There are Bible studies and there are ‘Bible studies’, the former are awesome – and the latter, perhaps not so much.
It looks to me pursuing the shelves of my local Christian bookstores, that the vast majority of youth Bible study resources on the market today are the prefabricated and pre-answered formulaic type. You don’t necessarily study any Bible! Instead you study somebody else’s thoughts on studying the Bible. Does anyone else feel cheated and cheesed by this? If we don’t it’s possible that we too were reared on these ‘prefab Bible studies.’
Tell me, does this excerpt look familiar?
Title: David, Giant Slayer!
Aim: To show that even the smallest person can knock down their giants with a little faith.
Read: 1 Samuel 17:31-50
Ask: Do you think David was afraid to face goliath? Why not?
Say: David had faith that God would fight for him!
Ask: A giant doesn’t have to be a real giant. A giant could be a school test or a bully. What giants do you face at home and at school?
Ask: How do you think having faith like David’s would help you face those giants?
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this short excerpt, but it’s not really a Bible study is it? It’s a thematic, application-driven chat bouncing around a couple of verses in a passage without cracking them open and getting to the goo-of-awesomeness inside.
How about approaching a question set like this instead:
Read: 1 Samuel 17:48 (in context of vv.31-50)
– What did you notice in the verse – Anything at all?
– If you we’re leading, what questions would you ask from this verse?
– Who was ‘The Philistine’ and how did he compare with David?
– What is ‘the Battle line’ and why were only two of them on it?
– How did both of them approach each other?
– Why do you think Goliath first arose, then came, and then drew near? Why three stages?
– Why do you think David ‘ran quickly’?
– What or who was running with David? (Look back at v.47)
– What do you think this verse teaches us about God? (Don’t be satisfied with one answer).
– How does it teach us about people who follow God and people who hate God?
– What does it teach us about size?
– When you face obstacles, how do you approach them?
– What things in your world mock God like Goliath did – how do you think David would respond to them?
– What ‘David qualities’ from this verse would you like to add to your identity?
– What Goliath qualities could you do without?
There’s some key differences in this approach:
First, the verse itself is dictating what questions should be asked.
Most people you work with are not going to be Bible scholars. Every other word is going to create complications and confusion. So why not let that be the way into reading the passage?
Second, the questions begin observationally, move onto interpretation and end with the application and reflection.
The train is led by what you see
, how you read
the passage then follows, which informs how you act
on the passage. This is often the exact opposite to the approach demonstrated earlier.
Third, this is question-driven not formula-driven.
Question-driven relies off who, what, when, where, why and how – whereas formula-driven relies on seeking exact answers to set up the teaching point that you (or your handy resource book!) need to make. Prefabricated studies are like knock knock jokes; the person hearing the joke needs to understand the joke formula or the punchline will fail!
Forth, the application flows directly from the passage it doesn’t have to be shoehorned in.
You might end up in a similar place application wise, but the grounding for it is much more secure.
Fifth, this teaches a method of reading the Bible that doesn’t rely on you – it relies on the text.
You and me – we’re fallible; shock, horror. The Bible? Not so much! Young people will be able to use this Bible reading technique on their own, carry it with them to university and help them spot Bible loving churches throughout their life.
Sixth, the Holy Spirit has more room.
The Holy Spirit is never divorced from the Bible itself, so you are allowing the Holy Spirit to speak more clearly because you are allowing the Word to speak more clearly. You also trusting conversation and discussion to the Holy Spirit for guidance and quality.
Seventh, the young people are directing the discussion.
Particularly in the early and late questions. This allows you to know much more about the young people that you’re working with, it helps them feel like they’re being heard and it develops you as a family, a team and a community.
Youth Bible Study Techniques