Cooking up a Bible Study - Part 1 : The Ingredients
So, you've been asked to lead a group of students for a year, and they want you to write your own Bible studies. What do you do now?
There are a few key ingredients that you will need in order to be creating the most effective studies. In no particular order, these are prayer, a Bible passage and a relationship.
1. Prayer. This is a key part of any Christian ministry, since we are told throughout the Bible, God will sovereignly answer the prayers of His people. Prayer is needed throughout the Bible study process – prayer for understanding; for diligent preparation; for group participation; and for individuals to be changed by the understanding of God's Word. It is especially helpful to pray that God will speak through the study despite any nerves or fears you have. Do not be ashamed – it is common to feel nervous and even unworthy when you prepare your first Bible studies, just as it is common to feel cocky and experienced when you prepare your tenth. Continue to rely on God in prayer and neither situation will result in disaster.
2. A Bible passage. Most of the time, your studies will be following through a specific book of the Bible. Nevertheless, the passage upon which you base your study requires some careful consideration. If the passage you choose is too long, it could lead to a study which either drags on forever, or which unsatisfactorily skips chunks in order to get to the end. If the passage is too short, it could lead to a study which is over and done with in ten minutes, or which spends ages trying to look at every possible angle on the same idea. So think about it carefully – speak to a Christian leader with more experience or consult a set of prewritten studies for its breakup of the book. Never rely just on where the next subheading or chapter falls in your particular edition of the Bible – these are not always a good indication of the meaning of a passage, let alone the best way to study a book!
Studies on a specific topic (i.e. when you are not working sequentially through a book) are not exempt from the consideration above. Leaders often believe a topical study gives licence to look at every possible passage on the topic, which can lead to nothing more than a flick-fest. You should still look to base your study on one specific passage which highlights the Bible's teaching on your topic, and possibly look at one or two supporting passages briefly for corroboration.
3. A relationship. Bible study groups, especially within youth groups, are most effective when the leader uses their relationship with the members to create meaningful studies. I will talk more about this in the later parts, however at this stage, it is important to consider what your group members need to hear from God's Word. Of course they need to hear as much as possible across their whole Christian lives, but this does not mean you try to fit in as much theology as possible into every study. Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 3:2 - “I fed [the Corinthian Christians] with milk, not solid food, for [they] were not ready for it.” So, spend some time deciding what your group needs to learn from each study. It may just be one simple point which you need to hammer home, or it may be something deeper and more complex. Either way, the only way to know what they need is to get alongside them and find out where they are at with their knowledge of and walk with Jesus - so get in there, tiger.
Once you've got your ingredients together, you can start to cook up a study, in Part 2 – The Method.