Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Creating and Writing a Bible Study: Week 4--Bonnie Lisech

Whether you’re writing a Bible study for others to teach or teaching one yourself, good “Teacher’s Notes” are essential.

They help us meet the goal: to challenge students to think more deeply in Scripture and to understand and apply biblical truth for life change.

First, I want to get the attention of my students with a good “hook.” For example, in a study on servanthood, I began with the following story: "While serving in a tiny clinic in Nepal, a nurse commonly witnessed an elderly missionary doctor tenderly carrying his patients to awaiting beds after surgery. She also said, 'It was not unusual for him to wash bedpans.'" Then I asked the question: How is this story an example of true servanthood?

Next, I write the answers to my questions. This is important as it helps me determine if each question really brings out the point I want to make. I may find I have to rewrite a question so the students will reach the desired answer.

Once I’m confident that all the questions and answers match, I often add to the answer an additional verse or passage from my studies that provides more information. I also use information from the sources I mentioned in Blog #2 to help students grasp deeper meaning. For example: When teaching Psalm 23 about the Lord as our Shepherd, it’s helpful to know the characteristics of sheep. If you understand the needs of sheep, you comprehend from the passage the care and effort taken by the shepherd to meet the needs of His flock. The picture of Christ as your Shepherd becomes more precious.

Sometimes, I add a visual illustration. For example: I suggest that the teacher show a sponge and two bowls of water, one clean and one dirty. They should tell the students to think of their hearts as a sponge that can be plunged into a spring of pure water or a pool of filthy water. Then ask: When you squeeze the ‘sponge,’ what would come out of it? What happens to the clean sponge full of spring water when it’s dipped into filthy water?

At times I add an example from my own life to illustrate a point. I discovered the worth of sharing transparently when teaching women’s Sunday School. When I revealed my own difficulties and struggles with scriptural truth, I gained a connection with the women that enabled me to teach the Word and its application with profound effect.

In John 15:5, Jesus said, “...apart from me you can do nothing.” I take from that verse that with Him, I can do anything He wills for me to do. Honestly, I admit that I was never trained to be a writer. And I’m glad, because anything I write comes from the empowering of God–and my wonderful editors: Howard Lisech, Jan Harris, and Barb Snyder.

I want to encourage you with the words Elizabeth Elliot used to challenge me many years ago. When I shared my passion to write Bible studies, she said, “Bonnie, just do it!”

[Editor's note: Thank you, Bonnie and Jan! This is their last post. Dear readers, if you have benefitted from their expertise, why not take a minute to comment.]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creating and Writing a Bible Study: Week 3--Bonnie Lisech

A good Bible study begins with a hook. What’s a hook? Something unusual, thought-provoking or personal—a story, a question, a quote—that catches the students and draws them into the study.

As I discuss writing questions, I’ll use examples based on Luke 5:1-8.

Sample hook: Has God ever asked you to do something both difficult and illogical? If so, you can identify with Simon in Luke 5:1-8.

The hook is followed by factual questions to help students understand the passage. These questions answer: who, what, when, where, and how. They begin with words like: name, list, define, describe, picture, imagine. To vary the regular “question-answer” pattern, ask students to picture the scene—the sounds, the smells, the colors; have them draw an answer, for example, a cartoon strip of a parable; or suggest they read a passage aloud as a dialogue.

Sample questions: Name the two main actors in Luke 5:1-8. Describe the supernatural incident in these verses.

The next type of question asks about the deeper meaning of the passage—why? Have students explain, compare and contrast, show causes, consider the effects or identify with the people in the passage. They could fill in a simple graph or chart that shows how two things are similar. You might draw stepping stones and have students write how one action led to another to show cause-effect.

Sample questions: In Luke 5:5, contrast the two attitudes Simon shows. How do you think Simon felt as he rowed the boat out to deep water? Why did this miracle cause Simon to say, “I am a sinful man”?

Finally, help students apply what they’ve learned. “What does this truth mean to me?” These questions encourage students to open their minds and hearts to God. They’re the most important—and the most difficult—questions you’ll write. Phrase these questions to require specific answers.

Types of application questions:

  • Write the most important thing you learned from this study. Meditate on this truth, then journal how you plan to apply it in your life.

  • Write a psalm (or song) praising God for what you learned today.

  • List the changes you want to make in your life to....

  • Name any sin this passage convicts you to confess.

  • Write a prayer thanking God for the truth you learned today.

Sample questions: Describe a time when you’ve felt like Simon in Luke 5:8. How will you respond in the future when God asks you to do something ‘unreasonable’?

