After 3 years of competing in the National Bible Bee … is it still worth it?
As a family, we have spent 2 to 3 hours a day for the last 3 summers memorizing and studying God’s Word together. And with a National qualifier the last 2 years, we studied and memorized an additional 2 to 5 hours a day for the first 12 weeks of the school year. Pretty intense.
Did we win?
The National Bible Bee is a competition after all. And only the top 3 places in each age category actually walk away with prizes. Big prizes, in cash. Nine competitors out of 300. What about the other 291 National Competitors who also sacrificed to compete at Nationals? What about the other thousands who also also gave up hours of their summer free time, but were not in the top 100 for their age division? Did we win or lose?
First, let’s talk about sacrifices, because they are real. In the life of a child, giving up an hour or more of free time every day during the summer to … study? For a few children, this is fun. For a few days. Maybe a week. For most, after the initial excitement wears off, is comes down to determination. And often, it is determination on the part of the parent, particularly with younger children.
The time sacrifice is measured not only in hours, but also in consistency and perseverance. Memorization requires daily practice to be effective. Every day. Probably several times during the day. There are a few children who just love to practice their verses every day – they love a challenge, the love God’s Word, and daily memorization suits their personality. For most, the “every day” part gets really tiresome. It’s summertime – they want to play, watch tv, stay up late, sleep in, have friends over, go on vacation …
Here’s where the real sacrifices kick in. When company comes, the regular schedule often goes out the window. Late bedtimes usually mean morning practice goes by the wayside. On vacation … what to do??
In order for God’s Word to be a priority in your life, there will be sacrifice. We must commit to a schedule. Commit to spending time in His Word, every day, even when company comes. We must sometimes give up late nights, in order to not miss out on valuable time with Him in the morning. Camping with Bible Bee for us meant … bringing it along with us! Mornings were spent around camp, completing the sword study at the picnic table or in the tent, reciting verses after breakfast.
For National qualifiers, the sacrifices increase. School still marches on, and and intensified Bible Bee study just has to fit in. Nearly all extra curricular activities must be given up – sports, youth group events, outings, and free time in general. For those who are serious, the study is intense.
A trip to Nationals also adds a financial aspect, as airfare and hotel fees add up pretty quickly. For families on fixed or low income, fund raising is necessary. Generous donations from friends and family made it possible for us.
In 2009, we did not qualify for Nationals at all. We were overwhelmed by the amount of material and the number of verses. But we determined to do what we could, and memorized 150 verses. A drop in the bucket, we felt like quitting, but stuck it out.
In 2010, my boys rolled their eyes when I signed them up again. We were still overwhelmed, but the material was presented better, we now had a little experience, and we dug in. If we could memorize 150 verses in 2009, maybe we could do a little more in 2010. We were delighted and amazed when one of our sons not only qualified for Nationals in the Junior division, but advanced to the the semi-final round, and placed 10th.
In 2011, we were only mildly daunted by the large number of verses. My older son moved to the Senior age division, and the number of verses required increased dramatically. He said “bring it on!” and happily qualified again for Nationals, in the Senior division, and we studied intensely until November. He was not able to advance past the preliminary rounds, which was somewhat expected, due to being in a higher age division.
In fact, although he studied harder than before, his rank from the National competition was much lower than he had hoped for, making the event a little “bittersweet” I think. Perhaps every family has a bittersweet experience? The reason, for me, is that I coached him on timing for the verse recitation, to not speak too fast. I assured him that he was speaking as fast as would be reasonably required. However, at the competition, time ran out before he was able to quote the last passage, dropping his rank considerably. It couldn’t be helped, but after such long hard practice – he knew all 1100 verses well – it was a little disappointing. Not in his performance – I think he did brilliantly – just in the resulting rank.
Did we win the competition? Even once? No.
For all the hard work, long hours, perseverance, determination and support from others … no trophy, no money prize, no satisfaction of “I won!”
One son went to Nationals twice, but was among the 291 who walked away without a title. One son was among the “thousand” who also worked hard, persevered, sacrificed all summer and memorized hundreds of verses, but did not qualify for Nationals. As a competition, we did not win. If this were merely a competition, I’m not sure I could say it is worth it.
That is not the way this story ends!
I ask again … “Did we win?” YES! As a family, as Believers, as disciples of Jesus … we win. Unequivocally, hands down, no question. The competition is only a tool. Using that tool, we have spent hours together as a family, pouring over God’s Word. We have committed hundreds of verses to memory. Bible Bee opened up the door for amazing spiritual conversations with my teenage sons. We learned how to probe and grasp the meaning of God’s Word through diligent study and prayer. We took a huge step toward developing lifetime habits of daily Bible study and memorization. A lifetime of commitment to God and obedience to His word.
Is it still worth it? Absolutely YES.
This is AWESOME, thank you so much! My 8 years old son is qualified for the National and this is his first year. The 6 weeks of summer study was overwhelming- we spent 2 hours a day and I wasn’t sure if it was a normal workload but most days we enjoy it. We have had some hard days but we made it through and now that we have another 2 months to study for the National and the thought of it is already overwhelming. It is good to know that the sacrifices WILL increase for the national and I have to think twice about signing him up for music class and swimming lesson. I homeschool him so I think we are at advantage but it sure is huge. Thanks so much for the article, it helps me to know what to expect!
