Going for the Gold! Bible Olympics Held in Florida
Noreta Bish came up with a big idea the year of the Athens Olympics. In 2004, she was working part-time with Florida Church of God Ministries, handling tasks that included providing children’s ministry resources to Florida congregations in advance of an annual summer event. Each year, children would come together from churches across the state for a competition. Following her ministry at the state offices, Bish formed a ministry called Bible Basics for Kids so her big idea wouldn’t die. Bish, whose husband Ken is the senior pastor of New Journey Church of God in Jacksonville, coordinates the annual ministry called Bible Olympics.
Next year, Bible Olympics will celebrate its tenth year. The ministry’s success seems to be rooted in its spiritual component combined with its promotion of healthy, fun competition. Each January, Bish sends information to churches about the program for the year. In February, she mails curriculum, instructions, sample quiz questions, and other helpful material so students can sharpen their knowledge of a specified Bible theme. The themes over the years have included “Heroes of the Bible,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Life of Christ,” “Old Testament Kings,” and more. This year’s theme was “Wilderness Survival” and covered stories and topics from Genesis and Exodus.
The games begin in late July or early August. A variety of activities take place over the two-day event for children from second through eighth grade. Teams compete against other teams in their age bracket. “When students arrive on Friday, they have their picture taken, and then we have a round of Bible Basics Jeopardy for the elementary age students,” Bish explains. “We then break for dinner, and after dinner the middle school students participate in Bible Basics Feud—played like Family Feud, with a few alterations.” After a round of “sword drills”—racing to find Bible books and passages—and a snack, all participants come together for worship.
On Saturday, teams gather for an opening ceremony. Bish describes the experience: “All of the teams line up with their spirit flags, spirit sticks, and they all wear their shirts and they march into the auditorium with the Olympic theme song playing and everyone in the room cheering. It’s a pretty awesome experience to watch this. Churches bring parents and other church members with them, and these people cheer their kids on during all of the day’s events.” Then the games continue with more sword drills, relays, and a Bible trivia competition in which contestants use electronic buzzers to chime in with the correct answer. A closing medals ceremony honors all contestants, as everyone who places lower than second receives a bronze medal.
This year’s Bible Olympics featured a new emphasis: missions. Prior to the event, churches were asked to participate in service projects. Children’s ministries were also challenged to support Scott and Deanna Compton, Church of God missionaries to Tanzania. “Initially the groups raised enough funds for seven hundred blankets to keep Tanzanian children warm. At the conclusion of Bible Olympics, a couple of pastors came to me and said they wanted to try and get to nine hundred blankets, so they went back to their churches, and within three weeks we had raised enough money for 905 blankets!
Bish continues to promote Bible Olympics to churches because she believes, “the more we can make learning the Bible fun for kids, the more they will seek God out and make him a priority in their lives.” For more information about Bible Olympics, visit www.biblebasicsforkids.com or call Noreta Bish at 904-497-7204.