Generally, questions should be easy to understand and focus on one thing at a time. Avoid yes/no questions; they don’t require enough thought. When you’ve finished writing the questions, go back and write the answers. This helps you see if your questions really lead students to the points you want to make. Sometimes we have the right answer, but we’ve written the wrong question.

A good Bible study uses questions that help the students grasp the facts, understand the meaning, and apply the truth of the passage.

In the next blog, Bonnie will share help for writing Teacher’s Notes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creating and Writing a Bible Study: Week 2--Bonnie Lisech

Planning a Bible study is like a journey--knowing your destination determines your route. Once I know my topic, have studied the text and context, and asked the Holy Spirit to give me understanding, I pray, “God, what final truth do You want these students to understand and apply in their lives from this study?”

When I have the answer to that question, I begin putting together the steps that will lead to the final truth. Using my note pad, I record facts, commands, promises, cause and effect, circumstances, or what God has revealed about Himself.

I use many different sources when I’m writing a study. Commentaries often give insights and help me understand the cultural setting, a broader context, and the meaning of Hebrew and Greek words. Be careful to use commentaries that have correct doctrine. Ask your pastor to make recommendations. Reading verses in several translations shows various words that might be used in case students have a different version. Understanding the exact definition of words from a dictionary or Bible dictionary may clarify the meaning of the text.

If I’m writing on a specific subject--for example “truth,” I use a topical Bible, cross reference, or a word search to access all the verses on the subject. Refer to Blog 1 (#1 & #2).

Computer Bible programs, websites, books, and even Google have additional resources that I might also use.

Most of this study is for my own deeper understanding of the passage or topic, so I can assist my students to discover truth. However, as I write the study, I add any information (facts, background information, or context) I’ve found that I think will help the students gain a broader understanding of the subject. For example: As we stated in Blog #1, Philippians 4:4-7 doesn’t mention that Paul is in prison when he wrote this passage. Without this information Paul’s suffering or his emphasis on joy, peace, and prayer loses significance. I include this fact within or before the study, so these verses can be applied in times of hardship.

When possible, I also like to use quotations from respected writers which fit the subject of the study and might expand or deepen a student’s thinking. If you do this, remember to give credit to the author or the title of the book or reference.

Sometimes, I end with a prayer summarizing the final conclusion and application I developed when I began.

Next week, my co-author and editor, Jan Harris, will share how to write questions that lead the students to understanding and application of a Bible passage.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Creating and Writing a Bible Study: Week 1--Bonnie Lisech

When I began to write Bible studies, I asked myself, “exactly what do I wanted to achieve? After much thinking and praying, I wrote the following purpose statement:

My purpose is to help believers “think deeply” in Scripture, to know God, and to understand and apply truth in their lives through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, thereby, assisting them to grow progressively in their relationship and fellowship with Christ, and to mature spiritually to the glory of God.

I have a rocking chair in my home office where I go to have a focused time with God in His Word and prayer. Everything I write begins in that chair. The creation of a Bible Study usually begins when I realize I need a deeper understanding of a passage or subject. Of course, at times the subject or passage is chosen for me. Either way, I sit in my rocker with my pad and pen and ask God to help me and lead me to exactly what He has planned. Sometimes thoughts come immediately, sometimes I spend days meditating and praying for His direction.

Once I know the topic God wants me to teach on, I begin to study Scripture.

There are 3 areas I carefully consider in the study of Scripture:

1. It’s important to know who the author is and have knowledge of the context. I always read the background information at the beginning of each book in a good study Bible. Then, I read the complete book one to three times to gain a fuller understanding. A good example of the importance of context is found in the book of Philippians, a book about joy, by the Apostle Paul. If I wrote on Philippians 4:4-7 but only studied those verses, it would lack power and significance. Why? Because the first chapter informs us that Paul was in prison when he wrote this book.

“Study the Scriptures in the light of the context.”—Bill Dillion

2. I am also careful about using Old Testament (OT) verses and passages—especially promises—that were addressed to Israel. Sometimes they don’t apply to the New Testament (NT) age. If I do include OT verses, I make sure the meaning is repeated in the NT in some form. Some verses from the four Gospels don’t apply to believers because before the final rejection of the Jews in Matthew 23, Jesus approached them from old covenant law, not grace. Of course, OT Scripture that reveals God’s attributes and character qualities always applies.

3. Finally, I never assume that everyone who does my Bible studies is a believer. As I study, I look for verses that provide an opportunity to share the gospel. For example: I Corinthians 15:3-4. I also note verses that point out foundational truths. For example: Acts 5:31-32 mentions each Person of the Trinity.

Next week I’ll share how I accomplish my goal.


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