One of the things I regret not knowing earlier in life is how to actually study my Bible. I’m not just talking about a quick devotional reading in the morning, but really getting into the meat of the text – learning how to interpret scripture properly, so I can discern for myself whether I’m being taught truth or a skewed version of scripture.
You see, when I was in college, there was a cult on campus. They called themselves Christians, but taught a legalistic interpretation of the Bible that led several of my friends astray. I would have been caught up in it myself, but by the grace of God I was always busy on “Bible study” nights.
Anyway, my friends eventually realized that they were not being taught Truth, got out of the cult, and joined InterVarsity Fellowship. But they had a hard time “unlearning” all the legalistic things they had learned from the other group.
As my kids have grown older, I think back to that time in college and know that I want my kids to know their Bible well. And I want them to be able to discern Truth for themselves, rather than rely on a teacher. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for attending church and learning from a good pastor. However, I also believe that one needs to be able to recognize when a pastor is teaching his opinion rather than truth.
This summer one of my big goals with Hannah was to sit down and do an inductive study with her. I let her pick the book, and she picked James, which is great, because I just finished Beth Moore’s James study, so I feel like I know the book pretty well.
How to Teach Your Teen the Inductive Bible Study Method
What is inductive Bible study?
Since I use a lot of Kay Arthur materials for my own personal inductive studies, I went straight to her ministry, Precept Ministries International, for a definition of inductive Bible study. According to the website,
The Inductive Study Method is an investigative approach to the Bible using three basic components: Observation, Interpretation, Application.
It’s certainly not the only way to study the Bible, but I like it, because it is straightforward and easy to do on my own.
Materials We Use for Inductive Bible Study
You really don’t need any special materials for inductive Bible study, but I have a few that I like to have on hand.
- The New Inductive Study Bible – I love mine so much, I bought Stargirl one before we began studying James.
- Pentel Arts 8 Color Automatic Pencil – I use highlighters, but I bought the pencil for Stargirl, and it works much better, as the color doesn’t bleed through the pages.
- Ballpoint pen
- Something for recording notes. Hannah is a notebook and pen kind of girl, and I use Evernote.
For teaching a beginner the Inductive Bible Study Method, I also like to use a book from the New Inductive Study Series. I believe there are guides to cover every book of the Bible. Since Hannah wanted to study James, we are using God’s Love Alive in You, which covers 1,2,3 John, James, & Philemon. We just skipped ahead to James.
How I’m Teaching My Teen The Inductive Bible Study Method
I love how The New Inductive Study Series is structured, in that it involves six days of Bible study, followed by a seventh day of discussion questions. Stargirl and I decided we would do six days of study alone and then meet for discussion on the seventh day.
I walked her through the first day of study, so she would know what she was doing.
Step 1: Observation
In the observation phase of studying, we mark key words in the text, so we are able to see patterns and pick out the words quickly. For instance, in the first chapter of James, we are marking the word “faith,” because it appears often.
Not only do we mark key words, we read the text over and over. It gets repetitive sometimes, but that’s the best way to really get to know the Word.
Once we observe the text and note the key words, we move on to interpretation. We list in our notebooks (or Evernote, in my case) all we learn about a key topic, for instance, trials. I often add specific Bible references and write exactly what the Bible says, instead of paraphrasing.
Frequently during this phase, the Kay Arthur book will note some cross references that address the same topic, so we can see what different portions of scripture say. I also list in my notebook what I learn from these passages.
During the interpretation phase, if I’m ambitious, I’ll pull out a concordance and a Bible dictionary if I’m having trouble with a word. Or I’ll jump on Bible Gateway and read the troubling verse in multiple translations to get a better feel for what the true meaning of the passage is. Part of teaching Hannah how to study her Bible this summer will be teaching her to use various Bible study tools like a concordance or Bible dictionary.
Finally, during the application phase, we look at how we can apply what we’ve learned to our lives. Most of this will happen during our weekly meetings to discuss the questions set forth in our study guide.
As Hannah and I work through this study, I’ll give her plenty of freedom to learn on her own, but I’ll also open my own study notes, so that she can see how I work. Her methods may end up looking a lot different than mine, but sometimes it’s good to have a model to follow. One way of discipling my teen is to let her walk beside me to see how I interact with God’s Word.
I’m so excited to be entering this new phase with my teen! She’s excited to study the Bible, and I’m excited that we can discuss what we’re learning, pray for each other, and cheer each other on. And by the end of the summer, Stargirl will have gained not only a deeper understanding of the book of James, but also some valuable Bible study skills that she can use for the rest of her life.