By Cheri Liefeld
As small group leaders, one of the best gifts we can give our group members is to teach them how to study the Bible on their own. It is inspiring to watch a Bible study teacher or discuss this week’s sermon, but the benefits of personal Bible study are immeasurable.
If we only surface-read a passage, we can miss out on hearing from God. The Bible says that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled (Matthew 5:6). As we’ve experienced God communicating to us while studying Scripture on our own, don’t we want people in our groups to experience that too?”
There is a sense of empowerment when believers can sit down, read the Bible and discover truth for themselves. We each grow closer to God in the process. Time spent studying the Bible equips us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We become more confident in sharing what we know with others and discover that the Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) in our daily lives.
Common barriers people experience include feeling overwhelmed, lacking time, and feeling under-qualified. Learning about different methods and study tools will make study seem more approachable. Experimenting with different study methods helps individuals identify the most accessible study.
A few tools will help you, no matter what study method you choose:
- Study Bible (digital or paper)
- journal or notebook
- pen or pencil
For those who prefer to study using a computer or tablet, digital versions of the Bible and resources make in-depth study extremely easy.
Whether you are just starting out or looking for fresh ways to approach your Bible study, let’s look at a few study methods to consider. Whichever method you choose, start with prayer, asking God to give you wisdom and new insights.
S.O.A.P. Study of the Bible
This devotional style study method is a simple approach to go with your daily Bible reading. SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.
- Scripture: Write the verse in your journal.
- Observation: Write down observations about the Scripture.
- Application: How can you apply what you observed in your life?
- Prayer: Write out a prayer to God based on what you just learned and ask Him to give you opportunities to live out this truth.
Study a Book of the Bible
Select a book of the Bible to read through. Each day read through a passage or entire chapter. Then read through a second time and underline keywords and phrases.
- Write down what God is saying in this chapter and identify a theme.
- Take a few minutes to identify the spiritual truth or principles in this chapter that are applicable to your life.
- Finally, write down how you will act on the lessons learned in this passage.
- As you work through the book of the Bible, create an outline.
When you want to know what the Bible says about a certain topic, use a concordance to search what the Bible says about it. For example, when you look up the word courage in your concordance, you’ll find several references.
- Select a topic and look it up in a concordance.
- Choose 10-20 verses on the subject.
- Read the verses.
- Write down observations.
- Make conclusions and identify how you can apply something you’ve read to your own life and also share with others.
Did you know that there are more than 3,000 people mentioned in the Bible? The Book of Genesis tells the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. There are epic tales filled with challenges, heartbreak, and family drama. But that is not the end of the story. Each of their stories illustrates how God met these people and tells of promises He made and fulfilled.
For this method, select a person from the Bible to study. Look at their strengths and weaknesses and consider what could be applicable to your own life. What about them encourages you? Inspires you? A few potential characters to study include Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Ruth, Rahab, Jesus, Mary, Elizabeth, and Paul.
Here are the basic steps.
- Select a character. Start with someone with a few references you can easily study. Save characters like David and Paul for later.
- Read the passages of their story and create a timeline.
- Note their background, key events, relationships, and the challenges they faced.
- Identify their strengths and weaknesses. Try to imagine what it might have been like to be in their shoes,
- What Biblical truths do you discover while researching this person’s life?
- Write out a personal application for your own life.
As you conclude, ask yourself if you see any of yourself in this person’s story. How might God be leading you to make a change or take the next step? What impressed you about their story and how does it challenge you and your choices?
If you want to take a deep dive into Scripture, along with its historical and cultural context, the inductive method might be right up your alley. This method examines a passage and its context to determine what it says, what it meant to the original audience, and what it means to us today.
- Start with observation. Approach the passage like a journalist asking the five “W” and “H” questions. As you continue along, note key words, contrasts, and comparisons. Keywords are words that point to biblical truth and are often repeated for emphasis. If there are time and geographical references, write them down.
- Next, look to interpret the passage to understand the deeper meaning. Ask questions like:
- What is the cultural and/or historical context of this passage?
- What else do I know about the book, author, and broader context of the passage?
- What other Scripture passages might help me better interpret this one?
Is there anything you have overlooked, and have you made any underlying assumptions that filter your interpretation?
Summarize what you see as the clearest meaning of the text based on your research.
- Finally, you’ll want to apply what you have learned. Ask yourself what the biblical truths you have discovered mean to your life, your priorities, and your relationships. This application step can be uncomfortable, for it is where truth and life might conflict. Don’t stop; it is important, and it is worth it.
Cheri Liefeld is the Director of Small Groups at Eastside Community Church in Anaheim, California. She was previously Director of Women’s Ministry at Mariners Church. She is a writer and loves to gather people around the table. You can read more at adenturesinthekitchen.com.