Bible studies can be precious times when Christians come together around the word of God. In small groups it is possible to share our own ideas about the scriptures so that we can each hear what God is saying to the other. It can be a very rich and satisfying experience.
It can also be frustrating and even annoying. A person is responsible for “directing” the meeting, or is invited to do so. This is an opportunity to share your own opinions at length.
Another person has superior Bible knowledge and wants everyone to know it. She’ll send the group to go through text after text, thinking no one is wiser when she’s done.
Or there may be two or three people vying for dominance, quoting different verses and authorities and determined not to give in. He can get quite moody and no one really learns anything.
With a good party leader, such personalities can be controlled. But there is a way to conduct a Bible study that minimizes the risk of it escalating and allows everyone to contribute to the same level, regardless of whether they know or not.
It is often known as the Swedish method, so named – according to Peter Blowes in The Briefing – by Ada Lum, staff member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, who saw it used by a group of Swedish students. . After the prayer, a passage of scripture is read aloud, then each person studies it individually. They are looking for three things:
– a light bulb, something that shines out of the way and catches their attention
– a question mark, something they don’t understand and would like to clarify
– an arrow, a personal application to the life of the reader.
They must be able to write at least one of these symbols for each passage.
First the light bulbs are discussed by the group, then the question marks and finally the arrows.
There are many benefits to this way of reading the Bible together. This not only helps prevent a person from being dominant, but it forces us to pay close attention to what the Bible really says. It also helps us formulate questions that others can help answer, and it gives us something to do in the end.
And while it’s great for group work, it’s a technique we can use in our private study as well, because we’re asking God to speak to us there.
Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods