Sword drills and Bible baseball are fun ways for kids to hone their Bible skills. Does the mere mention of “sword drills” bring back memories of VBS and Sunday school?
The term sword drill invokes New Testament imagery of the Bible as a sword. The relevant scripture verses are:
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)
The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
These images create a powerful metaphor of the Bible as a standard part of the Christian’s equipment. Not only should the Christian have a Bible, but he or she should know it inside and out and be able to wield it appropriately.
Back in Roman times, a soldier without a sword wasn’t a whole lot of help when it came time to do army things. So perhaps that’s part of the metaphor too: a Christian without his or her “sword” (a.k.a. knowledge of Scripture) is missing an essential article of their equipment that they actually need to be of any use in God’s kingdom.
You can read more about the procedure for a sword drill in the definition and citations below. Don’t forget to keep on scrolling so you can read about Bible baseball!
What other metaphors or creative expressions for the Bible do you know?
sword drill n. [*sword ‘metaphor for the Bible’ + drill ‘an exercise, practice’] A competitive game for children in which the first person to locate and correctly recite a given verse in the Bible wins.
The format of the sword drill varies widely. Generally, the person leading the drill begins by saying, “Attention” and the players hold their Bible down at their side or tucked under one arm—as if the Bible is “sheathed.” Then the leader says, “Draw swords” or “Present arms” and the players hold their Bibles up in the air or straight out in front of them, as if the Bible were an unsheathed sword. Then the leader calls out a book, chapter, and verse of the Bible, and the players immediately search in their Bibles to find it. The first player to find the verse and read it aloud correctly wins.
Sword drills are often associated with evangelicals, fundamentalists, Baptists, and Christians living in the southern United States (see various citations).
Sword drills are also sometimes regarding as being old-fashioned or reminiscent of a bygone era (see citations for 1993, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2010).
See also *Bible baseball; *Bible drill; *knee drill.
• 1894 The Church at Home and Abroad XV. 342 : The late Miss Charlotte Tucker, whose nephew, of the Salvation Army, was accustomed to send her literature containing frequent mention of “Knee Drill,” wrote urging the importance of “Sword Drill,” i.e., practice in the use of the Sword of the Spirit. 1921 White Our B.Y.P.U.: Manual for Baptist Young People on Organization, Programs, and Methods 48 : The name “sword drill” comes from the verse of Scripture, “The sword of the spirit which is the Word of God.” In this drill the boys and girls become familiar with the main divisions of the Bible, with the books in each division, with the central thought in each book. They are also taught how to find verses in the Bible quickly. All of this is put into drill form. Sometimes the boys are arrayed against the girls; sometimes the one who finds the verse, chapter, or book first, stands. At other times the whole union sees how many verses it can find in one minute. 1959 Edge Helping the Teacher 64 : The Sword Drill in the [Baptist] Training Union has been a most effective means to lead people to become adept at finding passages in the Bible. 1970 Newsweek LXXVI. 53 : The week’s activities can include basketball at the church gymnasium as well as the traditional adult study classes and “sword drills” aimed at teaching youngsters’ recall of selected Bible verses. “Southern Baptists have worn out people going to church,” says the Rev. William Lancaster, the liberal young pastor of the First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga. 1972 Abernethy Observations and Reflections on Texas Folklore 66 : Things began for the young folks an hour before regular revival services. Mostly we had sword drills which commenced when the leader read out a scripture and then said, “go.” You had to know the books of the Bible by heart and in proper sequence or you didn’t have a chance to be first. 1977 Texas Monthly (Feb.) 84 : I went to the Baptist Vacation Bible School several years … and did right well at a Bible game, called Sword Drill—“Attention! Draw swords! (No thumbs over the edges, now.) John 3:16! Charge!” 1985 Phillips, Harrell A Heart Set Free 55 : She’d lick her finger again, flip the pages to another Scripture, and point to the answer. Erby’s not Southern Baptist, I argued inside myself. She’s not been trained in sword drill. How does she know how to do that? 1987 Klein Growing Up Born Again: A Whimsical Look at the Blessings and Tribulations of Growing Up Born Again 38 : 1991 Chall Making God Real to Your Children 20 : It came time for the highlight of VBS opening exercises—the sword drill. “Draw your swords,” called Pastor Phil. One hundred kids, filled with anticipation, lifted their Bibles high in the air. 1991 Roehlkepartain Children’s Ministry That Works! The Basics and Beyond 176 : Avoid using competitive Bible games such as “Sword Drills,” since they can alienate children from each other. 