Sometimes a little bit of structure can make a huge difference, especially when trying to do a Bible study.
I must confess that I find it very hard to engage with the ‘standard’ sort of Bible study, where you start off with a list of comprehension questions (“Where was Peter when he first saw Jesus?” “Who else was in the boat?”), and then move onto discussion and application. I don’t want to be negative about this approach – which can be very helpful and appropriate, particularly for complex or less familiar passages – but I often struggle with them.
They also require a significant investment from the “setter” or leader – who needs to have studied the passage in depth, identified the key discussion points, and tried to discern God’s agenda for application to the particular group. Again this is an entirely helpful and appropriate approach, and when preparing a talk or sermon I would say is essential.
However, for a week by week Bible study in a small group, I believe there are other approaches which have a lower ‘barrier to entry’ and facilitate both discussion and deep engagement with the text – and with no real preparation required by the group or leader!
The principle is simple: Choose a passage. Pray. Split into small groups (2 or 3) and read the passage. Answer 4 questions. Reconvene and feedback/discuss your answers as the whole group.
It can also be done individually rather than in small groups.
The 4 questions are:
- What did I learn, or what struck me in a new way?
- What does the passage tell me about God?
- What does the passage tell me about people?
- What did I find difficult about the passage, or what questions does it raise?
These 4 questions can be on a piece of A4 paper, split into quadrants, and each group or individual has a copy. The four quandrants are marked with an icon symbolising the question: a candle (what was new), an up arrow (about God), a down arrow (about others), and a question mark (questions/difficulties). You can download a PDF version of the Swedish Bible Study for your own printing out.
The excerise can take as long as you like, but 20-30 mins is probably a good length of time for a typical study passage (15-20 verses) with 10-12 people, in groups of four – so 15-20 minutes answering the questions, then 5-10 minutes feeding back. If you opt for a discussion, prayer, and/or response time, then the sky’s the limit (but don’t let it drag!)
You may also want to include a response/application element – what action do a need to take as a result of this study? What changes do I need to make?
My thanks to the Growing Leaders course for introducing me to this study technique.