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.