Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blackout Bible Study

Have you heard of Bible Blackout? I hadn't until  this past Thursday, when I saw a link to Using Bible Blackout for Ministry and Engaging Scripture in a ministry leadership email. I was curious and followed the link. What I found was a creative way to engage youth with the Scriptures.

Adam Walker Cleaveland, the article's author, was inspired by Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackouts (which I had never heard of). Kleon's makes poetry by redacting words in newspaper articles. Bible Blackout builds off of that art method. Cleaveland explains,

"...when we read scripture or listen to it, some things stand out to us more than others, or we hang on to some words more than others... I thought we could do the same thing [as Newspaper Blackouts] with scripture – take something that is important and already has meaning, but see what we could create out of it that would be new."
It sounded like a neat idea but I had one reservation. I am all for writing in our Bible, making notes in the margins, underlining key words, highlight meaningful passages. But this project is asking for something different. I find blacking out sections of Scripture troublesome. However, the spirit of the exercise is a desire to hear from God through the Word of God. So, a bit of hesitation, I tried "Blackout Bible" last night with my grade six GEMS (girls club) group. I followed the articles instructions almost to the letter. Prayer and reading through the passage three times were big reasons I think the experience was successful. Here are two of the results, I wanted to share more but each time I upload the images they were rotated, it is odd:

Jesus replied
Our God is Lord
Love God will all:
Love your neighbor

The truth only one God
It is import to love with all my heart, all my understanding, all my strength.
Not far from the Kingdom of God.

All the commandments
Most important?
Lord our God -one and only Lord


All your heart

The truth there is only one God

Kingdom of God
No one dared questions.

I am glad we tried Blackout Bible. The girls took the whole process seriously (more than I had expected) and were reflective about the words. The finished works sound a little lolcat-ish but were meaningful to each participant. I was pleasantly surprised. Here are my reflection on our experience:
  • Prayer is what made this experience positive and successful.
  • My biggest concern was the "redacting" of Scripture. The actual experience lead to an unexpected conversation. As we were colouring over the non-chosen words, one of the girls and said, "you know what I like? I like that you can still read the blacked out words through the black." It started a neat conversation about how all of the words are important but this project helped us to focus on what God was highlighting for each of us at this time.
  • Something I would like to try in the future is using a different or lighter colour marker. I think I would achieve the same results and not have the negative feeling of hiding Scripture.
  • We used Mark 12:28-34 because we have been studying Mark. The Blackout method worked well but I think there are types of passages this experience would work better with like Psalms, Epistle, or a section the group was very familiar with. If you are going to try this take time before hand to consider what passage and translation you will use.
  • The best part of the experience the conversation after. As each girl shared I gained insight into their lives and where they are at with God. It was important to see what words stood out to each girl and to hear why they chose those words. Without that debriefing it would have just been an art project. If you are going to try this with your group don't skip over or rush the sharing. 
  • I think this useful experience that worked well with a small group. I wonder if it would work in a larger setting.
  • I forgot to have something to put under our Scripture pages, like a newsprint, tablecloth, or scrap paper. It was a mistake that the table bares the marks of. 
  • I will do it again in the future, I think it is a good once and awhile method for exploring Scripture and creative way to reflect on God. I also think it could get old if it were done too often and cause my first concern to actually become an issue.
So that is Blackout Bible.

What do you think? Have you tried this study method? What was your experience? Do you have any thoughts on my concern or different concerns? Leave a comment.


Steph said...

I have multiple Bibles, so "losing" a passage here or there wouldn't be an issue for me, but if it is, you could always print out/copy a page for the exercise (that could even make it possible to frame/display the result).
I think it's a great idea, and also a good reminder that it is the *word* that is important - the Living word speaking to us - not necessarily the words themselves that are on the page.

Elizabeth said...

Hey Steph,
Thanks for commenting. You summed up the heart of project with the "Living Word." That was why I decided to try this with the girls.
My concerns about backing out the passage is that it could be unintentionally teaching that we only need to pay attention to the parts of the Bible we like or we can pick and choose what we obey. I don't think that happened this time because of how I introduced the activity but I do think it is something too considered when preparing to share with a group.
Also, we used copies of the passage I printed off before hand. It was easy to work with and set this up the experience to be about hearing from God not eliminating Scripture.

Adam said...

I'm really glad that you decided to go ahead and try it, even though you had some reservations.

The realization that you had, I also have when I talk with groups about it - you do cross the words out - but they are still there...I really think it's not doing anything other than what we do when we do lectio divina...thanks for sharing!