Photo above by Jamie Cook. From bottom to top: Aaron, Asher, Aace, and Aaden White.
By Matthew and Whitney White*
Editor’s Note: After hearing about the National Bible Bee (NBB), AFA Journal writer Matthew White and his wife Whitney registered their three oldest sons to participate in NBB’s Summer Study. Thus began a journey that soon took the family to Kentucky, where 7-year-old Aace White competed on the national stage. AFA is a ministry partner of NBB. AFAJ asked the Whites to share their experience and its impact.
March 2020 – AFAJ: Describe the Bible Bee and its purpose.
Matthew White: Founded in 2009, NBB is a ministry whose mission is “to engage young people in the memorization and study of God’s Word and provide opportunities to proclaim it through local, national, and broadcast competitions.”
NBB essentially has two seasons – the eight-week Summer Study and the national competition. For nationals, NBB hosts 360 of the top contestants from around the nation for a four-day competition in age divisions. But more than testing contestants on biblical knowledge and memorization skills, NBB’s main vision is to “know God’s Word and make Him known.”
AFAJ: How did you learn about it?
Whitney White: Last spring, the boys and I were listening to Today’s Issues on AFR and heard an interview with a young woman who had been a Bible Bee national winner.
I was blown away by her biblical knowledge and appreciation for God’s Word. She said she had spent years hiding thousands of verses in her heart, but it wasn’t until she was out on her own making major life decisions that these verses began to come to life in her everyday circumstances.
Immediately, I called Matthew, and we decided to try the Summer Study. We just wanted the family discipline and believed the verses they learned at a young age would guide them as they become independent young men.
AFAJ: How do parents register?
MW: It’s a simple process. We registered online at biblebee.org. The end of May was their cutoff, and all of the materials arrived in June. Each boy received a workbook called Discovery Journal, which prepares and encourages participants to study Scripture for at least 20 minutes a day, with the option of a deeper study. It groups students by age: Beginner (6 and under, noncompetitive), Primary (7-10), Junior (11-14), and Senior (15-18).
AFAJ: How do families prepare for the Bible Bee?
WW: During registration, participants have the option to join a local host group to learn from other seasoned families. However, a host group was not available in our area. So we were winging it and learning with the boys day by day!
Over the summer, we set aside 30 minutes to an hour every week night to study the provided materials. This included prayer time and games we incorporated to make learning fun.
Since we didn’t have a host group, NBB connected us with Ruth Derby, who had participated in nationals twice as a teenager. (See below.) Ruth shared study tips, practice tests and study guides with us. Studying for nationals required quite a bit of time and sacrifice. At times it seemed overwhelming, but Ruth constantly reminded us of the eternal impact of the verses they were memorizing.
AFAJ: What happens after the Summer Study?
MW: Then, participants have the option of being a part of Proclaim Day, a celebration held by host groups or parents to highlight the hard work and accomplishments of each child. At Proclaim Day, students proclaim God’s Word publicly and complete a test on what they’ve learned.
If participants pass that test, they may then take a computer-based test, which nationally ranks all Summer Study participants. Scoring within the top 120 of one’s age division and meeting all other requirements earns the child an invitation to nationals.
AFAJ: Was it all work or was there time for fun?
Aace White (7): It was hard work, but we had fun, too. My mom came up with all sorts of fun games the whole family participated in as we studied and learned together. Also, at nationals, there was some free time for us to do things together as a family.
AFAJ: What did you like best about Bible Bee?
Aaron White (10): My favorite part was Proclaim Day. I loved having our friends and family come to our church so we could share the verses we learned with them.
Aaden White (9): The fellowship at nationals was my favorite part. We made so many friends, and it was cool being in such a big place with so many people who love God like we do.
Aace: It was awesome walking on stage and receiving a medal after months of hard work, but my favorite part was learning the Bible with my family.
Asher White (1): Testing my brothers’ patience with all the distractions I created.
AFAJ: Do you want to participate next year?
Aaron, Aaden, Aace: We plan to, and we hope to work hard and make it to nationals again.
AFAJ: How has this impacted your family?
MW: It’s caused us to be far more intentional in our family Bible study. We realized quickly that the harder we tried to focus on God’s Word, the more distractions the devil created. It was a daily battle, but we made it a priority and rarely let anything get us off track.
In August, Proclaim Day was held at our church, and as parents, it was one of our proudest days. Watching our boys proclaim God’s Word was both amazing and inspiring.
The next day, Whitney and I went to our 10-week baby appointment. Sitting in the sonographer’s room, we quickly plummeted from the mountain top to the valley when we realized our long-awaited precious baby girl had no heartbeat.
We hadn’t told the boys we were expecting baby number five, but they were always asking for another brother or sister. I felt it was important for me to tell them what had happened, to explain why we were sad.
As soon as I told them, in spite of their heavy hearts, they immediately comforted me with a verse they had learned in Summer Study. One of their memorization passages was 2 Samuel 12:20-23, dealing with King David’s response to his infant son’s death.
“Daddy,” Aace said, “it’s kind of like what King David said when he lost his son – our baby can’t come to us, but one day we will go to her.”
WW: When Matthew told me the boys’ response, I realized that God’s Word was truly being hidden in their hearts, not just their heads. Our family learned that His Word is alive and active. The theme of the Summer Study was worship and how to “worship while suffering.” Little had we realized that God was preparing us for what was to come. That moment made the entire NBB experience worth it to us.
* Whitney is a freelance writer and blogger for AFA The Stand.
Long term benefits
“Because I have God’s Word in my heart, I can meditate on it throughout the day, as I do my normal activities. This turns my gaze to Christ and causes me to have an attitude of worship, even while doing the mundane things in life. … Often, the Holy Spirit will bring to my mind a verse or passage that relates to whatever situation I am in.”
— Ruth Derby, The Whites’ Bible Bee “coach”
Learn more at biblebee.org or 210.489.7311.