A Simple Recipe for Preparing a Bible Study
With God's help and a little preparation, you too can create a space where Jesus takes center stage.
After you've selected your passage and maybe printed it in the manuscript style, you're ready to prepare! We encourage you to download this prep sheet and use one for each study. It's formatted to help guide your preparation and then keep you organized while you're leading.
When preparing, spend about half your time getting to know the passage and the other half preparing to teach. Remember to be prayerful as you work through your preparation. Jesus wants to meet with you even as you prepare.
Know the Passage
Step A: Background and Context
You don't need to know EVERYTHING about the passage. But, taking a few minutes to learn where the passage fits in the bigger story of Scripture will help you immensely as you lead others.
For the bigger context, swipe a few pages forward and backward from your passage to learn about the surrounding stories or teachings. If your Bible has one, read the introduction to the book to learn about the author and historical setting. Consider checking out The Bible Project video that's relevant to your passage in their Read Scripture series.
Then, go to your passage and read through it with this question in mind: what cultural or historical references puzzle you or might confuse your group? A reference book can be really helpful for this part. We recommend The Bible Background Commentary because it's a user-friendly way to learn the cultural and historical backstory of any passage.
Step B: Key Observations
Now it's time to study your passage in more detail. If you're new to an inductive style of Bible study, you might watch this vintage video about observation or check out this list of things to notice.
As you finish, be sure to note on your prep sheet the observations you think are key for getting at the heart of the passage. That way, when you're leading, you’ll remember to mention them.
Step C: Interpretive Questions and Core Message
Your group will hopefully come up with some excellent questions on their own during the study. But, it's foolhardy to walk into the study as a leader without a few great questions ready to go. If you're working from a study guide or other prepared questions, now is the time to read them over and find the best ones for your group. If you're crafting your own questions, we have some tips for writing TIGHT questions.
As you zero in on your questions, you'll also start to have some clarity on the core message of the passage. We have some tips on how to identify the core message. Don't stress yourself out on this! It won't be perfect, but write out your current thinking on what forms the center of the passage.
Prepare to Teach
Step A: Application Questions or Activities
Now, it's time to pivot your preparation from knowing the passage to getting ready to lead. We recommend starting with application so you'll know where the rest of the study is heading. We have some tips for writing SHARP application questions. Check out our training section on leading application for more details.
Step B: Background
Look over your notes on background/context and decide what you'll share with your group at the beginning of the study. Which couple of pieces of information are most important for setting the stage? Check out our training section on leading observation for details.
Step C: Observation Prompt/Activity
In this step, decide on any observation questions or Creative Observation activities you’ll use for your study. Check out our training section on leading observation for details.
Step D: Prepare a Summary
Because your summary is the stickiest and most concise statement of what the study is all about, we find it easiest to tackle it last. For many leaders, this doesn't mean writing out your summary word-for-word. However, you at least want to write down an idea or two that will be the backbone of your summary. That could be a catchy way of putting the core message into your own words, or an analogy or story that illuminates the core message. Remember that your summary should help bridge the rest of your study to your application question or activity.
Check out our training section on leading application for details about what makes a great Summary.
Ok, you’re prepared! Remember that God is with you! Have a great time in his word.
Bible Study Preparation Sheet Identifying the Core MessageObserving a Passage
Resources For Growing as a Leader