The National Bible Bowl has been around since 1965, but the game looks quite different these days.
Now, in addition to the in-person competitions, Director Josiah Gorman has added virtual bowls. This online element has allowed children who don’t live near competitions to participate, including missionary children who live around the world.
The format of the in-person competitions and the types of questions have been revamped as well.
“Our goal is to train students in scriptures. Some of what we were doing wasn’t directly related, so we cut out what wasn’t serving that mission anymore,” Gorman says. Plus, turnover had increased. Prior to COVID-19, about 40% of bowl players were not returning, and not because they were graduating.
“That’s how we knew we had some real problems,” says Gorman.
Gorman compares the current iteration to Jeopardy, with several categories and questions within those categories, all centered on a specific passage of scripture. Previously, there was no limit on how many questions a particular player on a team could answer, which led to a single player or two dominating each team. Now, a single player can only respond to roughly a quarter of the questions. The competition still includes a quoting bee, where students recite as much of a passage as they can.
Bible Bowl follows a semester format, with three monthly competitions per semester that lead up to a more comprehensive competition at the end. Each monthly competition focuses on a few chapters of scripture, and then the final event of the semester covers all of that scripture together. Though there is a third through fifth grade track and a sixth through 12th grade track, the elementary school participants cover less material.
The final competition this fall will be held at Kentucky Christian University. The festivities stretch across a weekend, with programming and competition for a half day Friday, a full day Saturday, a Saturday evening church service and then a Sunday morning component. The culminating bowl in the spring will be at Milligan University in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Gorman spreads the word about Bible Bowl at missions, home-school and children’s pastor conferences throughout the year, as well as through publications. Despite the evolution of Bible Bowl over the decades, the purpose of the organization is still the same.
“In all our public events and our private reflections, we strive to teach students God's Word.”