Association of German Biblical Circles

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The Bund Deutscher Bibelkreise was an umbrella organization for groups of Protestant students from Germany . Its work as an independent youth association ended in the 1970s. In the regional churches of the EKD , the Protestant school work (usually a branch of the respective regional youth parish office) took over the work with the pupils. The Federation of German Biblical Circles (BK) e. V. is now an association of former members of the student Bible circles ("BK") in the western member churches of the EKD and also the student work of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in the GDR . The association meets in autumn for four-day annual meetings in different locations.

The active Protestant student work of the regional churches are now united in the Working Group of Protestant Student Work (AES) based in Hanover . There is a close cooperation between BK and its successor organization AES.


The roots of the Federation of German Biblical Circles go back to the year 1883 in Elberfeld . The student Wilhelm Weigle and the high school students Alfred Christlieb and Fritz Mockert formed a “first league” and formed the first “Bible meeting”. This expression was common at the time for different interest groups that formed in high schools. Shortly afterwards, Weigle founded two more Bible meetings in Berlin. The idea spread quickly, and more Bible meetings were founded in secondary schools throughout the German Reich. Of course, only male students could join. This remained so until the BK was dissolved almost a hundred years later.

The BK was an independent association in the church. In the movement, high school students from high school came together to make decisions about beliefs and life together. The founders were concerned with the “fight against a perverted class spirit, pub, cheating and everything ungodly”. Reading and interpreting the Bible and witnessing the faith of adult guests in the youth group was fundamental. It is also noticeable that there has always been an unproblematic coexistence between adult, mostly voluntary, leaders and high school students.

The first working aid for reading the Bible appeared as early as 1898: “Search in the Scriptures”. This was a guide to daily Bible reading with a text schedule for a year. This series was not discontinued until 1968.

Until the First World War

The expansion of the movement to other places in Germany was included in the founding idea from the outset and was carried out on the basis of the principle that anyone could join who wanted to join the “serious league”. The supra-regional “Bund der Bibelkränzchen” was founded early in 1884.

In 1888 there were 15 circles with around 200 members, in 1903 there were 45 circles with around 1,000 members and in 1913 there were 290 circles with around 12,000 members. That was the actual founding time for the BK. Pastors or teachers took over the management, there were only a few full-time "travel secretaries". Older high school students led groups of younger people.

Between the wars until its dissolution in 1933

In 1915 the term “Biblical Circle” was replaced by “Biblical Circle” while keeping the abbreviation “BK”. In the same year, a decisive change in the course could also be determined: In the course of a dispute with the newly emerging migratory bird movement, it was redesigned. The pietistic mainstream of the previous tradition of the BK competed with the greater independence of the members in the Wandervogel movement . Fritz Mockert, the General Secretary at the time, rejected the “youth movement” and insisted that the BK was a “leadership movement” and a “missionary organization”. After the First World War there was a division of the BK due to these differences in Württemberg. A large number of those who wanted renewal in the spirit of the youth movement formed the League of Kings .

In 1921 the first Reich Conference of the BK took place at Gleichen Castle in Thuringia. The contradictions between the "old" and the innovators could not be eliminated. However, the conversation remained. The following Reich meetings in Blankenburg, Harz, 1925 (850 participants) and 1928 (600 participants) show, however, that the spirit of the youth movement prevailed. 1928 was also the year it was renamed “Bund Deutscher Bibelkreise (BK)”. This federation gave itself a " bundische " form corresponding to the youth movement . This, however, was only an acknowledgment of the factual: From the groups, the alliance had prevailed over the state associations ("Gauverbände") into the federal government. It became increasingly widespread that individuals were solemnly accepted into membership under a "promise". He wore a gray shirt as an outfit. From then on, the sword cross was the common symbol . With the Reichslager in Greitz in 1931, the middle school pupils also became full members. The controversy over the ideas of National Socialism began.

In 1933 the number of members in the Reich Association was around 17,000. The Reichstagung took place in the Sennelager near Bielefeld in the form of a tent camp with 5,000 participants. The 50th anniversary was celebrated. A film document ("Reichstagung des Bundes Deutscher Bibelkreise 1883-1933") showed the juxtaposition of the sword cross and swastika flag. This is symptomatic insofar as the debate about “national renewal” continued. This was not over when a contract was signed between the Hitler Youth and Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller at the end of 1933 . After that, the youth associations only had the choice between incorporation into the Hitler Youth or dissolution. The BK chose the dissolution of the Federation and now continued to exist in community groups under the protection of the parish offices. Udo Smidt , who was Reichswartner at the time, communicated this to the regional associations and groups on February 5, 1934 with the so-called “gray letter”. The common bond was upheld - until it was banned by the Gestapo in 1938 - by the members' magazineJungewacht ”. In 1934, it became the joint bulletin not only of the Bund Deutscher Bibelkreise, but also of the Christian Scouting and the Federation of Christian German Youth .

