Provided by Matt Baron

Thirty youngsters from throughout the region descended on Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park recently to compete in a local Bible Bee.

In addition to a large contingent hailing from Oak Park and nearby towns, the children—ranging from 7 to 17 years old—came from as far away as Crest Hill, Burbank, Naperville, Bolingbrook and Evanston to put their Bible verse memorization and comprehension to the test.

In the end, one 9-year-old girl qualified for the national Bible Bee competition to be held Nov. 16-19 in Nashville. In addition, every participant gained a deeper knowledge of truths contained in translations ranging from King James to the New International Version.

Spearheading the effort was Julie Norton, a member of Calvary Memorial, 931 Lake St. She first became aware of the Bible Bee three years ago, and served as a volunteer for two years, including the national Bible Bee held last year in Schaumburg.

“I was very curious about it for my home-school support group,” Norton said. “I asked the members what they thought of this crazy idea of planning a local Bible Bee. They said they’d help me if I pursued it, and my husband, Dan, and I felt it was a good program to pursue. It’s been a great experience.”

Backed by 24 volunteers, the event on Aug. 27 was a resounding success, with contestants, their siblings and parents experiencing spiritual growth through the three-month preparation process of studying a variety of designated Scriptures.

Contestants were placed in three different groups, based on age and extent of Scripture memorized. In one phase, they were given Scriptural references and tested on their ability to recite the verse. In another phase, they took a multiple-choice test measuring their comprehension of Biblical passages.

For those whose scores in the first two segments qualified them, the final phase was most reminiscent of the Spelling Bee format, as contestants stood at a microphone and sought to recite a verse put forth by judges.

One winning verse was John 1:29: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ Another was John 10:11—”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (English Standard Version)

“It ran very smoothly for contestants and volunteers,” Norton said. “One contestant shared how studying God’s word through this program was like an accelerated Sunday School class. I experienced personal spiritual growth from the Bible study and I have seen spiritual growth in my two children who participated.”

The contestant who qualified for the national competition is studying the book of 2 Peter and memorizing an additional 150 verses—she memorized 250 for the local competition and studied the book of 1 Peter.

Norton is hopeful that there will be another Bible Bee at Calvary Memorial next year. The 2012 Bible Bee dates will be announced at the national competition in November.

For more information, please contact Julie Norton at or visit

Join the discussion on social media!

Evan O'Brien

Evan O'Brien is the content manager of Soon after Evan was born in Chicago, his family moved to Oak Park for the same reason that attracts people to the "World's Largest Village" today: the...