We live at a time of unprecedented availability of the Bible and media-delivered Bible study resources. No generation has ever had so much worthwhile materials for Bible reading and Bible study within easy reach than those of us living today. Yet, I suspect that many Christians today never read or engage the Bible in a meaningful way even though the benefits of Bible engagement are well established.
My experience in leading small groups is that many learners do not and will not bring a Bible to the study. Now almost everyone has a Bible link on their phones, which I value greatly. An eBible is very helpful for reading but can sometimes get in the way of Bible study. Reading from a hardcopy of the Bible helps learners link passages together. Using a hardcopy also helps the learner develop a geography of the Bible. Using a hardcopy promotes developing an understanding of the big, overarching story of the Bible that using an eBible may not be able to do. I won’t ever put anyone down for using their phone to read the Bible passage in a small group study, but I will continue to talk about the value of a hardcopy.
How can you encourage the members of your group to bring a Bible and use the Bible during small group study sessions? Here are some ideas:
- Set the example. Use your hardcopy of the Bible in the study. Your example speaks volumes.
- If you are using a standard Bible study curriculum, leave your leader’s guide at home. If you have that on your lap, you are communicating that your group is primarily studying a magazine, not the Bible itself. Besides that, you are going to be reading out loud much of your lesson, one of the things many adults complain about in small group: “The leader just reads to us.” Try teaching from notes you have put on paper, folded in a book fold so it will slip into your Bible.
- Ask volunteers to read the Bible passages aloud. If you ask them to read small portions of the study text aloud, you will call attention to their Bibles several times in the study.
- Make good use of smartphones. Anyone using the YouVersion app (the MOST popular Bible reading app in the world!), has access to a huge number of Bible translations. Ask people to read from other translations so the group can compare wording and examine insight gained in comparing translations.
- Encourage the use of journaling Bibles. Boy, journaling Bibles are all the rage right now. They come in a variety of formats with space for journaling and notetaking on every page. In fact, the more you mark up your Bible and write in it, the more valuable it becomes. Journaling can include writing words, ideas, thoughts, or insights right beside the passage being studied. Some people even use simple art to respond to God’s Word in a journaling Bible. A learner might also mark up the text with color to indicate things like commands or promises or circle important words in a passage. A learner can even build his or her own cross reference Bible this way. When a learner has a hardcopy Bible they value and use in this way, it will come with them to Bible study.
- Encourage the use of the Bible all week. Many Bible study curricula provide daily Bible reading plans that support learning in small group. Invite learners to use the plans and mark the passages with insights in their Bibles. That is harder to do in an eBible.
- When you are visiting with your small group members, thank them when they use a hardcopy Bible in small group. This is wonderful re-enforcement. Well, for that matter, do the same if they use an eBible. Their Bible engagement is what you want to see.
If the Bible is God’s Word, if using it can literarily change lives, if it is the way to knowing God and experiencing the great salvation Jesus brought us, then help your learners use it in whatever form they will engage with it. Model it. Encourage it. Expect it. Read it. Then watch what God will do in the lives of your learners.
Scripture: Read Isaiah 40:6-8. What comparison is made in this passage? Why is the comparison important? What does this passage say about the Bible?
Dig Deeper: Read Knowable Word: Helping Ordinary People Learn to Study the Bible by Peter Krol.
Now It’s Your Turn: How do you encourage the use of the Bible in your small group? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.