This is the second installment in a series about preparing a group Bible study.
Step #1: Slowing down to notice the content
Have you noticed that when you’re familiar with a Bible story you tend to kind of skim over it? If you’ve been going to church since you were young, this can be a problem! You may find yourself zoning out through many a sermon or personal study time. What to do?
Write it down: Take a chunk of the Bible, like one story, one chapter, or the portion assigned to you as leader that week. Take quick notes in writing of 10-20 items you observe, in order. Do not attempt to spiritualize anything or go deep at this point, but simply write down each location, character, and plot development as it occurs. Here’s an example from Matthew 4:1-11.
v. 1 Jesus is led into wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil
v.2 Fasted 40 days; hungry
v.3 Tempter asks him to prove he’s son of God by turning stones into bread
v.4 Jesus: it is written man shall not live on bread but word of God
v. 5-6 Devil takes Jesus to temple, tempts him to jump off; it is written angels will protect you
v.7 Jesus: it is written do not put God to the test
v.8-9 Devil takes Jesus to high mountain and offers him everything if J. will worship him
v. 10 J. sends Satan away, it is written worship God only
v. 11 Devil leaves, angels come and take care of Jesus
Notice the details: Now look for repeated phrases or interesting details that jump out at you. For instance, doesn’t it seem like an understatement to say that Jesus was hungry? Isn’t it interesting that for the first nine verses, Jesus is the one being led, but in verse 10 he just sends Satan away? You probably also noticed how many times the phrase “it is written” occurs. Both Jesus AND Satan are quoting scripture here!
Practice makes perfect: Doing this exercise every time you prepare to teach or lead a Bible discussion will help the tendency to skim a familiar or difficult passage. Leading your group through the same exercise gives them the same benefits, and also demonstrates to newer believers a high view of scripture and a method that will enable them to begin studying on their own. Some groups immediately fall into talking about how the passage makes them feel rather than what it communicates about God, so utilize this tool to ground the group Biblically and create a solid foundation for growth.