Feed Your Students a Meal that will Make Them Hungry
As if lovingly preparing a home-cooked meal, our staff used to spend hours searching for and adapting Bible study content. Making sure we had the right percentages of various nutrients, we added, eliminated, and reworded questions to “feed” our students the most nutritionally complete meal possible. However, despite all of our work to provide the perfect content for our Bible studies, we found it was often the only “meal” our students ate for the week.
One Meal a Week Won’t Cut It
Outside of group time, our students admitted to rarely opening their Bibles, and their walks with God survived the rest of the week on devotionals or podcasts. While certainly helpful tools, these can sometimes be like pre-packaged and processed foods–good for a snack or when you are still learning to cook, but not sustaining long-term. At a certain point, even my college roommate who had never cooked a meal in her life realized Bagel Bites and frozen burritos just don’t cut it forever.
Now, for many college students, that once a week “meal” of time reading the Bible might be considered a win when compared to their peers. But we were seeing this trend even in our student leaders–the ones leading the studies. They also lacked the foundation of being self-feeders, and this showed in their lack of devotion to the Lord, exhaustion in ministry, and general sense of being overwhelmed by life. They weren’t being sustained, held and guided by God’s Word. Because they didn’t know what to do when they opened their Bibles, they just didn’t open them.
The Only Bible Study We Use
Realizing the need for a method of engaging the Bible which students could learn in their small groups and carry into their personal time in the Word, we developed a format which we now solely use for all of our Bible studies. This method was born from resources like Discovery Bible Study, which was successfully facilitating conversation about Scripture with international students and others with no biblical knowledge, and Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word which gave us language and tools to talk to our students about the importance of reading the Bible. The consistency allows participants to know what to expect when they show up to Bible study each week, and there is very little prep for the leader/facilitator.
Megan, one of our staff, has used this method in a group setting with girls who both are and are not yet believers and has seen that it’s effective because it’s inclusive. “The students who aren’t familiar with the Bible know what to expect each week, so they aren’t as anxious about the group setting. The girls who are believers love that it guides toward more discussion rather than just answering a question and moving on.”
Not only have our group studies been impacted by this method of study, but it carries into the students’ lives outside of the study.
Olivia, one of our student leaders, shared: “I think having the same questions has helped our girls read and know what to look for while they are reading Scripture. When we do come together they will have questions to ask and are able to add to the conversation. It has provided a structure they can use to study the Bible that enables them to gain an understanding of who God is, how they fall short, their need for Jesus, and then to practically apply the Word to their lives.” Mary Katherine, another student leader, added, “Using this method freshman year helped me learn how to read the Bible on my own. And I think asking what does this teach us about God first helps me remember that the Bible is not about me.”
Three reasons we have stuck with this method:
- It’s easy to train leaders, because they ask the same questions each week. These questions help them keep their “facilitator” hat on, instead of a “teacher” hat, as they see their role to help students discuss what is right in front of them in the text.
- Whether they are a leader or a participant, the best prep for group members is to simply read their Bible throughout the week. As they read, they can ask the same questions of the text on their own that they will later discuss as a group. They aren’t directionless when they come to the Word on their own, wondering what they should be looking for.
- Their time discussing the questions in a group context allows them to learn from their peers or from the leader how they can more effectively study the Bible on their own, in an inclusive way that doesn’t embarrass someone who doesn’t know the answer. One person might make an observation or share a thought that another student didn’t catch when they read the passage, and they can learn what else to look for or how to make connections in what they are reading.
Ultimately, though, I think these three reasons culminate into one main reason we use this method: students learn to be self-feeders when they open the Word. They learn to interpret the Bible in light of who God is and how He meets us in our brokenness. Students who develop a taste for the soul-satisfying food that can only be found in God’s Word will not be dependent on the questions or thoughts of someone else to help them “get something out of” their time reading Scripture.