A word from the author: As a former Bible Quizzer, and current coach, official, and fan—all at the highest level achievable for me—I believe there is no Christian program for youth more capable of transforming a life for the better than this one. You could fill many paragraphs with testimony after testimony of the positive influence Bible Quizzing has had on individuals, families, and sometimes whole churches. However, in this guide I'll stick to giving you a basic understanding of what CBQ is, and letting you decide for yourself whether you'd like to join in.
What is Bible Quizzing?
Christian Bible Quizzing, or CBQ, is primarily three things: a competitive sport with a high degree of both accessibility and strategy, a Christian youth ministry with a focus on Scriptural literacy, and a community that emphasizes faith, fellowship, and fun.
As a sport, CBQ has the complexity that allows teams and individuals to work out unique strategies that play to specific strengths. Numerous and varied routes to success means that you can approach the competition of CBQ in the way that works best for you, and still achieve success within the field.
This also means that CBQ is incredibly accessible to any individual interested in participating. No matter your level of experience or preparation, you'll have ample opportunity to contribute to your team's success.
As a youth ministry, Christian Bible Quizzing equips you with a deep understanding of the Scriptures. With memorization at the forefront, not only will the verses you learn stay with you through the years, but you'll also acquire techniques and skills for retaining knowledge that can apply to other areas of your life.
Having a good understanding of the Scriptures will contribute to a young Christian's spiritual journey, contextualizing and giving perspective on many events that occur along the path of life, and even increase your ability to discern sound—and, by extension, misleading—teaching within the church itself.
The Christian Bible Quizzing community is a dynamic network of groups and individuals, among whom anyone can feel comfortable and welcomed. Whether you come to quizzing for the competition, for socialization, to support friends or family, or just at the encouragement of someone you trust, you'll find yourself a place to stay and belong.
Inside and outside of quizzes you'll find the community encouraging and uplifting among its members; sportsmanship is a virtue found strongly at every level, and in every corner. Connections that last for years can be found and forged through the fellowship shared by quizzers, coaches, officials, and parents.
The Sport of Quizzing
In this guide, we'll focus on the sport part of Christian Bible Quizzing. This is not meant to imply that the sport is the most important element—there is much more to be said about the other two aspects—but rather that the competition structure is the most complex and therefore most in need of in-depth explanation for those who are new to the program entirely.
There are several things that need to happen before you can show up to a meet and quiz. If you're reading this guide, you're probably familiar with someone who can help you do those things. But here is an overview:
Form a Team
Quizzing is a team sport. A team can have up to three quizzers on a team, and having the maximum number gives you a couple of advantages: besides having a better shot at knowing any particular verse that comes up in a quiz, you'll also have a better shot at certain kinds of bonus points.1
If you were invited to quizzing through a friend or church group, you've probably already got the team thing sorted out. If you found quizzing on your own or learned about it from your parents, you can look for quizzing programs in your area and either join a team or see if it's possible to register for an upcoming meet with some of your friends or family.
Whatever kind of team you find yourself on, it's a good idea to stay in regular contact with your teammates while you're studying between meets. Whether that means studying together, going over strategies, doing team-building exchanges, or just hanging out together is up to you. All of those things will strengthen your bond and make quizzing together much more fun.
You'll want to know what material will be covered for the meet—which books of the Bible, which chapters in those books, and which verses in those chapters. It could also be helpful to know how many verses in total will be in the material used at the meet. A schedule for the year, with material-by-meet information, is typically provided at the beginning of the year – feel free to ask a coach or official for a copy.
Before you begin, you should have a plan for how to divide up your study by day, week, and quiz meet. For example, you could set an amount of time you want to study each day, and a number of verses to learn by the end of each week and by each meet. But of course this is all up to each quizzer to decide. It would also be wise to go over memorization plans as a team to ensure a wide spread of material knowledge.
Of course, while committing verses to memory is a core element of the sport, a goal worth achieving for many reasons and the best way to truly excel in the sport, it is not technically a requirement for quizzing at a meet. Those new to quizzing, those still building confidence and skills, and even experienced quizzers who would like to have the option may bring a paper-based material reference and use it during quizzes.
At a Quiz Meet
A Quiz Meet can contain any number of teams, and any number of quizzes may take place. In keeping with the values of CBQ and fostering a godly community, Quiz Meets also contain other elements such as worship, devotions, group activities, and awards. Ultimately, teams are ranked based on team points or quiz placement (1st, 2nd, 3rd), while individuals are ranked based on personal score or average.
In a Quiz you'll be tested using queries, which prompt you to respond by quoting scripture you've memorized in preparation. There are four types of queries:
- Quote: The prompt is simply a verse reference. You respond by quoting the verse.
- Finish: The prompt is the first five or more words of a verse. You respond by quoting the rest of the verse.
- Phrase: The prompt is a unique phrase of at least four words from anywhere in the material. You respond by quoting whatever remains in the verse the phrase comes from.
- Chapter Reference: The prompt is a book name and chapter number, plus a phrase of at least three words which occurs only once in that chapter and at least one other place in a different chapter. You respond by quoting whatever remains in the verse the phrase comes from.
