Katherine Forster is a 19 year old college student, winner of the 2013 National Bible Bee Junior Division, and author of Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen. Based on nine years of intensive Bible study, Forster’s book testifies the value of spending time with God as a teenager. For young people who are struggling to find reality with God, Katherine explains some practical tools which helped her transform her walk with God. Using three easy steps, observation, interpretation, and application, she explains how anyone can also discover the life-transforming power of God’s word. Today, we are excited to hear a little bit more about her book, and her passion for the word of God. Thank you for sharing with us Katherine!
“I wrote Transformed by Truth because my life was changed by the Word of God.
“That’s the short story. Here’s the longer version.
“Competing in the National Bible Bee for nine years (and attending Nationals seven of those), I was immersed in the Word of God for months at a time. But for a long time, I viewed my Bible study and memorization as little more than a means to an end—whether as a way to win a competition, or a legalistic method to be a good Christian and make God love me.
“But God used those seasons of intense study to gently overturn my thoughts about Him and His word. He showed me Himself, the depth and breadth of His love for me (Ephesians 3:18-19). He showed me the majesty of His holiness and justice, and the beauty of His gospel. Through God’s word, I saw my God.
“It turns out, Bible study is a means to an end: knowing God. And knowing Him, we learn to love Him. That’s the goal of my book: to inspire teenagers to study the Bible and at the same time give them a simple, practical way to do it.”
What keeps you motivated to regularly read the Bible?
I need it. God is kind enough to regularly show me how much I need His word, even if it’s through uncomfortable and humbling experiences. I know if I don’t read and study the Bible, I’ll be spiritually weak and not focused on Him. At the same time, there have been seasons where it was literally just the force of habit—I didn’t want to, I didn’t feel like it, but I’ve been doing it for years so I did it again. And I’ve often found that [simple act of obedience] put the desire for the word back in my heart.
Do you think the church expects too little of teens in terms of Bible reading and study?
I can’t speak for every church of course, but it does seem that on the whole many churches expect too little from their teenagers in this area. Often the only challenge we’re given is to read our Bible regularly. That’s a really good place to start, but we shouldn’t stop at reading a little every day. There’s so much more we can learn if we put in the time and energy.
What advice do you have for teens who want to start reading their Bible but don’t know where to start?
Figure out what time of day is best for Bible reading—it varies between people, and even seasons of life. For instance, I always try to read or study my Bible in the morning when I’m at home, but when I’m at school it works better to do it after dinner. Make it part of your daily routine. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. But do remember that God gives grace: if you forget or can’t do it one day, don’t beat yourself up; just do it again the next day.
Pick a book of the Bible to start with—my first choice would probably be John. Read through the whole book as quickly as you can, even in one sitting if it’s a shorter book. Then go back and read it again, more slowly. Write down what you learn about God, yourself, and His commands for you. Asking questions and writing things down helps you engage with the text in a more in-depth way.
What would you say to a teenager who doesn’t feel like reading their Bible is important?
I would say to her that the Bible is the very words of the God who made us. I would tell him that this is how we know about the story of this world, our place in it, the meaning and purpose of our lives, and most importantly, about the One who made us. I would say that when we read the Bible, we see the face of God. That this is the only way to see your life transformed. And most importantly, it shows us the way of salvation and life.
You won the National Bible Bee at fourteen years old. How did this experience help strengthen your faith and prepare you for your future?
It wasn’t so much winning that one year that made the difference; it was all the preparing and studying I did that year, and all the years before and after. Each Nationals season—those intense months of study and preparation—was like a little reflection of how all those years of Bible Bee were just preparation for the rest of my life (besides being a blessing in the present).
The way I look at winning is this: God had some plans for my life after Bible Bee, and He gave me that first place trophy to make them possible. The plans I’m thinking of are writing a book and going to Patrick Henry College, but I’m sure it works into His purposes in much bigger ways than I’ll ever realize.
How can parents encourage their teens to be disciplined in Bible reading?
Regular family devotions, especially if you’re expected to share something you’ve learned from Scripture lately, are a great thing. So is doing Bible study as a family. I think one of the biggest things, however, is just example. When you see the Bible is important to your parents because they’re reading it regularly, you’ll be encouraged to do the same.
How can youth leaders and pastors model for teens what serious Bible study should look like?
A couple of ways. First, offer opportunities for your teens to study the Bible—whether just with other teens, or by inviting them to join the adult studies. And I mean serious Bible study: teach them to dig deep into a passage, ask questions, look up cross references, and wrestle with difficult topics. There are tons of resources available if you’re not sure how to start.
Second, model it in your own teaching. If you’re teaching through a passage, show them how you got to the conclusion you did—how cross references, the grammar and structure of the passage, and even the original languages led you to understand it. I’ve been blessed by teachers who did that. It also keeps you accountable, since you can’t just give your opinion without backing it up.
Anything else you would like to share?
God’s word is powerful. I don’t think we can really understand, with our finite minds, the potency contained in the words of the living God. It will do its work in us—God will use it to transform us, heart and soul, into His image. And He will do it despite our own failings. Don’t be discouraged when you fail in your Bible reading. Don’t despair when you realize you’ve been coming to God’s word in pride, or neglecting it because of apathy, or letting everything else get in the way. Repent, and keep going. God is still working.