The second of three articles on creative bible study methods for youth ministry.
This is a very effective method of introducing young people to bible study. Ask a member of the group to read the chosen bible passage aloud. Everyone then takes a sheet of paper and writes the five symbols down the left hand side. After quietly reading through the Bible passage again, each person writes (next to the appropriate symbol) what they think the passage is saying.
After 10 minutes of individual work, encourage the group to share their findings together. Where individuals have questions, encourage group discussion to try to find out the answers together. Take a few minutes to summarise what you have discovered and close with a prayer to act on anything learned.
- ARROW POINTING UP Write something theses verses tell us about Jesus/God
- ARROW POINTING DOWN Write something these verses tell us about human nature
- A LIGHT BULB Write down any new discovery you have made reading these verses
- AN EXCLAMATION MARK! Write down the most exciting verse in your opinion and why
- A QUESTION MARK? Write anything you don't understand or want to ask about
- ARROW POINTING TO SIDE Write down something these verses say we should do
The symbol method is a tool used to explore the bible together in small groups and encourage the participation of all. It can be used with parables, psalms and many sections of the epistles. Examples of passages you could use are: Psalm 104, Psalm 107, Psalm 139, Romans 8:1-17, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Ephesians 2:1-16, Colossians 1:15-23, Colossians 3:1-17, 1 Peter 1:3-16, 1 John 1:1-7.
This is another simple method which can be used with all age groups.
- Explain to the group they are to look for a verse which either: Means the most to me OR Tells me something new about the Christian life OR Tells me something I need to do.
- Encourage them to work individually and in silence.
- Explain they will be asked to share their answers when they have finished reading.
- Give the bible verses to be studied.
- You should also read the verses and be prepared to briefly share first.
- Encourage the group members to share. Significant answers may be recorded on chart paper.
- If some share the same verse, it's OK. They may have different reasons for choosing it.
Examples of passages you could use are: Psalm 139, John 15:1-14, Romans 12:9-21, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Ephesians 4: 1-16, Colossians 3:12-17.
I've talked a lot about using questions in bible study, but there are many other creative ways for young people to express themselves and their answers. Here are 7 bible study ideas I've used with different groups of young people.
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?
Take a story or parable from the Gospels and ask everyone in your group to play the role of one of the characters. If you have more young people than characters, two young people can share one character. Ask everyone to be quiet while you read the story and concentrate on how they think their character feels as the story unfolds. You can stop at key points during the story or wait until the end before asking each character to describe their feelings i.e. anger, surprise, thankfulness.
If they want to, the group could act out the scene to help them understand how their characters felt. Examples I've used include; Jesus heals a paralysed man (Mark 2:1-12); Jesus heals a blind man (John 9); Jesus meets Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 1-10).
Ask every member of the group to bring a short bible passage or a few verses which are special to them. When you meet together encourage them to read out the passage, explain what they think it means and why it is special to them. When each person finishes, invite the rest of the group to comment on what they feel about the passage. Members of your group who are shy can work with another young person.
It doesn't matter if the same passage comes up more than once, because there are likely to be different perspectives on the text. This activity encourages your young people to think about a Bible passage, promote personal understanding and discover how it applies to them.
IN MY OWN WORDS
Divide into small groups and ask your young people to put a bible passage into their own words. This works well with parables. For example, ask them to rewrite the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) in a 21st century setting. Encourage them to use modern words and phrases, but they must agree on and stick to the original meaning of the passage. Alternatively, the parable could be turned into a poem. Some members of your group might want to act out their version of the story to the rest of the group. Discuss the central meaning of the story and what it can teach us today.
FILL IN THE BLANKS
Choose a bible passage from one of the New Testament letters which teaches an important Christian doctrine. Alternatively, choose a bible story which your group is unlikely to know. Type the story on a worksheet or write on OHP acetate, but remove some of the key words and leave blank spaces. Ask the young people individually or in small groups to decide what words they think are appropriate to fill in the blanks. When they have finished, ask them to read out their answers. Then read the original version, compare the differences and talk about why Jesus, Paul or the biblical author chose the words they did.
The first four bible study methods have focused more on verbal or written expression. Some young people may have difficulty reading or expressing themselves clearly in words. So, exploring others ways of expression and interpretation can be a real encouragement to them, where they can feel their contribution is valued and accepted.
MONTAGE A WORD
Take a word like worship, church, disciple, witness, salvation or fellowship and ask your group to try to express its meaning in a montage. This is a large picture made up from pieces of other pictures, photos, headlines and words cut from magazines and pasted together on card. Discuss how the montage helps us to understand more about the word and its meaning. Follow this with a short ‘word study’ looking at how the word is used in several bible passages.
PAINT A STORY
Take a theme like ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12) and ask your group to illustrate the phrase in pictures using paints, crayons or pencils. Alternatively, create a collage using scrap materials (magazines, newspaper, scrap fabric or wool, cardboard boxes etc), or make a banner or mural using fabric or wallpaper.
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!
Select a bible story and ask your group to design a newspaper front page complete with logo, story heading, an interview with your 'on-the-ground' reporter, eye witness accounts, celebrity comments on the story etc. If you want to be more ambitious, use a camcorder to shoot a news bulletin, complete with newscaster, 'on-the-ground' reports, expert opinion, perhaps even a weather forecast! (John 6: 1-21)
Some Old Testament stories can really come to life with this sort of format i.e. Jonah and the Whale, Moses and the Israelites cross the Red Sea, Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal. Discuss the key points of the story as the group designs their front page or news bulletin. What do these tell us about God and how can that help our Christian journey today.
For more bible study ideas and resources, click on bible study methods in the category list on the sidebar.