“Attention! Present Bible!”
So began the Augusta Association of Baptist Churches’ Bible drill Sunday afternoon at Warren Baptist Church, where about two-dozen pupils in grades three through six gathered for a chance to advance to the statewide drill in Thomson in two weeks.
Each Bible drill participant has spent the past year memorizing 25 Bible verses and the location of 10 key passages.
They can find any one of the 66 books in 10 seconds or less.
“It’s kind of old-school,” said Jessie Young, a mom with two kids who currently drill for Warren Baptist. “It’s all very low-tech. They don’t use much technology. It’s just you and your Bible.”
The drills are quiet, except for the occasional ruffling of pages and a caller who announces the verse, book, or passage the students are expected to find or recall.
“Sword drills” are another common name for the event, which challenges children to increase their knowledge of the Bible and test their memory, said Beth House, the leader of the Bible Skills, Drills and Thrills program at Warren Baptist.
Drills begin with participants lining up behind a piece of masking tape as family and friends watch. They stand at attention and wait for the caller’s instructions: “Attention! Present Bible!” A caller names a verse, passage or book. Pupils quickly step over the line when they’re able to recite a verse or have found a passage.
“It’s amazing to watch,” House said. “They stand up like little soldiers and you ask them to repeat the verse, and they just look marvelous. They’re so prepared.”
Judges keep score and watch for mistakes, which hurt a child’s score.
Participants must stand straight, with eyes on the caller. According to LifeWay, which publishes children’s Bible drill resources, “The Bible should be held parallel to the floor with one hand flat on the top and one hand flat on the bottom with no fingers extending over the edges.”
That prevents some kids from getting an unfair advantage, said Grace Greenway, 11.
“That would be cheating because it would help them find the verse faster,” said Grace, a homeschool pupil who attends Curtis Baptist. “It’s fun to be fast. Sometimes they call really small books, like 3 John. It’s hard to find, and you get so happy when you get it.”
The skills learned in Bible drills tend to “stick” around for years, said Young, the Augusta mom, whose daughter, Sarah, 12, is in her third year, while her son, Alex, 10, is in his first.
“Psalm 119 says, ‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.’ This program really helps children to do that,” she said. “By the time they reach the state level, it’s inspiring to see their confidence. They step up boldly to that line.”
They’re also good at admitting when they’re
The drills rely on an honor system that asks pupils to raise their hand if they were thinking of the wrong verse or turned to the wrong passage.
Pupils admit that some verses and passages are harder to remember than others.
With the help of their teachers, they come up with games, stories and mnemonic devices that aid memory, said Brooke Atkinson, 12, from Curtis.
“It gets easier after awhile,” she said. But she still gets a bit nervous, even in her third year of Bible drills.
“It’s scary. It’s kind of nerve-racking,” she said.
While some pupils are competitive, Brooke said she really only wants to compete against herself.
“I’m trying to do this just for myself because it makes me feel good,” she said. “I like knowing my Bible. I’ll always know my Bible because of what I’ve learned here.”