It’s summer time. You might finally have a chance to work on a Bible Study for yourself. Or, you are thinking ahead to the Fall and wondering what study to do next with your Bible Study group. Maybe you are considering starting a Bible Study group and need to know where to begin. Or, you are new to the Bible and puzzled how to begin with something that won’t overwhelm you. You are not alone. Whether you are new to Bible study or have been doing it for a while, choosing a quality Bible Study can make your experience, especially at leading, either a great one or a frustrating one.
When I say, “Choosing a Bible Study” in this post, I am referring to scripted Bible Studies. By that I mean written Bible Studies that cover portions of the Bible (whole books or sections of the Bible) in an organized fashion. They can be called workbooks or study guides. Over the years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about choosing a Bible Study for yourself or for a group.
Choose a Bible Study not a popular book study
• Look for a prepared Bible Study that covers portions of the Bible (whole books or sections of the Bible) in an organized fashion. These are scripted to help you learn by reading the Bible passage(s) then answering specific questions based on what you just read.
• Look for a Bible study workbook that focuses more on what you are learning from your study of the Bible passages than on commentary from the author.
• Look at the format of the study. Can the questions be used as a guide for leading the discussion? A well-written Bible Study guide will make it easier for you to learn how to lead a Bible Study.
• Don’t choose a popular book containing some Bible verses in it that may have a leader’s guide in the back. That is not a Bible study. Those can be valuable learning tools but not as a Bible study.
Choose an “Inductive Bible Study”
There are two methods of Bible Study —inductive and deductive.
1. The INDUCTIVE METHOD follows three steps: observation, interpretation and application. The process is more easily understood by answering three questions:
What does the passage say? (Observation: what’s actually there)
What does it mean? (Interpretation: the author’s intended meaning for the audience that would read or hear it)
How do I live this out in my life? (Application: making it personal)
This is the best way to study the Bible. Look at what’s there. Learn what it means and teaches you. Then, live it out in your life.
2. The DEDUCTIVE METHOD starts with a topic or theme then looks for verses in the Bible that match what you are wanting to know. There are two cautions about using this method of Bible study:
• Caution #1: You can use this method to selectively choose Bible verses to prove anything that you want to prove.
• Caution #2: This method feeds the “look-imagine-see” way of looking at the Bible. One looks at a verse or passage, imagines what they want it to say, and then “sees” what they have imagined. Many types of false teaching through the years have started with this kind of “look-imagine-see” process.
The deductive method is not a reliable method for studying the Bible. Be aware that sometimes popular topics use this method. Check the front of the Bible Study guide to see if it says it follows the inductive process.
All of the Bible Studies here on my website follow the INDUCTIVE METHOD of study. They can be trusted to lead you to biblical truth. See the links at the end of this post to Bible Study curriculum pages.
Consider the time you have to study or that your group meets
• If you have time to work on a lesson 4-5 days per week, you can find many Bible Studies that are divided into daily bites for you to do.
• If your season of life gives you limited time to work on a lesson, choose a shorter study—something that can be completed in one or two sittings. Then, you won’t get behind or discouraged when you can’t keep up with the study. Don't you hate that? I sure do. Shorter studies are also great for summer because you can feel more relaxed trying to get through it. I will include a link to some shorter studies at the bottom of this post.
For a group:
• If you have 1½ to 2 hours, you can usually cover one lesson per session without rushing through the lesson.
• If you have an hour or less, choose a shorter study or a study that can be divided into two sessions. You don’t want to feel rushed trying to get through all of the questions in a short time. You want the group time to be a learning experience, not just a challenge to get through it. I have to remember this all the time when I am leading a study.
Consider your familiarity with the Bible
If you are new to the Bible or your group members are mostly those new to the Bible, choose a Bible study designed for you.
Look for basic lessons with simple questions and applications that are easy-to-understand for beginners. See my post on HELPING BIBLE STUDY NEWBIES for additional insight.
