I was a young teenager the night my parents came into the guest room. Our company was staying in my room, so I was moved to the guest room for a few days. I don’t know why they came in or why I pretended to be asleep, but I heard them proudly comment about the open Bible on the nightstand next to my bed.
I grew up believing it was important to read the Bible every day, and so being the good little pastor’s daughter I was, that’s what I tried to do. Many nights I would read one scripture, filling my quota for the day. Other times I would read a chapter or two. While I realize that kind of Bible reading was simply a chore to be accomplished, I am so thankful for parents and a church who instilled in me the desire to read God’s word. I am thankful for that, because down the road reading the Bible turned from being a drudgery into being a delight.
Today, my Bible study is somewhat sporatic. I read nearly every day, but how deep I get into study depends on many factors, including my mood, the time I have, how hungry I feel for God’s Word, and how interesting the material I am studying is to me at the moment. I was blessed to be exposed to several great study methods at my last church, and have picked up a few study methods on my own. I want to share those with you.
1. Journaling – For this method, I would highly recommend Jen Hatmaker’s book, A Modern Girls’ Guide to Bible Study. She gives lots of great tips and gets the reader motivated and equipped to dive in, all while being hilarious and relating to her readers. I love journaling in general, so this method works well for me. Armed with a great study Bible, and anything from commentaries to dictionaries to history books… this method allows me to study at my own pace, researching and journaling the historical context and cross references. It also allows me to journal how a specific verse or passage makes me feel and how I can apply it to my life. I have formally been through the book of James and Ephesians using this method, and have informally journaled through other passages and scriptures. If you love to journal, give this method a try.
2. Read Through the Bible in a Year - I have started and failed this method many times! This is not my preferred method of study, because typically you are reading quickly through a large quantity of scriptures each day. I like to reflect when I read, and I often find myself hurrying through the day’s reading just to get it done. However, I have committed to reading through my Bible this year using the Bible in One Year app for my iPhone, and so far… I love it. The app makes it so easy, giving me a selection from the Old Testament, the New Testament and either Psalms or Proverbs each day. Yes, I need to supplement my daily readings with in-depth study, but I am excited to see my daily progress, reading the Bible as one whole story. I know I can make it!!
3. Small Group Bible Study - Our home small group has been working our way through the Chronological Guide to the Bible for over a year now! Each week we read and discuss whatever happens next chronologically. It has taken a lot of time, but I love that everyone in our groups is reading through the same part of the Bible at the same time. I gain so much knowledge from the insights of others. There is also a Chronological Study Bible that goes along with the book. I don’t have the study Bible, but some people do, and seem to like it. We are only in Ezekiel, so this has been a huge undertaking. It will be exciting at the end to say we have basically discussed the entire Bible!
4. The Message – Last fall, I realized that I had to be more intentional about teaching and training my children about the Bible. I had too often skirted my responsibility in that area and hoped the church would take up the slack. I hadn’t quite decided the approach to take, so one night, I picked up The Message Bible and began reading Matthew 1:1 with my 8-year-old. What happened surprised even me-of-little-faith. She was intrigued. I was intrigued. The language is simple and easy for her to understand. The Message reads as a story and Ava ate it up! When we have our Bible time, I stop to ask questions. I let her ask as many questions as she has. We talk about Biblical history and the meanings behind the words of Jesus. She is like a sponge, soaking up all the goodness and power of the life of Jesus. I am learning as well, and feel I am doing my job, pouring my Biblical knowledge into my child. Now… if only we could be a little more consistent (such is the story of my life!). If you have school-age children, I encourage you to quiet down, sit down with your kids, and simply read The Message with them. I think you will be amazed how the life and words of Jesus come to life.
5. Inductive Bible Study – Dear readers, I have saved my favorite for last. I was introduced to Kay Arthur and her inductive method of Bible study at my last church and I am so grateful! I skipped the how-to book that teaches the method and jumped right in to a study of Ezra, learning as I went along. This is the kind of study for me, my friends! I am talking about colored pencils, color-coding repetitive words, color-coded keys of keywords… I am talking about 30 minutes (at least), six days a week, diving into the Word of God, making lists and charts and let me just say, IT IS SO MUCH FUN! Of course, not everyone likes it. The homework-style, follow-these-instructions-exactly appeals to my personality and my need for order. Plus, at the end, I felt such a sense of accomplishment, feeling like an expert in whatever book I was studying. I am amazed at what Kay Arthur’s guides bring out in scripture that I may never have seen without her help. She has guides for nearly every book of the Bible. I would start with Matthew. I am in the middle of it now, and it has been amazing.
These are some study methods that have worked well for me, but of course there are so many other options! I do have one word of advice, a lesson that I learned the hard way. Don’t let your study be a chore. Give yourself a break if you go through a season when you don’t crack your Bible. Let go of the guilt and turn to God. Find delight in Him. I go through seasons of Bible study, but when I hunger and thirst for God, when I long for His presence in my life, the Bible study naturally follows. So no guilt. Just turn to Jesus and see what happens!
What about you? What methods of Bible study are your favorites? Have you tried any of the methods I have mentioned? I would love to hear your experiences! Do any of these methods sound like something you may try?