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Where a First-Time Bible Reader Should Start

first-time Bible reader

A youth ministry friend of mine sent this text message to me today about where a first-time Bible reader should start:

Hi Dennis
I have a teen that’s asking me if there is a better order to read the Bible cover to cover and I wondered if you had a suggestion?

This is one of my favorite questions to get as a youth worker. It shows that a student genuinely wants to digest God’s love letter to us.

Here’s How I Always Answer Where First-Time Bible Readers Should Start

I love that question about how to read the Bible other than in the order it’s written. I’ve answered it several times for others over the years. Here’s what I always tell students:

To know what to read in the Bible, it helps to know what’s in it and how it’s organized. It also helps to use your own interests and curiosities.

The Bible has some basic sections:

I intentionally do not reference every book. Typically, a first-time Bible reader who asks this question is just looking for a place to start. What I share, then, is enough information to pique their curiosity and give them some places to consider starting and enough information to help them decide what comes next.

I suggest listening to the Bible, rather than reading it. They may want to follow along. The reason I suggest listening to it is their minds can imagine what they are hearing and picture it, rather than focusing on reading the words only. For me, this is a better way. For others, they may prefer to read or read along as they listen to it.

I also recommend using the New Living Translation because it’s easier to understand for a first-time Bible reader. That’s not a knock against any other translation or an endorsement of the NLT, it’s just my personal preference.

History of how everything got started: Genesis–Deuteronomy
– How the world began
– Where many of our basic beliefs as Christians (Jews) originated
– Where many of the instructions God gives us for living originate

– If you really want some solid wisdom for life, check out Proverbs

How God guides us back to himself to be used for his purposes

Worshipping God through good times and bad
– Psalms (you’re not alone)

Women in God’s plan
– Ruth, Esther

What’s the real story about Jesus
– Look at the prophesy about him—Isaiah
– Read his life story from four different perspectives—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the very beginning of Acts

How did the church begin? Why do we have it? What role does it serve?
– Acts

How do I live out the Christian life?
– Romans (Chapters 1-3 go together—read all three together, then go at your own pace for the rest of the book)
– James

Being a young leader in the church, letting the Bible be a mentor
– 1 & 2 Timothy

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Dennis Beckner has served in youth ministry leadership for Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA since 1999. Dennis is a contributor and speaker to youth training events, writing projects and other engagements. Contact him at his blog, VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.