(developed over the years and from watching great Bible Study Masters like the very esteemed Kurt “Mr. Triplets” Jones and rad David “MOD Nite” Underwood.) Note this does not cover, the skill sets required by a Bible Study leader or the necessity to create covenants or goals etc.
My first theory of Bible Study is to NOT lead people directly to the answer as much as I can help it. All too often Bible Studies are too obvious. People don’t learn too much when we are too obvious. I believe true deep learning requires thinking and wrestling with the issues. I also don’t always have the answer. But that does not mean that the question is not valid. If you can think of a question, it’s a valid question, even if you cannot think of the answer. Or even if no one knows the answer.
My second theory of Bible Study is to make sure you leave more confused than when you came. But to be confused at a higher level (Thank the honorable Phil Starke for this saying). This is not a bad thing. Because if you think about it. Einstein was more confused about Physics than you will ever be. But that was because he knew MORE about it. I want to take people to that point. The point where they know MORE and as a result they understand how little they really know and in that process know how much fun it is to learn.
My third theory of Bible Study is that there IS ONE right answer even if we don’t know what it is. And in that vein there are infinite wrong answers. Do not be afraid to correct someone in love if they suggest a wrong answer. In fact it is critical that you do so, because by not correcting a wrong answer you can do a lot of damage to your group. However it IS OK to say: I don’t know-I will find out the best I can and tell you next week.
My fourth Theory of Bible Study is that people should be able to express their beliefs vocally, and discuss real issues and real theology, not just feelings and experiences. The first time I did this I learned a lot, because for the first time I had to put into words what I believed, forcing me to evaluate it, to form it, to make it all fit together, rather than being this jumbled mess of concepts in my mind. This way too, if I was spouting heresy, some could correct me. Thus I believe a Bible Study that does not encourage this sort of analysis is not worth my time. Try to get everyone to speak.
My fifth Theory of Bible Study is that Rabbit Trails are good, as long as everyone is learning something. Who cares if you never get enough time to cover the material. Who cares if you go off onto a tangent. Bible Study is for learning. So as long as people are learning, go off on a tangent and have fun with the tangent. You can come back to the passage the next week (in fact who cares if you ever come back to the passage, sometimes you should bag the passage completely and move to the one that everyone has questions about).
Format of Bible Study:
The format I like the best is the following: Since most people won’t do their homework, there is no way to have people be familiar with the material ahead of time. The best way to compensate for this is to first meet and do Praise and welcoming. Then break the Bible Study into many little groups of 4-5 people. No less than 3, no more than 6. Then each group goes through the questions for about 20-30 minutes. What this does is allow the normally shy people to feel easier about talking in the smaller group. Try to ensure that you have key individuals to lead each of the small groups as you don’t want a maverick group of all young Christians or they may end up on a Heretical tangent because they don’t know their Bible too well yet. This also allows people to have some time to think about the questions and get their brain cells working.
After the set time, gather together in a large group and the leader then leads everyone through the same questions again. This allows groups to share the ideas they already discussed and come up with new thoughts. If you don’t get through all the questions, continue where you left off the next week (keep a pulse on the group, you don’t want to keep hitting the same topic week after week if they are sick of it).
*Note: In the Bible Studies you will occasionally see “Throw in the wrench questions”, these are questions that are usually not printed on the handout. Once the group thinks they have some sort of an answer, I hit them with the “Wrench” question.