Why would a pastor lead a church through the Year of Biblical Literacy?
While pastors almost universally agree on the foundational importance of Scripture to faith in Christ, the average individual might have a lackluster understanding of Scripture and consequently find themselves wanting for intimacy with God. Year of Biblical Literacy (YOBL) invites pastors, churches, and individuals into discovery of scriptural truths for the sake of a more holistic understanding and appreciation of God and His Kingdom.
What went great with YOBL?
We learned throughout the year that regardless of whether individual congregants were participating in the year, people loved that our church was willing to hold Scripture with such great reverence—devoting a year to reading it cover-to-cover. Many did in fact read the entire Bible for the first time in their lives. People remarked that they were able to read through the whole Bible because they had an entire church community’s support. Lastly, our church benefitted from hearing the Bible preached chronologically. This yearlong initiative invites pastors to consider the whole arch of the biblical narrative, which churches greatly benefit from!
What went poorly with YOBL?
On the other hand, we had some not so great experiences that we think are helpful to share. Please be forewarned with our honest feedback. YOBL is not an easy undertaking for a church. The discipline of daily reading and the task of corporate comprehension through good interpretation is rigorous. The reading plan requires high volumes of content each day which was overwhelming for the majority of our church. Also, some of our over-achievers seemed potentially elitist at times, while some of our congregants frankly got lazy quickly and gave up. Pastoring these extremes and all in between was a challenge.
If we did it again, what would we do differently?
We recognize that we should have asked for more feedback about people’s experiences of YOBL and regularly adjusted according to their ability to engage. Our method of setting a plan and then expecting our church to execute it with no room for adaptation was not helpful for our church and perhaps a little too idealistic on our part. We would encourage any pastors leading a church through YOBL to be extra mindful of shepherding their church's experiences of the initiative. You might need to take a break at some point in the year, inject a little extra encouragement to the church, or extend grace to those who fell behind and dropped out — “It’s okay. Just join back in where we are. Cover what you missed next year."
How does the YOBL initiative interplay with the Sunday morning pulpit?
YOBL offers not only a reading plan for individuals, but also an opportunity to preach through the whole Bible in a quick flyover. You can examine what we did with sermons, which didn’t necessarily preach through every book but certainly attempted to honor the Bible’s chronological narrative. In the small group material, many of the books of the Bible were covered (though not all because of our congregation’s focus on key values), with some receiving greater attention than others (e.g., Ezra and Nehemiah were grouped in one week, while Isaiah took multiple weeks). Sometimes the material overlapped with our sermon series, but they were often disconnected from one another. There is plenty of room for creativity here, and we encourage pastors to preach to their congregation's context just as we did. Feel free to use our sermons for inspiration as you find helpful!
Here are additional resources we found helpful in study preparation through preaching.