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.