By Trina Bresser Mautos
Writing a good Bible study can be a daunting task. Thinking through the following topics and answering their associated questions lays a solid foundation for a meaningful study.
For any audience, it is imperative to know whom you are writing for. What you write and how you write it will be very different for a Bible study aimed at teenagers versus one aimed at seasoned Christians versus one aimed at new believers.
Some questions that will help you define your audience include:
- What is the age range of my audience?
- Should the gender of my audience affect how I approach writing the study?
- How educated is my audience?
- How familiar are they with the Christian faith?
- Is there a particular denominational association I need to take into account?
- Does my audience know the definition of basic terms I am using or do they need to be explained?
Type and Style of Bible Study
There are a wide range of Bible studies types. Two basic types are book and topical. A book study looks at one book or portion of a book of the Bible to understand its message. A topical study looks at understanding the sections of scripture that cover a particular topic.
Once the type is determined, the style you will use is the next consideration. Styles to consider include fill in the blank, including referenced scripture versus having readers look up references, highly structured questions or open-ended questions, teaching that dives deeply into the meaning of the scripture or stays more on the surface.
Questions to consider as you think through the type of study and style you will use.
- What is the most appropriate type of study for the truth(s) I want to convey?
- Is the type and style of study I am using the most appropriate for my audience?
- Do I have a good balance in the amount of scripture I am covering in each chapter of the study?
- Am I consistent in the approach I am using to my teaching?
- How can I best engage my audience in the material I am writing?
Context is perhaps the most important consideration when interpreting scripture. Scripture taken out of context can be used to prove just about anything. To ensure that false conclusions are not reached, scripture must be considered in its full context. To fully understand the context of a passage, historical, cultural, and grammatical aspects need to be taken into account.
For instance, understanding kinsman redeemers (Lev. 25.25-28) helps explain why Naomi was overjoyed to learn Ruth was gleaning in Boaz’s field (Ruth 2.19-23).
One particular practice to be cautious of is called proof texting. The name comes from using single verses or short passages to prove a point of view. Proof texting has been used by cults and radical organizations to support their doctrinal views, but these views often stray far from solid Christian doctrine. Protect against proof texting by taking the greater context into account.
- When considering a verse, how does it fit into the rest of the chapter?
- How does a chapter fit into the message of the book in which it occurs as well as the context of the entire Bible?
- What historically, cultural, and/or grammatical aspects are important to the passage?
A truly good Bible study is not just about learning more about the scriptures and what they say. There have been countless people throughout the generations who have had great scriptural knowledge, but have neglected to apply it to their own lives. To use a modern cliché, knowledge without application most often results in talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Application allows the words of scripture to form the actions of our lives so we are transformed into the image of Jesus.
Questions that help determine application include:
- Does the scripture contain a specific call to action?
- Are there terms that need to be defined in order to understand how to apply the scripture?
- How did the original audience understand the scripture?
- Are there cultural aspects to the scripture that need to be defined in order to understand how they apply in the 21st century?
- Is the application stated in easy to understand terms that encourage readers to make a change?
Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned in both writing and doing Bible studies is that sometimes there are no easy answers. There is a tension that comes with unanswered questions that our culture tends to shy away from. But it is often in the tension that God does His best work. Therefore a good Bible study should not expect to answer every question, but allow the reader to live in the tension and give God the space to bring about the transformation He desires.
Paul’s Letters to the Early Church https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941103421
The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941103464
Birth of the Church: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016357
Book Blurb: Reading and studying the Bible can be a daunting task. Verses often require a great deal of study, prayer, and meditation in order to gain an adequate understanding. But don’t lose heart! God reveals His Word to those who earnestly seek Him (Jer. 29:13). The Christian Living Bible Study Series is designed to assist you in your relationship with God, help you understand difficult passages, shed new light on familiar verses, and gain an appreciation for statements made within the confines of ancient cultural practices. These books bring Jesus, His followers, and their ministry to life. As you learn more about the history and purpose of each verse, you will find yourself growing in wisdom and knowledge.
Trina Bresser Matous is a passionate Bible teacher and writer. For over 20 years, she has shared Biblical truths in compelling and memorable ways. She is involved in her church as a Bible study leader and a member of the Restorative Prayer Team, which strives to bring healing dialogue with the Holy Spirit to the hurting parts of people’s lives. She is the author of the Christian Living Bible Study Series, which currently includes Paul’s Letters to the Early Church, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude, and Birth of the Church: Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts.
Trina, thank you for being my guest and sharing such helpful information.
If anyone has questions about writing Bible Studies post it in the comments for Trina.