An Immersive Bible Reading Experience for Your Family

April 14, 2020

HoneyRock is the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College. Located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, HoneyRock provides transformational outdoor experiences for youth and young adults through summer camp, a gap year, retreats, and more.

Today we’re bringing a free resource to the HoneyRock community—an immersive Bible reading experience—from Scott Bolinder. Rob talked with Scott, a long-time HoneyRocker and co-founder of the Institute for Bible Reading, to learn more about it.

Rob: Scott, thanks for taking the time to connect. For those who don’t know your HoneyRock story, could you share?

Scott: I grew up in Wheaton and initially visited HoneyRock as a five-year-old. I think my first year as a camper was 1959. After four years as a camper, I put in another four years as an Engineer. As an Engineer, we got free room and board and $5/week! For about $0.25/day I could afford a Sunrise Cream Soda and a Forever Yours candy bar. Those were the days!

R: For our current camper families, the Engineer program was loosely similar to today’s Service Team. We hear some incredible stories from those days—sunup to sundown work, harvesting hay, building many of HoneyRock’s initial structures.

Scott, how did God meet you in those days at HoneyRock? What were your key takeaways?

S: HoneyRock was a central influence in my life from that first trip into high school—it played a significant role in my formation on every level. I often tell my wife when I’m successful in accomplishing a home project, “The only reason I know how to do this is because I learned how at HoneyRock!”

More so, it was at HoneyRock that I was able to leverage a “well dealt spiritual heritage hand” into a personal relationship with Jesus. From camp counselors and unit leaders to working alongside college guys as an engineer, I was shown what Jesus-followers look like, not just told.

The times gathered with Bubba (Don Church) at his cabin down by the ski dock are locked in my mind as if they happened yesterday. Bubba showed me what it looked like to be a rugged, tough, and innovative man in making/fixing things, but also how that same guy can be gentle, compassionate, and kind. It was profoundly powerful. Examples like this were plentiful at HoneyRock.

R: Where did God lead you after HoneyRock?

S: Currently, I live with my wife, Jill, in Grand Rapids, MI. We met at Wheaton College in 1970 and were married in 1972 (we were still in college!) We now have three kids and six grandkids. After 40 years in Christian publishing at Christianity Today, Zondervan, and Biblica, I co-founded a nonprofit activist think tank, the Institute for Bible Reading.

Why? The way we read the Bible is broken.

R: What do you mean by that—Bible reading is broken?

S: First, bible engagement and reading trends are in a downward free fall. About 700 people a day give up reading the Bible and it only gets worse for younger generations. The latest data reveals 64% of Millennials and Gen Z leave the church after they leave home.

The interesting thing? Our research reveals that when it comes to the Bible, the reason for giving up isn’t a lack of desire. In most cases, there are just some key barriers that haven’t been addressed very well yet. At IFBR, we’re determined to help remove those barriers and welcome people to a fresh encounter with a Bible.

R: How do you do that?

S: Our signature resource is designed to provide that fresh encounter. We provide a Bible that has all the modern additives—chapters, verses, footnotes—removed. It flows and reads more like a non-fiction book, which leads to the second component of this resource…a communal focus. 

We’ve also introduced a book club practice so that people can experience a conversation around larger chunks of Scripture. The easier, uninterrupted reading plus communal conversations prove to be a powerful combination!

So that’s the signature resource—Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience. However, we are also involved in training and education. We want to see more pastors, churches, and other organizations discover what it means to read and live the Bible well.

R: How would one get started with this kind of bible reading now? 

S: As our team was grappling with how we could contribute, we kept coming back to the story in Nehemiah where the Israelites have returned to Jerusalem from exile and are discouraged and disoriented.

We read that they remembered their Bible and so, asked Ezra to read from the Book from morning till noon. Eventually, they gained the perspective needed to get them through the situation.

This is a parallel “Ezra Moment” and so from that bible narrative, we’re calling the church to a modern Ezra moment.

R: What does it look like? 

S: During this time, we want to see people reading Luke and Acts together, using a special edition of Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience. It’s a two-week experience you can invite your friends, neighbors, and family into—digitally, of course. Think of it like a book club. You can read more and download the (free) resource here.

R: Thanks for sharing the resource with us, Scott!

father and son walking and talking at honeyrock
How to Facilitate Reflective Conversations

There are so many opportunities for us to learn more about ourselves, other people, and God every day if we take the time to see it.

Even more opportunities arise when we’re facing a big challenge. During summer camp programs, challenges look like meeting your new cabinmates, being away from home for the first time, remembering to put on sunscreen, navigating the Challenge Course, and more…

At the time I’m writing this, we’re all facing a big challenge: COVID-19. We’re having new conversations with our kids, adjusting to new rhythms, and facing new problems. It’s posing significant new challenges to all of us.