Young members of the Church of the Nazarene in Sherwood will be poring over Old Testament passages in the coming weeks, hoping to memorize not only major themes but also minor details from the Books of Samuel.
Participants in the denomination's Bible quiz program will be able to demonstrate their scriptural acuity April 15, when they gather for a district-wide quiz meet.
Winners will advance to the worldwide Bible quiz competition in June in Indianapolis.
Last weekend, roughly two dozen young Bible scholars met for a practice round at Brockington Road Church of the Nazarene.
They fielded multiple choice questions about King Saul and King David, about Philistines and Prophets, raising numbered cardboard signs to reveal their answers.
A scorekeeper jotted down their replies.
Afterward, they enjoyed pizza while the judges determined their final scores.
Students must score 70% or higher at the district level to advance.
At last week's competition, Quiz Master Brandy Williams alternated between asking questions and offering reassurance.
Low scores could still be raised, knowledge gaps could still be plugged, she assured them.
"You've still got a month to really work on it and study hard," she said. "You all are doing awesome."
Participants ranged from first-graders to sixth-graders. The younger group fielded 30 questions over two rounds and selected from three possible answers. The older group answered 40 questions, winnowing four possible answers down to one.
A similar program exists for students in grades six through 12.
Freddy Finley, family and children's pastor at the Brockington Road church, said the primary aim is educational; winning is secondary.
"We want the kids to succeed, but the main point is to be biblically literate and memorize Scripture," he said.
There are 114 Nazarene churches with a total of 16,301 adherents in Arkansas, according to the 2020 U.S. Religion Census. The state is divided into two districts. Most of the Little Rock area, including Sherwood, is in the South Arkansas District.
Worldwide, the Nazarene Church has an estimated 2.5 million adherents, including 905,690 in the United States.
The church, which was organized in Pilot Point, Texas, in 1908, traces its roots to John Wesley and is a member of the World Methodist Council.
Many of its early members came out of Methodist churches.
Since its inception, the church has stressed the importance of holy living and the need for revival.
Dissatisfied with the state of religion in the United States at the time, Phineas F. Bresee, a former Methodist Episcopal Church preacher and the denomination's principal founder, once said: "God has called us to help Christianize Christianity."
The name of the denomination refers to Nazareth of Galilee, where Jesus grew up.
From the beginning Nazarenes emphasized the value of Bible study and memorization. Their Articles of Faith declares that "the Old and New Testament Scriptures, given by plenary inspiration, contain all truth necessary to faith and Christian living."
For most of the denomination's existence, the Nazarenes have sponsored Bible quizzes.
"It's one of the most consistent programs we have for discipling children and youth," said Susanna Marston, associate pastor of Greenwood Church of the Nazarene.
"The word of God does not fall void. It comes back and returns," she said, paraphrasing the words of Isaiah 55:11.
When a child participates in Bible Quiz, the Scripture "gets into their heads, it gets into their minds, it gets into their hearts ... . It will follow them throughout their lives," she said.