1993 Ball–Kilbourne Get Acquainted with Your Bible: Leaders Guide 6 : Hold an old-fashioned “sword drill.” “Sword drills” were held in Sunday school classes to help students learn how to find different parts of the Bible quickly. If not overused, they can provide a fun learning experience. 1999 Cryderman Glory Land: A Memoir of a Lifetime in Church 12 : It did not hurt that I married a Baptist girl who not only spent more time in church as a youngster than I did, but won every sword drill to boot. (If you do not know what a sword drill is, I can guess your age or former church affiliation.) 2000 Mouw The Smell of Sawdust: What Evangelicals Can Learn from Their Fundamentalist Heritage 141 : Evangelicalism is blessed these days with new opportunities to understand the profound words of life given to us in the Scriptures. For some of us, these new lessons are expanded versions of what we first learned by submitting to the spiritual disciplines of Bible memory contests and “sword drills.” 2002 Balmer Encyc. of Evangelicalism 2002 Flora, MacKethan, Taylor, eds. The Companion to Southern Literature s.v. Bible : Sunday schools and youth groups, no longer well attended, are no longer centered on Bible reading, “sword drills,” or memorization as they once were. 2003 Howell Naked in Church 147 : The sword drill is a game used mostly in fundamentalist churches as a means of helping their youth learn the books of the Bible. 2005 Reagan Higley Lesson Commentary 248 : Does anyone remember the “sword drills” from Sunday school days so long ago we’re embarrassed to admit when? 2006 Jenkins The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South 165 : Evangelicals in the United States have long trained children in sword drill, the rapid location of Bible texts—hence the bloodcurdling cries of “Draw swords!” one hears directed at classes of very small children. 2008 Martin Pedagogy of the Bible: An Analysis and Proposal 1 : Some of us former fundamentalist kids remember “sword drills,” popular sometimes in Sunday schools but especially as a competition at Bible camp. 2010 Peterson I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth 32 : Southern Baptist Sword Drills are like spelling bees for true believers. The Holy Bible was my sword, scripture memorization was the drill, and manual dexterity made the winner. 2010 Goldsmith Jokes, Quotes and Anecdotes 75 : You’ve attended church for many years if you remember … when “Sword Drills” were common and “Scripture Memorization” was encouraged.
Bible baseball n. A game for children that requires players to answer questions about the Bible; a Bible trivia game.
See also *sword drill.
• 1913 “Bible Baseball Game” The Interior (19 Jun.) 870 : Two teams, boys and girls, labeled to correspond with the positions on a baseball nine, recently played a contest at First church, South Bend, Ind., in which questions on the Bible were used by the pitchers in place of a ball. The pitcher hurled a question at the batter and if he answered correctly he advanced to first base. If he missed, the catcher had a try at it. If the catcher answered it correctly the batter was out, otherwise he took a base on balls. 1944 American Bible Society Annual Report 99 : A study of the Word was also encouraged by Bible baseball. The Secretary prepared new rules for this old game. These rules provide questions, which are graded as singles, doubles, triples, home runs, bunts, and sacrifice flies. 1949 Taylor Bible Baseball: 840 Bible Questions and Answers, Graded Into Singles, Doubles, Triples, Homeruns, Sacrifices and Bunts [title] 1959 The Cokesbury Party Book 159 : One of the best Bible games known is Bible Baseball. This can form the major part of an evening entertainment. 1970 Fischer Bible Baseball, No. 2: Bible Questions and Answers Graded for Baseball Competition [title] 1986 Cionca The Troubleshooting Guide to Christian Education 101 : The worker used an old edition of Bible Baseball as a learning activity for third through sixth graders. To her surprise she found that many of the children could not answer the “single” questions, let alone attempt a double, triple or home run. 2000 Petersen Bible Fun Stuff vii : We spent lots of Sunday afternoons playing “Bible baseball” and other quiz games—but we also had a lot of fun with it. 2004 Mennard Shall We Gather at the Potluck: A Heartwarming Look at the Church I Love 72 : Speaking of Bible games, why can’t we still play a friendly bout of Bible Baseball among adults? (OK, I may be the only one who’s in favor of this one!) 2012 Idleman Not a Fan: Teen Edition: What Does It Really Mean to Follow Jesus? 42 : The Pharisees knew a lot about God. When someone wanted to play “Bible Trivial Pursuit,” “God-opoly,” or “Bible Baseball,” they would dominate.