After the Second World War

Initially, the circles were called Jungewacht circles in remembrance that the Jungewacht had been the connecting bond between the groups. From 1947, the Jungewacht appears again. Among other things, Hermann Ehlers - later President of the Bundestag - made a contribution to the re-establishment of the BK.

The new beginning after the war was characterized by the "diversity" of the forms of the school groups. Lower Saxony, for example, was clearly shaped by alliances. Student Bible groups were formed in Westphalia and Rhineland, and in Swabia the groups belonged to the community youth. Overall, it was evident that the bond with the church and the congregation grew and the independence of the Confederation took a back seat. For example, the cross on the globe became the common symbol for the entire Protestant youth in Germany. The common ground ("churchization") that had grown in the Third Reich under pressure from the state bore fruit here.

The first Reichstag took place in Göttingen in 1948. The main speaker was the former BKler and theology professor Otto Weber . The second Reichstag took place in Marburg in 1950. The main presentations were given by Regional Bishop Hanns Lilje and the then Federal Minister of the Interior and President of the Synod of the EKD, Gustav Heinemann . At both conferences, the different groups discussed the form of their work. For the elderly, the binding forms (the “alliance”) were an expression of their identity and a characteristic of common thinking, striving and lifestyle. Many younger people did not want to submit to these forms despite their understanding of the older ones.

In 1952 the third Reichstag after the war took place. The BK had now regained a foothold in all regional churches. This also applied to the eastern regional churches in the GDR . The question of the external shape (gap) remains in the debate. The old question about the BK as a "leader movement" appeared in a new guise: The Bund Deutscher Bibelkreise should not only be an association of leaders, but was looking for a community of circles. During this time, as before, student work was still looking for commitment in regular groups of boys and contacts with other groups, especially at the Reichstagungen. In 1952, the Reich Representative Assembly of the BK (Assembly of Delegates) emphasized that despite all the controversy about the external forms and all the differences, Bible study and the community of young Christians that grew out of it was the common characteristic of all. In addition to the form of the binding group, new forms of Protestant student work gradually emerged: school lectures, student discussions, religious school weeks and other forms of missionary service in schools.

The Whitsun conference in Celle in 1954 was organized by the "Evangelical Young People's Association BK" in Lower Saxony as a joint tent camp. The Bündischen groups now referred to themselves as " young societies " and had the "BK" in their name.

In 1957 a Whitsun conference took place in Siegen, 1960 in Göttingen, 1963 in Duisburg, 1966 in Frankfurt, 1969 in Duisburg and 1983 the 100th anniversary was celebrated in Wuppertal and Berlin. On this occasion, the anthology evangelical student work in 100 years was published .

From the “covenant” to the working group in the church in the 50s and 60s

The BK increasingly saw itself as the branch of the church that spread the message of Jesus Christ among the students. The regional churches supported the development by setting up independent student parish councils in the regional youth parish councils. This meant that the idea of ​​an independent “covenant” that was independent and sometimes even vis-à-vis the church had to take a back seat. In the second half of the 1950s, two types of student work faced each other. On the one hand, there was the student association of groups and regional associations, which was looking for a binding form, and on the other hand, there was already an open school work supported by a regional church institution.

The change is also expressed in the terminology: the “Reichstagungen” became “Pentecost meetings of Protestant students”. In 1964 the youth magazine “Jungswacht” was replaced by the magazine “Motive”. The “motives” made it their task to make historical-critical theology known to high school students. The working group of full-time employees of the BK was expanded to form the “Conference of the Working Group for Protestant Student Work”, which included the full-time employees of the regional churches and also the work of female students. She kept in contact with the leadership of the student communities.

In 1967 the Peter Hammer Verlag was founded. It was headed by Hermann Schulz. After ten years of parallel work, he replaced the youth service publishing house, the BK publishing house. For many years, Johannes Rau - later Federal President - was the head of the youth service publisher. The program of the Peter Hammer Verlag worked independently as a publisher closely related to the church and no longer served the BK as a working aid like its predecessor. Initially, the Peter Hammer Verlag devoted itself to the discussion about solidarity with the liberation movements in the World Council of Churches and the international student movement. For a long time, one focus was on Latin American literature.

In the 1960s, the student work in West and East had to give up their intensive cooperation more and more in order to take political and church developments into account.

