The other day in the church office we were talking about presenting Bibles to youth in the church when they reach a particular milestone. Traditions vary. Some receive them as they enter fourth grade. Others get them when they’re confirmed. Sometimes they receive them on both occasions.
Someone then wondered if the youth ever open their Bibles. And then it hit me. I said that in a few years, children, probably teens, won’t open their Bibles anymore. They could very well have an e-reader or some sort of tablet computer on which they read their books, regardless of genre. When I said, “we could be seeing the last few kids getting Bibles in the next few years,” there was a sad silence.
Presenting Bibles is a long-standing tradition in many churches. It’s an event that not only signals a child being able to read, but that a child is receiving a holy book – a book of wisdom thousands of years old. It’s an implicit acknowledgement that the child is ready to take his/her place in the world. It’s handing this child the operating manual for life.
Receiving a Bible is big. Congregations make a special celebration of it. Sometimes the Bibles are special ordered with the recipient’s name embossed. Other times the Bible is inscribed. It’s really impressive to see a big stack of Bibles in the front of the sanctuary ready for distribution.
With e-readers, however, giving a Bible will seem so anti-climatic. I guess we would have to line up the recipients’ Kindles or Nooks in the front of the sanctuary and then download the Bibles to each one. No personalizing it with gold embossed letters. No inscriptions.
But if we’re giving them Bibles, we might have to rethink the why and how. If we want to give them because we want the recipients to read them, then giving them an e-version makes sense as they actually might read it. Then, if we want the richer ritual, maybe we have to give them an e-copy and a hard copy (the former to be used, the latter to make us feel good). Although they might not crack the binding on the latter, who knows – it could come in handy later as it requires no batteries.