Bible drill n. See various senses.
1. A general term for a Bible quiz or Bible trivia contest.
• 1895 International Committee of Young Men’s Christian Associations Personal Work: How Organized and Accomplished 16 : On the Bible Drill: Have Bibles and notebooks closed. Take up each point of the topic, calling upon some member to repeat the passage from the Bible which will most clearly establish it…. Require ready answers. Insist on exact quotations. 1904 Presbyterian Church in the United States Minutes of the General Assembly 86 : Besides the lesson treatment in story form, with the lesson text, and its teaching brought out by well framed questions, there are found in the Junior Quarterly, map studies, lesson hymns, memory verses and Bible drills. 1930 Murch Successful C.E. [=Christian Endeavor] Prayer-Meetings 92 : A Bible-drill Meeting: Take a goodly portion of the regular program for an old-fashioned Bible drill in … answering Bible questions. 1978 Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly vols. 75–76 115 : Activities that can lead children into the Bible are often very good. Here are some examples: “Bible drills, contests, riddles, tests, and games.”
2. Syn *sword drill.
• 1905 Wells Sunday School Problems: A Book of Practical Plans for Sunday School Teachers and Officers 154 : I have mentioned Bible drills. Let me name a few. Such sprightly exercises as the following may occupy the first five minutes of every lesson…. Finding verses: “First Corinthians 2:5”—to see who can first turn to the passage and read it. 1930 Murch Successful C.E. [=Christian Endeavor] Prayer-Meetings 92 : A Bible-drill Meeting: Take a goodly portion of the regular program for an old-fashioned Bible drill in … finding Scripture passages. 1980 Bowman Teaching Today: The Church’s First Ministry 24 : Bible book “drills”: In an earlier day they were called “sword drills.” 1983 Centennial Hist. of First Presbyterian Church, Newport News, Virginia, 1883–1983 47 : taught us how to use and to treat our new Bibles, through Bible drills which pitted boys against girls. No graduate of the Junior Department ever needed to use his Bible’s table of contents to locate any book. 1994 Reimer 1001 Ways to Help Your Child Walk with God 188 : This sword drill is really a Bible drill—a friendly contest to sharpen your skills at locating verses in the Bible. Hebrews 4:12 tells us why God’s book is called a sword. 2001 Reid, ed. Psalms and Practice: Worship, Virtue, and Authority 33 : When I was growing up in the First Baptist Church of McColl, South Carolina, we participated in “sword drills.” … The instructions were “attention, draw swords—a text was called such as Psalm 1:1—charge.” Whoever found the text stepped forward from the line-up, read, and gained the advantage in this cutthroat competition. I look back on that with a smile. I am told these contests persist as Bible drills now. 2003 Dickson The Gospel According to Moses: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me About Jesus 16 : I remember “Bible drills” when I was seven or eight years old. My Sunday school class was given a verse to look up as quickly as possible. The first to find it won something, usually a little sticker to affix inside the cover of his or her Bible. 2004 Loya The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber 8 : Then they’d play “Bible drill”: Ruth would shout out a verse, such as John 3:16, and the older kids would race to locate it. The winner would then read it aloud. 2005 McAlister Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East Since 1945 xv : Having grown up as a Southern Baptist in a small town nearby, I was enthusiastic about the camp routines: daily Bible study; games and contests, including Bible drills in the time-honored tradition. 2007 Clark, Leonard, Reed Outside the Fence: Stories of an Army Officer’s Kids and WWII POW Camps 133 : We also had Bible drills. These were games in which we would stand in a long line, Bibles held in the ready position to the commands “Attention” and “Draw Swords.” A scripture would be given, then the command “Charge!” We would then open our Bibles to find the location. The first one to step forward with the place marked by an index finger would then be allowed to read the passage aloud.
3. A sermon or Bible study that requires one to flip back and forth in the Bible in order to follow along. The allusion is to the frantic paging through the Bible of someone who is participating in a *sword drill.