The Working Group of Protestant Students (AES)

In 1967, the student work was given a new order, which should take account of the developments among the student body. In 1972 the “ Arbeitsgemeinschaft Evangelische Schülerinnen- und Schülerarbeit (AES)” had the claim to unite all forms of student work in associations or as regional church work and to represent them externally. The transitions from z. Youth work that was partly characterized by alliances and open school work offered by the regional church accelerated through the student movement in the aftermath of 1968. Depending on the nature of the work, this happened under more or less major conflicts.

In the Jungewachtrundbrief 13/2011, Wolfgang Wild reported on the meeting of the former members of the Evangelical Youth Association of Lower Saxony. There you can find the following passage on this topic: “In the debate, the former BKler looked for specific reasons for the“ crumbling ”of the Ev. Boyhood. One explanation could be that the first generation of adult leaders of the Ev. Boyhood after the Second World War, the z. In some cases, even when boys had experienced the BK, wanted to give up their work after their own sons had outgrown the boys. Not enough adult successors have been found. The BK was always very personal. Another explanation was assumed that the Ev. Young people traditionally had been a pure boys' organization. The Christian Scouting Society responded to this challenge by joining forces with the Ev. Girl scouts responded faster. But even that does not adequately explain why the scouting body still exists and flourishes today and the BK does not. "

The recent history of the Federation of German Biblical Groups

The Bund Deutscher Bibelkreis (BK) was reactivated as a registered association after the Second World War. He managed the property and the BK-Verlag. From the 1960s onwards, he became a collective movement for former full-time and voluntary employees in the BK. In the 1980s he took over the maintenance of contacts with Protestant school work in the GDR. After Johannes Schlingensiepen, Werner Brölsch took over the chairmanship of the association. Under his leadership, the federal government also became a forum for discussions between the generations.

He was followed by Harm de Vries, Dieter Qualmann and Jürgen Schroer, who were all Reichswarte and General Secretaries of the BK and the AES. In 2003, Peter Tidow, one of the former state observers of the Evangelical Young Society of Lower Saxony, took over the office of chairman. In 2011 he was replaced by Rainer Triller, the first non-theologian and volunteer. From 1998, Ingo Holzapfel created the “Jungewacht Rundbrief-New Episode” on behalf of the BK board as an annual bulletin of the federal government. From 2002 with the No. 5 Wolfgang Wild took over this task.

BK and AES kept in increasingly good contact over time. The AES saw its foundation in history in the BK, and the BK in the AES its successor in working with pupils in a changed society and school. This even led to the BK as a registered association becoming the legal entity of the AES as a youth association. For example, the BK was an employer for the employees in the AES office for several years. In 2006 the offices of AES (Berlin) and the Working Group of Evangelical Youth in Germany (aej) in Hanover were merged. The background was austerity efforts by the EKD . With its grants, it ensured the work of the AES office in Berlin. This also ended the legal ownership of the BK, which passed to the aej.


In 2008, BK and AES celebrated their 125th anniversary. A joint closing event on the 1st of Advent in Berlin concluded a series of events in the country student work. In 2010, on the occasion of the anniversary, the publication “From 'Biblical Circle' to AES, 125 Years of Protestant Student Work” was brought out. At the same time, a DVD with the title “Life artist - Protestant schoolwork through the ages - 1883–2008” was produced under the coordination of Sophia Becker.

Associated with the association is the “Bund Deutscher Bibelkreise Foundation,” which manages assets of more than half a million euros. The proceeds go to the Federation of German Biblical Groups, the Working Group for Protestant Student Work and Protestant Student Work BK Berlin. The latter is the only still functioning youth work of the BK with several groups. It maintains its own newsletter “bk-nachrichten”.

The BK is currently trying to revive the association “Jugenddienst-Verlag e. V. “The youth service publisher was dissolved. His holdings and liabilities were taken over by the Peter Hammer Verlag in Wuppertal, which was founded in the meantime. The Jugenddienst-Verlag e. V. has the goal (according to the tradition of the Jugenddienst-Verlag) to support the state student works and the AES in their efforts to make media available for the student work and can also act as an independent publisher if necessary.

The future of the BK is limited, however. With the death of its members, the youngest of whom were active as pupils and students at the end of the 1960s, the BK will also hand over its work to the AES. There are already indications that the AES sees opportunities for its own alumni work to make use of the possibilities of the Federation of German Biblical Groups.


  • Eberhard Warns: History of the student Bible circles 1883-1967 . Jugenddienst-Verlag, Wuppertal 1968
  • Eberhard Warns et al. (Ed.): Protestant student work in 100 years . Jugenddienst-Verlag, Wuppertal 1983. ISBN 3-7795-7377-6 .
  • Sophia Becker, Ingo Holzapfel (eds.): From the little biblical circle to AES - 125 years of Protestant student work . Jugenddienst-Verlag, Wuppertal 2010, ISBN 978-3-00-032481-9 .

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