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Many people wish they read their Bible more (61% in a Barna “State of the Bible” poll), or want to know how to get more out of reading the Word. A devotion a day isn’t cutting it for many, but reading it cover to cover seems overwhelming to most. So how do we get into our Bibles and get something relevant and understandable out of it? A good reading plan or Bible study will
- get you into the Scriptures on a regular basis and
- show you how to connect God’s truth and grace with your real life.
Most of us need help to see how the truth of the Bible applies to our time and situations. We also benefit from guidance in terms of where to start, how much to cover in each session, and where to go for help when something doesn’t make sense. For these reasons, a study or reading plan offers one of the easiest ways to productively interact with the Scriptures.
Here is a simple three-step process to select a Bible study or reading plan that works with who you are and what you have going on in your life.
If you follow this simple process, you will know exactly what type of reading plans or studies you will enjoy the most and which will help you glean helpful and relevant teaching from the Bible. Be sure to download the free cheat sheet I’ve made for you.
Next, grab a pen and some paper and jot down notes as you go through the following process. Then, use your cheat sheet and notes as criteria against which you easily evaluate reading plans or studies to find those that best meet your needs.
Step 1: Assess yourself and your needs.
We will spend more time reading the Bible and get more out of it if we take into consideration how God made us and the situation in which he has placed us for this season of our lives. Consider:
1. Why do you want to read the Bible?
Do you have a particular challenge with which you need guidance? Or, is your motivation to grow spiritually and become a better equipped disciple? Think about your WHY; get clear on that first.
2. How much time will you spend studying your Bible?
Don’t get all pious and good-intentioned when you answer this. Be honest. If you’re a single mom working full time and trying to get your kids to their activities, your situation is very different from a retired person in an empty nest. This isn’t about getting gold stars for the most hours spent; it is about getting in the Word in a way that works for your current season.
Get your calendar out and be realistic. When can you carve out time and how much? Are there things that can come off the schedule? (For example, could you reallocate some time you now spend watching TV or surfing the internet or social media?)
3. Are you a thinker, feeler, or doer?
Do you approach things with your head, heart, or hands? Think of the books, activities, and events you enjoy most. Do they tend to be more intellectual, emotional, or action-oriented?
4. Do you prefer to study on your own or with a group?
Or, maybe you want a little of both. Online Bible studies are popping up all over the place. Does that sound fun to you?
5. Do you want to read the Bible or study it?
What’s the difference? When you study the Bible, you dig deeper into things like historical context, language issues, and other aspects of Scripture that help us interpret the Bible and get more out of it. Reading will help you know God better and hear from him regarding situations in your life; studying is like putting the reading experience on steriods.
6. What has worked (and not worked) in the past?
Have there been times when you enjoyed reading your Bible or being in a Bible study? What about that experience worked? What did you like best about it?
On the other hand, maybe there was a reading plan or study you tried that bombed for you. Why? Was it something about the plan or approach? Was it because it required too much (or too little) from you? Get specific about what worked and what didn’t in your past attempts.
Step 2: Evaluate options against your criteria.
You’ve just made a shopping list of sorts. Evaluate studies or reading plans against this criteria. Here are some things that will help in this part of the process.
A plan helps you read intentionally and in an organized manner. There are many free reading plans at www.biblegateway.com. The free Smartphone app, YouVersion, also offers a huge selection. Chose whether you want a topical plan or one that works through the whole Bible, or particular sections of the Bible. You can also specify the length of time over which you want to complete the plan. Reading plans are ideal for those who prefer solitary study. However, these could be adapted by inviting friends to sign up for the same plan and get together to discuss what you read.
Local Bible Studies
If you prefer studying the Bible with others, an easy place to start is in your local congregation. See what your church is offering that fits your criteria. If you don’t have a church congregation or if yours isn’t offering a study that fits, check with other churches in your area. Still can’t find something that works? Use the following resources to find a study you like and then invite some friends to do it with you in your home, at your church, or at the local library or coffee shop.
Most of the larger denominations have bookstores with websites you can browse. I recommend you start with these because they vet products against the denomination’s doctrines. You are less likely to find an unsound study in one of these. Ask your church for the website of your denomination’s bookstore.
If your denomination doesn’t have a bookstore, use one run by another denomination similar to yours. You can do an online search for the denomination and the word bookstore.
Step 3: Get in the Bible.
Once you select your study or reading plan, put it into practice. Because you’ve taken time to find something that meets your specific needs, you will likely enjoy it more and get more out of it than past attempts.
Download Your FREE Cheat Sheet
If you haven’t already, be sure to get your free summary sheet. It has all the key points so you can continue to reflect on and refine your criteria.
What helps you get more from your time in the Bible? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!