Congratulations on qualifying for Nationals! Yes it is HUGE! Both the process of getting to where you are now, and the process of where you are going.
Bible Bee has changed significantly since we participated. Every year they listen to feedback, evaluate and try to make changes to bring the most blessings to everyone involved. I say that to let you know that your experience may be less or more intense than ours. In addition to changes in the structure and content of Bible Bee itself, there are also differences if family structures, child/parent personalities etc. The key is really to just keep it all before the Lord.
The four years we participated in Bible Bee are still precious to our family beyond measure. We were SO BLESSED! God’s Word endures forever, is living and active, and never returns empty.
Nationals is an amazing experience. I don’t know what the requirements are for this year, but I assure you, at moments it will certainly feel overwhelming. Don’t be overwhelmed. Or … do be overwhelmed, and surrender it all to the Holy Spirit, who will strengthen you, teach you guide you, carry you.
I strongly encourage you to participate in any kind of Bible Bee study group. During our participation, we lived too far away from our local group to participate with them. However, social media proved a great help and source of encouragement during those weeks of preparation. And when we met in person at the National competition, and it was really nice to already “know” someone there! Some of us still remain in touch, and have had the additional blessings of rejoicing and mourning and praying with our precious Bible Bee family friends during times of joy and crisis.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my Bible Bee Helps post. Most of the resources there are still active and useful.
Blessings on your journey, and thank you for sharing!
Thank you for your reply, you have no idea how much that means to me! I almost cried when I saw the passages that were released today so I ran back to your blog to see if you have responded…I need to hear from someone like you, so THANK YOU! My son is in primary and he’s only 8 years old so I have no idea how we can do 150 passages in just 2 months. I thought the “early release passages” would be the only passages but then I saw 100(ish) more listed! Wow…just wow. I have no words but you are right, it would be a good reminder that we are to surrender ourselves to Holy Spirit and let Him work in us. Thanks for the suggestion about study group although I am deaf and my son is hard of hearing so participating in any study group would be difficult. I think I see some online groups that I could let my son try because he can hear some but I won’t be able to help much. I’ve been thinking of how to strategize things around our homeschooling schedule such as putting Literature and Reading on hold since we will be reading LOTS of Bible and etc etc…that would help somewhat but then again, it’s up to the Lord! One day at a time, right? 🙂
I’m pretty sure that every single Bible Bee parent has faced that overwhelming crisis moment – the one where you are going to burst into tears because what you thought was going to be so great now seems impossible. You wonder, “how could they possibly expect this much from a child?!” and “how can I ask my child to do this?!” I remember that feeling so well.
I also remember taking it before the Lord, and saying “I can’t”. And I remember HIM giving me strength to dry my tears, and face my kids. I remember putting on my “brave face” and stepping out with a faith I did not feel. And what did I tell them? I said, “there is a lot here, but we are just going to do as much as we can, and not worry about the rest.” And that is what we did. Every day, we just did what we could.
That was the first year. Those who participated that year (2009) will know what I mean. The quantity of material was immense. We had never even attempted more than 10 or 20 verses at a time before that. We were stretched. We grew. Our boundaries changed forever. We did not qualify for nationals that year, but we had so much more of God’s Word in our hearts and were so blessed.
So that is my encouragement – continue to trust God, step out in faith, and just do what you can. Some days are going to be great, and many will seem like failure. But trust me, they are NOT failure. Regardless how much you accomplish, go to nationals if you can. You will be awed … not by people, but by God’s Word. As a Christian homeschool parent, gathering with so many others “like you” will bless you beyond measure.
Finally, regarding online support groups, they are all just “chat” format, meaning you just type in and read comments, so they are hearing-impaired friendly. Since your son is young, he may not benefit too much, but it would be helpful for you to meet other parents. I’m not really a fan of facebook, but I do recommend it for that. At least one of the groups I mentioned is active, and I suggest you ask to join. https://www.facebook.com/groups/107715939320121/
thank you for sharing your stories. This is very encouraging to me: we just received our box today and we are excited to open it! However, in the midst of the summer, our whole family will need a lift from the only One who can give strength.
I have been praying for ways to get the young people in my church involved in Christian activities that will leave a lasting impact on their lives. I was led to the Bible Bee web site and see this as a great opportunity. However, after reading the requirements and seeing the various comments posted I am wondering if this activity shouldn’t be renamed Bible Olympics. Yes, it seems to me that one has to approach this event with the same attitude as that of the Olympic participants. “Not all won but all participated”. Will the kids from my community give up basketball, hanging out, or just watching TV next summer to participate in Bible Bee? That sure is a huge challenge.
Thanks for this article. We have competed all four years and not “won”, but what wonderful rewards we have had with our children through the Bee. My nine year old daughter sliced apples while I canned tomatoes yesterday and looked up at me and said, “Mom, I think Jesus will come back soon, because He said that perilous times would come and men would grow wicked before He came back and that is happening, isn’t it?” Would that have been on her mind if she hadn’t been studying 2 Timothy all summer? Probably not. We had a beautiful discussion looking forward to heaven and being with Jesus. Just one of the benefits of the Bible Bee!
Thank you so much for this. My 10 year old has devoted hours every day to studying and memorizing, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. We talked tonight about how we have already won. I am going to share this with her in the morning.