What are the elements of a good Bible study? Whether you are writing your own Bible study material or selecting material for your students, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Solid Exposition of the Text
Does the Bible study focus on the Biblical text, or do stories drive the Bible study? The struggle that I have with many Bible studies is that the study is built entirely on illustrations that are spiced up by the addition of some random Biblical texts. If we are going to call something a Bible study, shouldn’t the Bible be in a prominent place within the study? Though illustrations and stories are important in communicating truth to students, they should never take the place of the Biblical text. We must remember that the Holy Spirit does a work of transformation through the scriptures, and thus, we must allow the scriptures to have the prominent voice.
2. Relevance of the Text to Real Life
The truths of the Bible must be communicated in a way that they make sense in the context of real life. The settings of many biblical passages are in worlds that are totally foreign to many students. A good Bible study will show how truth is relevant no matter the setting. The same things that the patriarchs learned about God in the book of Genesis are true of God for a middle school student. Bible studies must make these connections and make them quickly in order for students to not tune out the text while missing the truth that the text is intending to convey.
3. Illustrations Are Used to Explain and Contextualize the Text
Illustrations are not evil, but they should not become the Bible study. An effective use of illustrations is to explain and contextualize the texts of scripture. Many theological ideas presented in the Bible are foreign to students. A good illustration can make a difficult concept come to life in the minds of students. A good Bible study includes illustrations but in their proper place.
4. Students Walk Away with a Personal Challenge
Students should walk away from the Bible study with something that they can practically apply to their lives. This application should be personal and presented in a way that leads students to more deeply depend on the Holy Spirit. Here is where many Bible studies fall short. We should not be giving students list of more do’s and don’t’s, but we should be compelling them to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them as they embrace the discipline of surrender.