Bible Quiz -- a History of Planting God's Word in Hearts
For 55 years, students in Assemblies of God (AG) congregations have memorized Scripture through the Bible Quiz ministry. Teen Bible Quiz became a national AG ministry in 1963, followed in 1975 by Junior Bible Quiz for elementary school children.
Bible memorization has always been a core discipline in AG Christian education. Believing firmly in the power of Scripture to transform lives, AG leaders sought to implant the Word of God in the next generation of Pentecostals. Bible Quiz was one of the tools they used to accomplish this goal.
Inspired by popular television quiz programs in the 1960s, many church youth groups began conducting their own informal quiz matches as aids to gain biblical knowledge. Ralph Harris, first director of the National Christ’s Ambassadors (C.A.) Department, organized the publication of a standard rule book and study guide for use in local churches, Action in Acts. This early rule book allowed for participation by quizzers between the ages of 12 and 19 and encouraged competition between local churches in sections, culminating in a final quiz at the district level.
In 1963, the C.A. Department received permission from the Executive Presbytery to take quizzing beyond the district level and conduct national competitions. In the early years, the challenge of writing questions for official competitions fell to several writers. From the 1960s through the 1990s, writers included Donald F. Johns, Kermit Jeffrey, G. Raymond Carlson, Anthony Palma, Verne MacKinney, George O. Wood, George Edgerly, and Brenton Osgood.
The Scripture material has remained relatively consistent for more than 30 years — a gospel or Acts in one year, alternating with two or more epistles in the next, over a nine-year cycle. Books covered in the current nine-year cycle are Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Mark, I and II Corinthians, John, Hebrews, I and II Peter, Jude, Romans, and James. With this schedule, it is not unusual for a quizzer to finish his or her quizzing career having memorized 13 to 15 books of the Bible in their entirety.
The Bible Quiz ministry grew greatly in the 1970s with the advent of an elementary school version called Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ). In 1973, George Edgerly was invited to join the National Sunday School Department in Springfield, Missouri. In a hallway conversation with Ralph Harris, then editor-in-chief of Church School Literature, he discovered they both had been tossing around the idea of developing a “Pentecostal catechism” that would reinforce what children were already learning in Sunday School, children’s church, Missionettes (now National Girls Ministries), Royal Rangers, and vacation Bible school.
The idea of JBQ was presented to the joint committee of Church School Literature editors and Sunday School Department consultants, which approved the preparation of a set of questions designed to supplement the basic biblical concepts taught in other children’s ministry programs. Edgerly, Harris, and Children’s Ministries Consultant Ron Clark wrote 576 questions covering important Bible facts and the major doctrines of Christianity and the Pentecostal movement, along with 84 quotation questions requiring perfect recitation of Bible verses. These were printed in what became known as the Bible Fact-Pak.
Since its introduction, Junior Bible Quiz has gone on to surpass Teen Quiz in the number of participants. While records of participation are incomplete, JBQ is estimated to have more than 2,000 teams with as many adult coaches and quiz officials, and nearly 10,000 quizzers in its official program. From sales of the Bible Fact-Pak in the United States, it is estimated that over 300,000 children have had the chance to learn the Bible in this question and answer format. The Bible Fact-Pak has also been translated into numerous languages, is used for Bible quizzing in other countries, and it has become part of the Bible curriculum for many homeschooling families.
Now that Bible Quiz has reached its 55th anniversary, history reveals some of the long-term effects. The greatest benefit, perhaps, is that the Word of God has been implanted into the minds and hearts of countless young people. Quizzers who are now in their 60s testify that much of what they learned in their quiz experience solidified their commitment to God and to the church.
Bible Quiz also gives young people an opportunity to develop a positive attitude during stressful times. They learn how to handle both victory and defeat in a supportive environment. The confidence gained from attempting something difficult and seeing it through to completion prepares young people for later success as they see tasks that seem larger than their abilities.
Bible Quiz encourages teamwork, which helps youth to see the value of others. Members must learn to share the spotlight in order to maximize the team’s score. Social skills gained in tedious practice sessions, on the long trips to meets, and in the matches themselves are invaluable for life. Quizzers often establish lifelong friendships with those from their own team and from other churches.
The memorization skills gained in Bible Quiz are also a major benefit. Training the brain to memorize and to think quickly and critically has led to success outside of Bible Quiz. Quiz experience can lessen test anxiety and give confidence in mental abilities. Quizzers who perfect the art of “contesting” (presenting an argument as to why a judge’s ruling is correct or incorrect) develop rhetorical skills that can serve them well in public speaking and debate.
Quiz also provides opportunities for adults to mentor quizzers. The time invested by parents and coaches into their quizzers pays long-term dividends.
For 55 years, Bible Quiz has helped to develop discipline and biblical literacy in countless Assemblies of God youth — an investment in the future which has yielded eternal dividends.
General Superintendent Doug Clay, himself a former quizzer, believes the ministry is one of the best ways to promote biblical literacy among young people.
“I am concerned that our children are growing up in a culture that undermines biblical values,” Clay notes. “I encourage every church to provide opportunities for young people to learn the Word of God and to develop a healthy, biblical worldview. Bible Quiz is a proven, effective means to instill God’s Word into the next generation.”
* This article was abridged from a longer article by Robert Carter and Ruthie Edgerly Oberg, “A History of Bible Quiz in the Assemblies of God,” published in the 2017-2018 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine. The article is accessible for free on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website. A hardcopy of the keepsake magazine is also available for $8 from the Center.