Relatively few Americans—including Christians—read the Bible often. Here’s how to change that.
A slight majority of Americans agrees that Scripture’s message is particularly helpful, with 54 percent saying the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life. But fewer than half bother to engage regularly with the Bible, according to a new report by the American Bible Society and Barna Group.
About one-third of U.S. adults (34 percent) read the Bible once a week or more, while half (50 percent) read the Bible less than twice a year (including never). In between these two extremes, the study found that about one in six adults read the Bible more than twice a year, but not weekly. Combining all these categories reveals that about one in six U.S. adults (16 percent) read the Bible most days during the week, up from 12 percent in 2020.
Nearly two in three Americans (63 percent) report their Bible usage is the same as last year, while one in ten (9 percent) says it has decreased. One in four U.S. adults (24 percent), however, report a more frequent Bible-reading habit.
The State of the Bible survey defines “Bible users” as individuals who read, listen to, or pray with the Bible on their own at least three or four times a year outside of a church service or church event.
Who are these Bible users? Not all are Christian; 37 percent of those who self-identify with other religions also read the Bible at least three to four times a year. They tend to be older (Boomers are about twice as likely as Gen Z to be a Bible user.) They are ethnically diverse but also more likely to live in the Southern states.
What to Do
The prophet Jeremiah said about God’s revelation, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty” (Jer. 15:16). Can we say, like Jeremiah, God’s Word is “my joy and my heart’s delight”? Has reading Scripture become more drudgery than joy? About one in ten Americans (11 percent) say they struggle to feel excited about Bible use. We can take comfort in knowing we are the problem.
That may not sound encouraging, but there is a reason we can be thankful the fault lies with us: We can do something about it. If you are one of the millions of Bible users who are falling on the lower end of the usage scale (or have fallen off completely) there are a few things you can do to get back in the habit of engaging with Scripture.
Read more/read less
Sometimes we lose our delight when we try to gulp down the Bible in huge chunks. This can often occur when we try to read multiple chapters each day. If this is your situation, scale back and focus on reading a single chapter, or even meditating on a few verses.
Other times—and this is more common—we lose our delight because we are taking small bites of Scripture (a chapter or less a day). Focus on a broader survey of the Bible and then read longer sections to find the nourishment you need.
Get help/Go it alone
There has never before been a time in history when believers have had so much access to resources for Bible study. There are thousands of learned and wise Bible handbooks and commentaries, and ten times as many useful articles, videos, podcasts, and sermons. These resources can be both a blessing and a curse.
If you find your delight has waned because of a lack of understanding Scripture, seek these resources for help. But if you find you spend more time reading about the Bible than you do reading the Bible, it may be time to rely less on helpful tools and focus your attention directly on the Word of God.
Pray and begin again
The most common reason we lose our heart’s delight in reading Scripture is we’ve stopped reading Scripture altogether. We’ve told ourselves that we do not enjoy reading the Bible. The longer we go without reading the more we lose our delight, since it’s hard to see and appreciate beauty when we have our eyes tightly shut. Open your heart by asking God to give you a desire for his Word. And then begin reading again.