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Walk through any Christian bookstore or browse the Bible study section of an online bookseller and you will find hundreds, probably thousands, of Bible studies. How to choose a Bible study is a skill that must be learned. As with all skills, choosing a good study becomes easier the more you do it.
Answer a few questions and you’ll be able to make a wise choice about your next Bible study.
Choosing a Bible Study: Know What You’re Looking For
What is your purpose? Do you want to grow in your prayer life? Become more knowledgeable about basic doctrines, like who Jesus is? Or learn to speak with wisdom and kindness instead of cutting remarks and sarcasm? Knowing your purpose will help guide your choice.
How much time do you have to dedicate to the study? Does the study have four or five days of homework each week, so you have grace days, or are a full seven days expected?
How many weeks will it take to complete the study? Most people are enthusiastic at the beginning of a study, but then enthusiasm, interest, and follow-through begin to decrease. A study of six to ten weeks is a good time range to shoot for. It’s long enough to get some real meat, but short enough to maintain interest.
Will you be doing this study in a group or by yourself. Studies done by yourself have more flexibility but less accountability. If you’re doing a group study, what are the expectations for attendance and can you meet them? Are you choosing for the group? If so, what are the expectations and personality of group members?
Are you familiar with the author? Or maybe too familiar? If all you’ve ever done are studies by Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer (love them!), maybe it’s time to broaden your perspective by researching some new authors. In my mind, nothing beats taking a few hours to browse the Bible study section of your closest Christian bookstore to get ideas of what’s available.
Choosing a Bible Study: Is the Focus on the Word?
Does the study focus more on the Word of God or the words of the author? Is time allowed for getting into the Word directly or is most of your time taken up with stories and insights from the author? Any study that has you in God’s Word more is better in my book.
Is the focus on gaining knowledge or changing lives? In other words, is there an application for each day, chapter, week, or section? Knowing God’s Word is good. Allowing it to change our hearts and minds by putting it into action is better.
Is there enough background material provided so that you can gain a clear picture of the context of the books or passages you are studying? Knowing the historical and cultural context of a book of the Bible helps the passages to come alive. If this material is not provided in the study itself, are the directions about finding more information? Or are you knowledgeable enough to find this information on your own?
Does the doctrine line up with key fundamental beliefs? Some things are gray areas where the Bible is less clear (see Romans 14 for an example). But basic beliefs about salvation, God, Jesus, and heaven and hell should be non-negotiable.
Are you comfortable with studying the Word of God on your own? If not, then consider getting a study that will teach you to get into the Word for yourself. This is a crucial skill that should be mastered by all believers. I recommend Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible and Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days.
Choose your next Bible study thoughtfully. There are a lot of options. Keep the answers to these questions in the front of your mind, and you’ll make a good decision.