If you already have some experience studying the Bible, you have lots of options. Just make sure they follow the Inductive Bible Study Method as described above. All of my Bible Studies follow the Inductive Bible Study Method.
Here is another source of quality women's Bible Studies that can be freely downloaded. “WOMEN’S BIBLE STUDY CURRICULUM” page on Bible.org (wide variety)
Choose something that interests you and will grow you in your faith
• Ask yourself what would be the best focus for you in your life right now or for your group. Then, consider what you have already studied and what might be the best thing to build onto that. Choose your Bible Study based on these.
• Your passion about the study will motivate you to dig in and learn for yourself. That is certainly true for me. If I am interested in a study, I can't wait each day to dig in and see what I learn.
• It’s important that you feed yourself from the Word of God before you try to lead others in a discussion. The joy of what you are learning will be infectious to those in your group.
• If you are putting together a new group, it’s best for you to just choose the study and run with it rather than trying to please everyone in the group. Here's the truth: you can't please everyone so don't even try!
Be cautious about choosing a video-driven study
Wonderful gifted teachers have made their messages available through Bible Studies that have accompanying videos. You can always learn something from gifted Bible teachers. But, when it comes to choosing a Bible Study for yourself or for your group, here are some questions to ask and things to consider before choosing a study that requires watching a video to complete it:
• Does the study lead you to dig into the Bible for yourself for the truth?
Is the personal Bible study time actual study of the Bible according to the inductive process or does it contain mostly thought and reflection questions? It is easy to become “lazy” when it comes to studying the Bible for yourself if you can just be spoon-fed by a gifted teacher. Can you learn from the Bible passage through the study without watching the video at all? If yes, sounds like it might be a good study. If no, avoid it.
• Will the cost for purchasing the videos and workbooks be easily shared by the group members?
Video-driven studies are convenient but can be expensive. You must still purchase a workbook for every participant plus buy access to the videos. You must depend on technology to work perfectly every time. Will that be a challenge for you? Will it fluster you if showing the video doesn’t work during your group time? If the electricity goes off, can you still learn what you need from the lesson by candlelight?
• Can the group members watch the videos on their own time through an app or website and then share what they learned during group time?
This is the better way when it comes to building community within the time limits that you have. There is nothing more discouraging for a woman who joins a group to make connections with other women because she is new to the area or the church then has to watch a video for an hour, leaving without knowing anything about the women at her table. I've been there. Not good.
• Will the study help you learn how to dig into a lesson yourself and prepare it to lead others in discussion?
Or, will you be forced to focus on whatever the teacher draws out in the video? It is better if you can focus on what your particular group needs the most from the study. Again, look at the personal study portion to see if it covers the passage well. The video should be like “icing on the cake” not the cake itself.
• Will watching the video limit group interaction if time is short?
It is very hard to find a video-driven study that can be used in an hour or less during a typical lunch hour at work or during an evening study at the end of a hard work day. The videos are generally too long to allow for much group discussion at all. It’s hard to build community when you are just watching someone else talk. And, watching a video together is not a good substitute for interaction within the group. If the group members can watch the videos on their own time through an app or website and then share what they learned during group time, that’s a better way to do it.
1) Choose a scripted Bible Study not someone’s book.
2) Make sure it uses the inductive method: observation, interpretation, application.
3) Consider the amount of time you have to give to it—yourself or your group members.
4) Choose a Bible Study that matches your familiarity with studying the Bible.
5) Choose something that interests you and will help you grow.
6) If you choose a video-driven study, make sure it leads you to learn for yourself from personal Bible study and not depend on the gifted teacher to give you the truth. The video should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
Ask Jesus to help you with all of the above steps to choosing a Bible study for yourself or for your group. Depend on Him to show you what to do. He is faithful!
Next post in this series: SELECTING YOUR NEXT JOYFUL WALK BIBLE STUDY