Imagine the transforming joy of being able to read God’s word properly yourself for the first time, instead of just having it read to you. There is a world of difference isn’t there?
Now imagine how exciting that must be, and how you would want to share that excitement with others that you know.
That was how a young friend of mine was feeling (see later), and as the full New Testament of the Biblica NIrV Accessible Edition Bible rolls out his story will be repeated time and time and time again!
20% of children and young people in the UK have an additional need or disability of some kind; that’s roughly 2.5 million! And many of these children and young people, and their families, feel excluded from a wide range of social and other activities, including church. So how does the church reach out to and meet the needs of these children and their families?
Urban Saints has responded to this challenge by leading the way for children’s and youth workers to gain the knowledge, skills, resources and inspiration they need to reach these young people with the love, grace and hope of Jesus. As part of this work we have helped churches to think about the Bibles that are routinely offered to children and young people and have encouraged them to look differently and think creatively about:
- What style of Bible will help each child or young person engage with God’s word best?
- Which Bible will be actively read and not just take up space on a bookshelf?
- What translation, style and format will give each child or young person the best way of accessing the Bible in a regular, meaningful way?
There are loads of Bibles out there, but there has always been a significant gap; a Bible for young people who can read, but due to a learning disability or difficulties are not easily able to access or engage with a traditional printed Bible. That’s why we were so enormously excited to hear about Biblica’s NIrV Accessible Edition Bible and jumped at the opportunity to partner with them to make this project a reality!
For the first time, many thousands of young people will be able to access, understand, be inspired by, and be spoken to through God’s word.
So often we think of groups of people with no access to the Bible as being in a remote village up the Amazon river somewhere, but the reality is that there are young people all around us in our communities and even in our own churches, who have never been able to read the Bible for themselves before now.
These young people don’t lack availability of Bibles, they might even have more than one copy that they have been given (perhaps at their Christening, or after so many weeks attendance in Sunday School), but it has never been possible for them to access it before. And young people with additional needs are just one group that sometimes struggle to access traditional Bibles; adults with learning disability or difficulties, people with partial sight loss, those for whom English is a second language and many more can find the Bibles offered routinely in church to be hard for them to read or understand.
The language used may be too complex, or the print too small and packed on the page, the pages too thin so that the next page shows through, there are no illustrations, the book/chapter/verse references are hard to follow etc… The Biblica NIrV Accessible Edition changes all of this... It allows young people with a range of additional needs (and the other groups mentioned) the opportunity to read their own Bible just like everyone else! No distinction, no stigma, no confusion, no barriers, the NIrV Accessible Edition is a leveler; bringing down barriers to God’s word and allowing everyone to share in its life saving message of love, grace and hope together.
When the sample ‘Matthew’s Gospel’ copies were released recently, the feedback was immediately positive. Let me share one story with you. I gave a copy to a young man in his late teens who has additional needs, he was thrilled to receive it and immediately started to read it. A while later he sheepishly approached me with a request, could he have another copy please as he wanted to share God’s word with his friend and was now able to do so! And this was just the sample copy!
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s worth celebrating. Depending on your denominational links it might be worth some “Hallelujah’s” and “Amen’s” as well! Maybe you will also think it’s worth getting hold of a few copies of this NIrV Accessible Edition New Testament Bible and handing it out to a few young people who will be transformed by it… I know I plan to, and I know the response is going to be wonderful!
For more information on Urban Saints and our additional needs ministry programme, please visit:
Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, as well as being a member of the Council for Disabled Children. He is father to James, who has Autism Spectrum Condition and associated Learning Difficulties.