The third and final article on creative bible study methods for youth ministry.
In the first two articles That's a good question and Fresh expressions I highlighted several bible study methods and eight creative ideas to engage young people in exploring the bible together.
In this final article I've added three more methods for those who want to dig deeper in their understanding of God and their Christian experience.
ENCOUNTER BIBLE STUDY
The goal is to help each young person discover, 'What does this passage mean to ME?' In this kind of bible study the method of sharing is different from the usual 'everyone jumps right in' discussion, allowing the quieter member of the group more time to reflect. Use only a small group of verses which can be remembered easily.
Step 1 Write your own translation.
Ask each young person to write out their own translation of the passage. Ask them to write as they would say it, or imagine they are writing a letter, or email, or text to a friend. Make it clear and keep it simple. (HINT: Try to put into your own words each of the key words and phrases before you write out your translation).
Step 2 Ask yourself
Once the 'translation' is complete, ask the young people to consider and write down;
- What does this passage say to me?
- What does it say about my relationship with God and with others?
- What would it mean to me, if I took this seriously?
Step 3 Feedback.
Every person is given the opportunity to read their translation and share their thoughts on the questions. The young people should do more listening than speaking. The leader should not comment yet, but make notes on the main points being shared. Thank everyone for their thoughts.
Step 4 Questions.
Encourage a time of more general discussion on the passage, beginning with any common points raised by the young people. Here the group leader can also add comments and guidance. Close with a time of prayer asking God to help us apply what we've learned to our lives.
For this type of study narrative passages are generally less fruitful. Choose passages which comment and guide on Christian lifestyle, witness and growth. Some passages you could look at are; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 3:14-20; Philippians 1 27-30, 2:1-16, 4:4-13, 2 Timothy 2:1-15; James 1:2-7; 1 John 1 2:7-11
The study leader will need to prepare in advance using a concordance, topical Bible, and bible index to provide the verses for the group to study. Alternately, can I encourage you use an online resource like www.biblegateway.com This is a simple and effective resource for preparing bible studies. Here's how. Choose the bible version you wish to search. Click to do a keyword search. Enter your keyword and the references you want will be searched. If you wish, you can refine your search further and limit the search to selected books of the bible.
Key words you might like to choose can include; grace, prayer, faith, assurance, witness, sacrifice, servant, peace, redeem, fellowship, body. You get the idea. This kind of study is a great way to encourage young people to discover things for themselves. Let them dig into the bible!
Here's a quick summary of a word study I've used. It's a word search on God. What do we know about him? What is he like? Give out a work sheet containing a list of verses on the attributes of God and ask the young people to discover, who is God? Of course, they will come up with their own descriptions from the verses, but this should prompt an interesting discussion! I've included my own answers in italics to save you some work!
- Deut 6: 4-5 (God is one)
- Genesis 1: 1 (God is creator)
- Psalm 90: 2, Romans 1: 20 (God is eternal, he transcends time)
- Isaiah 40: 21-22 (God is infinite, unlimited by time and space)
- Psalm 139: 7-12 (God is omnipresent, everywhere, at all times)
- 1 John 3: 20, Matthew 6: 8, Psalm 139: 1-6 (Omniscient, knows everything that is happening everywhere)
- John 4: 24 (God is spirit)
- Exodus 3: 5-6, I Peter 1: 15-16 (God is holy)
- Luke 18: 19, Rom 8: 28 (God is good)
- Psalm 115: 3, Luke 1: 37 (Omnipotent)
- Malachi 3: 6, James 1: 17 (God is unchanging in character)
- Matt 5: 48, Duet 32: 4 (God is perfect)
- John 3: 16, Rom 5: 8, 1 John 4: 8-16, Psalm 136 (God is love)
- Psalm 103: 3-6, Exodus 3: 7-8 (God is forgiving and compassionate)
- Rom 3: 25-26 (Just)
- Ephesians 2: 4-5, 2 Peter 3: 9 (Merciful)
Following the search activity, ask each of the young people to choose an attribute (something about God's character) and share what it means personally and practically to them that God is... (Forgiving)
Select a particular attribute. Ask your group to think about why it's good that God is like that. What would we (and the rest of the world) be missing if he wasn't like that?
A colleague of mine told me there are 2,930 people mentioned in the Bible. I haven't checked, but the Bible gives us a rich resource of illustrations of the human condition and how lives can be transformed by God.
Use a concordance or the proper name index in your Bible. Look up each reference of someone you would like to study. Again www.biblegateway.com gives a quick way to do this. Put the name into the keyword search i.e. Gideon, Daniel, and Timothy. Filter these results if necessary, to a more manageable number. Check out some Old Testament characters for great adventures, personal challenges, godly living and relationship with God. For example, Moses, Samson, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Daniel, Hannah, Ruth, Esther. To illustrate this method, here are summaries of three figures in the early church.
25 references. All in Acts. First mentioned in Acts 4:36. Noted in Acts 9 as bringing Paul to the apostles. Many of the other references are in Acts 11-14, where Barnabas travels with Paul on his first missionary journey.
25 references. Begins in Acts 16 when Paul meets a young disciple in Lystra. Travels with Paul on missionary journeys. Final references are in personal letters to Timothy as pastor of the church in Ephesus.
25 references. First mentioned in Acts 15:22. Silas was with Paul during his many adventures, including prison in Philippi. All references in Acts, except three 'signatures' in letters to the early churches.
At the beginning of the study give out the worksheets containing the bible references and questions. If necessary, filter down to 15-20 key references. Ask the young people to do some detective work and build up a profile of this character. Working in three's, each group looks up the verses to answer the questions you have selected for the worksheet. You can either ask each group to answer all your prepared questions or just one section. Feedback the results on to a whiteboard.
To get you started, I've listed 20 possible questions. They are divided into three sections-background, character and significant events in their life. Not all will apply to every character, but will give a guide for your preparations.
- Who wrote what we know about this person?
- What did people say about him/her?
- What does his/her name mean? Why was he/she given that name? Was it ever changed?
- Where did he/she live? What was his/her home life like? What were the characteristics of his/her parents? Did they influence him/her?
- What was his/her occupation?
- What type of person was he/she?
- What were the outstanding strengths in his/her character?
- What were his/her particular faults and weaknesses?
- How did he/she respond to failure? Did he/she get discouraged easily?
- How did he/she respond to adversity? Did he/she handle criticism well?
- How quickly did he/she praise God for the good/bad things that happened to him/her?
- How quickly did he/she obey God when told to do something?
- How did he/she get along with other people? Was he/she a loner? Was he/she a team person?
- What influence did he/she have on others?
- Was there any great crisis in his/her life? How did he/she handle it?
- Are there accomplishments for which he/she is remembered?
- Did he/she experience a divine 'call?' How did he/she respond to it?
- What crucial decisions did he/she have to make? How did they affect him/her?
- Where did he/she succeed? Where did he/she fail? Why?
- What part did he/she play in the history of God’s plan?
Once the profiling is completed and a personal bio recorded on a chart or whiteboard. Ask the group to reflect on these three questions;
- Why do you think God allowed this person to be mentioned in the Bible?
- Is there a lesson in this person's life that can help or encourage me?
- What can I learn from *** to apply to my own situation?
Close the study in as appropriate with further group discussion or prayer.
For more bible study ideas and resources, click on bible study methods in the category list on the sidebar.