Some of the best ways to study the Bible & how to customize them to your preferences
No, there is no one way to study the Bible. If you Google Bible Study methods, you will find Inductive studies and Deductive studies and many arguments for or against one or the other. I'm not going to tell you which kind to do.
I have tried several different methods, and you have to be careful with every method about creating new doctrines. But if you come to Bible study with the purpose of getting to the heart and not the head, it's less likely for you to go off the deep end into heresy.
Here's what I mean. The purpose of Bible study is to read God's love letter to us, His special revelation of Himself in the Word, to get to know Him better.
Philippians 3:10 (NLT): “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.”
John 17:3 (ESV): Jesus in His High-priestly prayer said to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
So how you get to know God through studying His Word may differ a bit from how I get to know him through His Word. Personalities and background and denomination all play a part.
But as long as you stick to the Truth of God's Word and dig deep into it (not someone else's opinions first), then you're spending time with Him. That's all this is.
Do you ever feel like you get in a rut studying the Bible in the same way over and over?
I have found that as a creative, sometimes I get stuck in one method for too long. Even though the purpose of Bible study is to get to know God more, sometimes we can focus too much on the “how” and not enough on the “Who.”
So I don't want you to get hung up on the method, like I have.
I would recommend that you choose one method and use it for a month or two or however long it takes you to study one entire book of the Bible.
For example, in my very first blog post (wow, that seems like such a long time ago!), I showed step-by-step how to dig deep into a passage like the book of James, using commentaries and paraphrasing. I give you a free checklist to follow this 11-step process.
I don't use this process myself anymore, though. ;)
I have moved on to a couple of other methods, and I switch back and forth when I want a change of pace. When I'm in the “checkmark mode” of just checking off another day of Bible study, I know I need a change.
If your current Bible study method feels a little dry, you're in the mood for something different, or you haven’t been consistent, just pick something and try something different.
Which method is for you, though? It depends on your personality, your time constraints, and your learning style. You may decide to rotate between several methods, which is what I do. Variety but within boundaries.
Here are four of the best Bible study methods I've tried, the benefits of each, and who would most benefit from each one.
1. Verse Mapping - verse by verse bible study method
Start here if you don't know what to do next. The Verse-mapping method is an easy way to get in the habit of studying the Bible. There are several Facebook groups that focus on this method.
I like it because it's a great way for us more visual learners to see the words of the Bible in relationship to each other.
You can do this in several ways. You can write out the verse in visual form with arrows showing the relationships between phrases and sentences.
Or you can pick some words that stick out at you and doodle what will help you remember them. I call this Word Art.
Some people think Verse-mapping has to be a specific way, with a worksheet for specific word studies, separated from cross-references, different translations, and a prayer or application.
Any method that goes verse-by-verse and has some kind of word study qualifies in my book.
Helps you focus on phrases and conjunctions more than single words
Helps you understand more of textual context, why the writer flowed from one topic to another; less likely to take things out of context
Can be a way to incorporate color and creativity into time with the Lord
Easily customized to fit your style and schedule
visual learners who don't feel good at art
anyone who doesn't have a lot of time (you can do as much or as little a day as you want)
Here two different examples of my verse-mapping. You can individualize it to suit your time with the Lord.
2. Micro-Bible-journaling - doodling & notetaking method
If you're not afraid to write in your Bible, start here. I had done this for years before I learned there was a real term for it. ;)
Lillian from Embracing the Lovely introduced me to the term, and her Facebook group, the Creative Inner Circle, is a great place to share any and all journaling experiences and to gain ideas for your own.
I will also add color-coding into this one, as they're very close and can be used interchangeably.
I define Micro-Journaling as:
Casually writing notes, underlining, doodling, and color-coding in your Bible to express understanding of a word, character, topic, or personal revelation.
It's quick and easy.
This is very customizable and open-ended, open to many different interpretations and systems. You can just underline a word or phrase that strikes you, write out definitions of words, draw arrows to related passages, doodle to help you remember a story, or highlight in different colors for different ideas. Or all of them. Or something else completely different that works for you.
Writing and/or doodling helps you focus and retain more of the Bible without taking as much time and mental energy as memorization.
You can use this method to create a personal journal of your spiritual walk, possibly even as a memento to be handed down. (Just don't get hung up on trying to make it look “good enough” or “pretty enough” or “artsy enough” to share with family.)
As Lil says, “It is for artists and non artists alike and no artistic skill is necessary. It is perfect for any one who simply wants to dig into the word.”
For those who don't have a lot of time. (I recommend this especially for mothers of young children.)
For anyone who doesn't mind writing in your Bible. If you have issues with that, then this is probably not for you.
For those with memory problems, mental illnesses, or learning disabilities. Anybody can do this.
*Tip: Don’t look on Pinterest or Instagram for ideas. They will quickly overwhelm you and make you feel inadequate in your own artistic abilities—or lack thereof. This is only between you and God.
See Lil's extensive blog post on all things about Micro-Bible-journaling HERE.
Here are two examples of my own micro-journaling:
3. Outlining & Observations - big picture method
If you're looking for something a bit deeper but not as academic as the next method (Word Study), I suggest you spend time here. Outlining is more of a bigger picture technique. You read big chunks of a book, at least a chapter at a time, and try to see the relationships between chunks.
After outlining, you can ask questions about the book as a whole or about big sections and write down your observations.
You can gain a lot of insight into the main purpose of the book and broader context this way.
Writing down observations and questions can help you look at a passage in a deeper way.
Those who don't want to write in their Bibles or prefer electronic Bibles.
Those who've been wanting to go deeper but don't know where to start.
Those who have already gone word-by-word and want to be reminded of the broader context of the Scripture. It is possible to get too myopic in perspective of the Bible and start making assumptions and doctrines based on one word. I recommend taking a break from in-depth word studies every once in a while and panning out to get the big picture context again.
4. Word Study Method - inductive study method
Don't start here if you're new, but for more serious students of the Bible, this is for you. For those of us who like to get historical context, textual context, and original language insights, you can use my 11-step method or one like it to really dig deep into a passage or book.
Digs deep into context.
Helps you dig into each word (preferably from the original Hebrew or Greek) to get in-depth word studies. Sometimes the Holy Spirit uses these to really illuminate a topic or issue in my life.
A step-by-step process keeps those of us who like routine and order.
Those who have more time.
Those who like a lot of Quality Time with the Lord mostly in the Word. [I have found Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages applicable in every relationship, especially my relationship with the Lord. I believe this is his book specifically about this relationship.]
Those who have a general understanding of the broad context of the Bible and want to dive deep into a specific book.
Those who are more studious and love to study. (Yes, that’s me!)
Those who don't want to write/doodle in their Bibles.
See my step-by-step blog post HERE.
Conclusion: Whichever of these four methods you choose next, don't forget that the goal is not “how.” It's not even “what” or “why.” It's “Who.” Use any of these methods or a different one to help you fall in love with the Lord more. That's the whole goal. So it will depend on how you show love to the Lord and how He speaks to you best.
Which of these three methods will you try next? Comment below to let me know!