THREE ON THURSDAY
Today’s topic is on how to wisely choose a Bible study for a group. Here are links to three articles on this topic:
The 4 T’s of Choosing a Bible Study by Teri Lynne Underwood
“[T]eaching videos can be useful but they should never take the place of actual teachers in your church utilizing their gifts. . . . there is great value and great need for women being taught in group settings by women they know, women they can observe in real life, and women they can ask questions when they are struggling or need prayer.”
Not All Women’s Bible Studies Are Created Equal by Keri Folmar
“When women truly study the Bible for themselves, they change. God uses his Word to ignite robust spiritual growth that spurs women on and unifies the church. I’ve participated in women’s Bible study in three different churches over the past 20 years. In each case, the whole congregation profited because women were growing in their knowledge of the truth.”
7 Things to Avoid when Teaching Women’s Bible Study by Jen Wilkin
“If someone were to break down your teaching into a pie chart, how much of the pie would be taken up with these two elements [storytelling and humor]? If you asked your students to tell you one thing they remembered from your lesson, would they recall a key point or a funny story?”
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING YOUR NEXT GROUP BIBLE STUDY
I love September.
I love getting back into the rhythm of school days. I love lattes and all things pumpkin spice. I love the promise of cooler days to come. And, of course, I love watching football.
But the thing I love most is getting back into a weekly Bible study routine with the women at my church.
The responsibility of selecting the upcoming Bible study material that we’ll spend the next few months going through is a responsibility I take seriously. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed studies by many different authors, but as I’ve gotten older — and hopefully a little wiser — I’ve developed some criteria for selecting Bible studies that I believe will most edify the women who come to our weekly large group gathering.
Even if you’re not the person who selects the Bible study curriculum for the women at your church, the following criteria is still useful in your own evaluation of the Bible study materials you use.
Before I bring any Bible study curriculum to the women at my church, I ask these four questions:
1. Is the workbook a topical study, a character study, or a book-of-the-Bible study?
In a topical study, the author chooses a topic and then hopscotches through Scripture to pull out verses on the topic. The participant is then dependent upon the teacher to guide them through a collection of Bible verses the teacher has pre-selected. For those who are new to the Bible, this oftentimes leaves them in awe of the teacher’s Bible knowledge, and at the same time, it leaves them feeling inadequate in their own inability to navigate Scripture by themselves.
In a character study, the teacher focuses on the life of one person in the Bible. This usually allows the study to follow a more sequential pattern, which is great, but the possibility of skipping around the biblical text still exists. More importantly, we need to remember that the central character in the Bible is God — and no one else. The stories of various people in the Bible are really stories of how God has demonstrated his love, his faithfulness, and ultimately, his glory through the lives of broken, sinful people. When we study the Bible, we want to study with our eyes on the One to whom all praise and honor is due.
Obviously, I prefer studies that lead participants through whole books of the Bible — chapter by chapter, verse by verse. This helps to keep the rightful focus on God, and it helps to equip all participants, including those who are new to the Bible, to grow in their biblical literacy and in their confidence in approaching Scripture on their own. As an extra bonus, when you systematically study whole books of the Bible, you come across a variety of topics along the way (while keeping each topic in context!), and you get to meet a number of characters along the way as well.
2. Is the workbook more author-centered or text-centered?
If you skim through each day of the study, are the workbook pages filled more with the author’s words or more with questions that direct you back to the biblical text?
Everyone loves a good story, especially if it helps to draw the participant into the study. I also understand that some publishers require the author to include a personal story at the beginning of each day of the study. But overall, does the workbook seem to feature the author’s words or does it focus more on directing the participant back to the biblical text?
Here’s another indicator: When going through a study, if we find ourselves growing more and more in awe of the teacher, then chances are strong that the study is centered more on the author. However, if we find ourselves growing more and more in awe of God, then chances are good that the study is centered more on the biblical text.
3. Does the workbook focus more on personal application or God magnification?
In a deductive Bible study, we start with a topic (or a character) and search for Bible verses on that topic (or character).
In an inductive Bible study, we start with a passage in the Bible and ask three questions:
- What does the text say? (Observation)
- What does the text mean? (Interpretation)
- How will I live differently because of it? (Application)
When a workbook focuses more on the third question, it focuses more on personal application. This isn’t to say that all personal application is bad. Not at all. The Bible does impact us! It is living and active! (Hebrews 4:12) But we don’t want the primary focus of our Bible study to be all about us and how a certain passage impacts us.
The Bible is about God. So, if we’re devoting adequate time to the first two questions, then we are learning, first and foremost, what the Bible says about God. And when we learn more about the one true God, he is magnified in our vision.
More than anything, we want our time in the Word to magnify God. Because when he is magnified, everything else in our lives — every difficult circumstance and every hard situation — shrinks in the shadow of the Almighty.
4. How much does the workbook talk about Jesus?
God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit exist as three persons in One. At the same time, it’s paramount that we not neglect the Christ-centered message of the Bible. From the earliest pages of Genesis to the final words of Revelation, Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer of all who call on his beautiful name.
When we study the Bible, it’s critical that we look for Christological themes throughout the text. This means that a strong Bible study will keep a consistent focus on Christ. A study does this by drawing clear connections between the Old and New Testaments, by pointing out prophecies that speak of Christ, and by seeing how the archetypes in the Bible foreshadow Jesus.
If the study talks mostly about “God” but rarely, if ever, mentions the name of Jesus, then we want to ditch that study. Simply put: If we’re not talking about Jesus, we’re not talking about the Bible. Because it’s all about him. So, when you’re looking for a possible new Bible study, look for the Name that is above every name. Look for Jesus.
Your turn: What do you look for when choosing a new Bible study? What are some of your favorite Bible studies that you’ve done?
Click HERE to share your thoughts about choosing a Bible study for your group.
As as always, you can connect with me HERE.