National Bible Bee

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National Bible Bee
Motto "God's Word transforming a generation"[1]
Headquarters San Antonio, TX
Region served
United States
Parent organization
The Shelby Kennedy Foundation

The National Bible Bee is a Bible contest held for the first time in 2009 by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation. The competition starts with local contests across the United States. The top 120 contestants from each age group (Primary, ages 7–10; Junior, ages 11–14; Senior, ages 15–18) advance to the National level. The first national competition was held in Washington, D.C. on November 5–6, 2009.[2] More than $260,000 in prize money is awarded.

Origins and philosophy[edit]

The National Bible Bee is sponsored by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation.[3] Shelby Kennedy, who died of cancer at the age of 23, spent her life studying the Bible and proclaiming Christ. After her death, The Shelby Kennedy Foundation, was established as a non-profit in her name to encouraging children and youth to memorize Scripture.[4]

The National Bible Bee promises large cash prizes for nine of the top-place finalists.[5] Both the local and national competition involve oral and written tests. The goal of the Bible Bee is to encourage young people in the Christian faith, by becoming more biblically literate. Their website states, "The vision for the Bible Bee is to encourage parents as they disciple their children through in-depth study of the Word of God, Scripture memorization, and prayer."[6]


Competition is divided into local and national levels. The local competition is not administrated directly by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation, but rather by separate entities known as Hosts. Though these groups are not legally related to the Shelby Kennedy Foundation, they are the only source of finalists for the national competition. The highest-scoring contestants in each age category proceed to the national competition. In 2009, National Bible Bee was held at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C..[7] The 2010 competition was held at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel and Conference Center in Schaumburg, Illinois.[5] The 2011 National Bible Bee was held in Nashville, Tennessee, and the 2012 and 2013 National Bible Bee was held at the Wilderness Stone Hill Lodge and Sevierville Events Center in Sevierville, Tennessee. The 2014 National Bible Bee competition was held in Orlando, Florida at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista. It was announced in the spring of 2015 that the National competitions of 2015, 2016, and 2017 would be held at the J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio, TX. The 2015 competition occurred on November 18-22, 2015.


Eligibility for the National Bible Bee is restricted to United States citizens, including residents of the District of Columbia and children of U.S. Armed Forces personnel stationed overseas. Legal residents may compete on the local level but may not advance to the National competition. Close relatives of the Shelby Kennedy Foundation members or others who have worked on the contest content are allowed to compete; however, they may not win prize money at the National Bible Bee Contest.

Contestants are divided into three age divisions: Primary (ages 7–10), Junior (ages 11–14) and Senior (ages 15–18).[8]

Study materials[edit]

The Bible Bee's competition material includes both memory work and an in-depth study on a selected book or portion of the Bible.[9]

Contestants are required to memorize a number of verses. From 2010 to 2011, the required number of verses was 800 for Seniors, 500 for Juniors, and 250 for Primaries. In oral competition the contestants must recite the passages they are asked word-for-word from any of four approved English versions (KJV, NKJV, NASB, or ESV). Points are deducted for extra or omitted words. In addition, comprehension of these verses is tested in a multiple-choice written test.

Bible knowledge[edit]

In 2009, all the contestants were to study Genesis, 1 & 2 Samuel, Matthew, Acts, and Romans.

Starting in 2010, all contestants receive a Sword Study Handbook, which is a study guide for a single book of the Bible. Comprehension of this book of the Bible is tested on a written test. Parents receive a Parent Guidebook, which contains guidelines for helping their children study that book of the Bible.

The Bible knowledge book for 2010 was Colossians.[10]

The Bible knowledge book for 2011 was 1 Peter. As of 2011, the contestants who advanced to Nationals were given a new book of the bible to study, which was announced when the National competitors were announced. In 2011, this book was 2 Peter.

The Bible knowledge book for 2012 was 2 Timothy. The book the contestants were to study for nationals in 2012 was 1 Timothy.

The Bible knowledge book for 2013 was 1 John. The book the contestants studied for nationals in 2013 was Ephesians.

The Bible knowledge book for 2014 was Jonah. The book the contestants studied for nationals in 2014 was Nahum.

The Bible knowledge passage for 2015 was Chapters 1-6 of John. The passage the contestants studied for nationals in 2015 was Chapters 7-12 of John.

The Bible knowledge passage for 2016 was Chapter 13-15 of John. The passage the contestants studied for nationals in 2016 was the book of 1 John.

Competition format[edit]

120 contestants are chosen from each age division to compete at the national competition in the fall. All contestants participate in a preliminary round featuring both a written exam and an oral recitation round. The semi-finals feature the top 15 contestants from each division competing in a single-elimination recitation format for five spots in the final challenge round. The format for finals changed from the format used in previous years. Round 1 featured each of the 5 finalists reciting a passage from memory, with points deducted for errors. The maximum points for round 1 was 3,000 points. Rounds 2-5 were open-ended Bible knowledge questions where contestants were given 30 seconds to write their answer on an iPad tablet. Each question was worth 1,000 points. Round 6 again required contestants to recite a passage from memory worth 3,000 points. The total possible points for the final challenge round was 10,000 points, with winners being determined by their cumulative scores from all 6 rounds. Ties were broken by using the contestant's scores from the preliminary round at the national competition.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "First Baptist offering enrollment in National Bible Bee program". The News-Reporter. March 26, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ Leichmann, Aaron J. (26 January 2009). "‘Bible Bee’ Deadline Draws Near; Communities Urged to Register". The Christian Post. Retrieved April 13, 2009. 
  4. ^ Rasche, Kit (November 11, 2008). "Introducing the National Bible Bee". Christian News Wire. Retrieved April 13, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "Nationals 2010". National Bible Bee. Retrieved March 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ "About us". National Bible Bee. Retrieved March 2, 2010. 
  7. ^ "2009 NBB Competition Contest" (PDF). National Bible Bee. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Bible Bee planned". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. April 1, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Bible Bee Overview". National Bible Bee. Retrieved March 2, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Bible Bee Materials". National Bible Bee. Retrieved June 26, 2010. 

External links[edit]