There are 3 ways you can choose to respond to a prompt:
- Synonymous: This is the default way of answering, meaning you don't need to declare it when you buzz in. It simply means that your response need not be word-perfect in relation to the verse text, provided your response contains approved synonyms (articles ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’, are not included for judging in this type of reply).
- Verbatim: When you declare verbatim, your response must be completely word-perfect, matching the verse text exactly as written.
- Open-Book: When you declare open-book, you may consult a paper-based reference while responding. This paper(s) could include printed material, phrase lists with references, lists of unique/important words, any/all of the above, or anything of that sort.
If your chosen response is either synonymous or verbatim, you can choose to declare either or both of these optional Add-ons:
- Add a Verse: If you declare this, you must answer the prompt as you would normally, then quote the entire next verse in whichever way you already declared (synonymous/verbatim).
- With Reference: If you declare this, you must provide the reference of the verse from which the prompt came (not compatible with Quote because the reference is already provided for this query type).
If declared, you must complete the Add-ons in order to be awarded points for the query.
2. In a Quiz
Now that we know what a query is and how you respond to one, let's go over how the actual process of quizzing works.
A typical quiz will have 3 teams competing, with up to 3 quizzers on each team.
Each query in a quiz is labeled, and it always starts with Query 1A. If that query gets a correct response, the next query will be 2A; if incorrect, the next will be 1B, and the team that responded will be ineligible for that query. If a B query gets an incorrect response, the next will be C, where only 1 team is eligible. Once a query gets a correct response, the letter resets to A and the number is moved to the next in order. In a 3 team quiz, there are 12 numbers for queries, which means a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 36 queries per quiz. The type, order, and translation of each query should be published and available to the public long before a quiz begins, allowing teams to form strategies in advance.
The Quiz Magistrate (QM) will begin each prompt with a preamble, announcing the query label, the type, the Bible translation, and which teams are eligible. The QM will then say, "Ready. Begin." and proceed to read the prompt. A quizzer may buzz in at any point after the QM says "Begin". If part of the prompt remains unsaid, the quizzer will have to complete the prompt in addition to giving a correct response in order to be counted correct.
Teams gain points with each correct response. A number of factors can affect how many points are gained each query, including:
- Response Type
- The three response types are worth different amounts of points based on their relative difficulty: Open-book is worth a very small amount 2, synonymous is the default and gets you a modest amount, and as verbatim is the hardest to pull off, it's worth the most by quite a bit.
Quite simply, at the end of a quiz, the team with the most points is the winner. If the score is tied after the final query, the quiz will advance to the next number with a new query of random type and translation, and so on until the tie is broken.
3. Outside Quizzes
When not actively participating in a quiz, there are several ways you can still be engaged and involved at the meet.
3.1 Watch other quizzes
Sitting in on a quiz is beneficial, both practically and socially:
- You can cheer on another team; acts of good sportsmanship encourage camaraderie among teams and quizzers. Ideally, every quizzer should feel the room is rooting for them when they get up to respond.
- You can absorb material by listening to the prompts and responses. Hearing a verse in one quiz and using it in the next is a tried-and-true approach among all kinds of quizzers.
- You can sit with your team and go over strategies you might use if you encounter a similar situation in your quiz.
3.2 Study with your team
Doing drills, memorizing verses, or working on strategies are all great ways to study with your team between quizzes. Besides the obvious benefit of boosting your potential to respond well in a quiz, this can also be a great way to bond with your team, which is one of the most effective ways to feel integrated in the program.
The middle school introvert in me groans at this word, but it is absolutely one of the most enjoyable parts of any quiz meet. Meeting new people, reconnecting with people you saw at the last meet, or just hanging out with friends you've made form the backbone of fond memories that shape friendships and last for years. As I've said, the community should feel welcoming and familial, and if you are joining games, cracking jokes and building relationships with your peers at every opportunity, it will.
In this guide I've only briefly touched on the vastness of the sport, and indeed the world, of Bible Quizzing. If you want to dive deeper into how the sport works, the best place to start is just reading through the official CBQ rulebook (available here), but the truth is, the only way to be truly acquainted with this program is to step in and give it a try. Whether you stay for a few weeks, a few years, or for a good chunk of your adult life is up to you, and you needn’t ever feel locked in. Just count on this: whatever effort you invest into this program, great or small, it will be repaid to you tenfold in ways you can’t even imagine yet.
With some notable exceptions – see “Open-Book Strategy for Veteran Quizzers” for more information - Add-Ons - The With Reference and Add a Verse bonuses can be selected by a quizzer on most queries, each granting a bonus point if the quizzer responds correctly and completes the Add-On's requirement. - Team Bonuses - There are Team Streak Bonuses which award points for different team members responding correctly consecutively with each other. - There are also 2nd and 3rd quizzer bonuses, which award bonus points for multiple team members responding correctly for the first time each quiz. - Ceiling Bonuses - The ceiling is how many correct responses a quizzer can have before they became ineligible to trigger in that quiz. - The ceiling will lower if a quizzer selects open-book on any of their queries. - If a quizzer reaches their ceiling with no incorrect responses and without having selected open-book on any query, they'll receive bonus points. ↩