context arguments that might get made. But, if you start with the right books to help you learn, then the Good Book won’t be so tough.