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4 Bible Studies that Every Leader Should Know About

How does your group want to study the Bible? Here are a few options.

Which Bible study is right for your small group or Sunday School class? Get a free sample of these four types and try it out with your group.

"I guess they just want us to sit around and talk about stuff."

That's what I overheard as I passed by an adult men's group that was wrapping up a Bible study.

As I paused just outside the door to their room, I realized how displeased they were with the Bible study provided to them by the church. The more I listened, it became apparent that their group preferred a different style or type of study than what they'd been given.

In my experience, there are four common types of studies, each fairly distinct from the other. No matter how young or how old the group members are, most groups lean toward one of these, and it explains why some Bible studies resonate with one group while they totally turn off another group.

1. Book-by-Book Bible Studies

The men's group I mentioned above had a preference for "text." Their preferred way to study the Bible was to start with a biblical text and then study a series of verses. They want to understand the biblical context, what the text meant to the original audience, but also how it applies to their own context today.

If the Bible study used by your group moves you through a particular book of the Bible, helps you understand the background and history of the original message, and then applies it to your context today, chances are your preference is "text." If your group prefers a text study, then you should look into Explore the Bible.

Explore the Bible is a book-by-book Bible study for all ages that takes participants deep into the context of God's Word and challenges them to live it out in their own context. From preschool to adults, churches and small groups, Explore the Bible presents a rich, age-appropriate study experience that pursues biblical context through:

  • Balanced study
  • Archaeological and historical background
  • In-depth Bible commentary
  • A "context passage" that reveals larger biblical context
  • Engaging group discussion questions for every book of the Bible

2. Life-Focused Bible Studies

The Bible study that the men's group had been asked to use were "life" studies, so it's no wonder they didn't appreciate that kind of Bible study. To them the "life" material felt "light," and did not explore the text as fully as they thought it should.

Groups that prefer "life" Bible studies like to start with a topic that is relevant to them today and see what the Bible has to say about it. It may call for more discussion and the sharing of stories from real-life and personal experience. Group members may feel the freedom to open up and talk about struggles they are facing as they try to follow God's Word in their marriages, families and work. Clearly connecting the Scripture to every day life is very important to people who prefer this approach. If this sounds like your group, then you should check out Bible Studies for Life.

Bible Studies for Life is designed to help people in groups connect God's Word to their lives in an intentional way. Every session is built on a research-backed discipleship plan that wisely helps adults, students and kids:

  • Know God's Word through trustworthy Bible study content
  • Create biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies
  • Engage culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues

3. Bible Studies on Theology

Some groups prefer a Bible study with a heavier emphasis on theology. These groups may like to start with a particular doctrine and discover how it connects to the whole of Scripture. Seeing "the big picture" of the gospel in the grand narrative of Scripture is important to groups who prefer studies that start with a theological topic. If your group is interested in the big picture of God's story, then you should check out The Gospel Project.

With The Gospel Project, your group will discover how the Bible is not just a collection of stories. It is one story of God's plan to rescue His people from sin and death. It is the story of redemption, the gospel message of Jesus Christ. And it's our story, too. The Gospel Project includes:

  • Chronological study plan: Genesis thru Revelation
  • Christ-centered study: All scripture gives testimony to Jesus
  • Age alignment: All ages learn same lessons
  • Missional focus to respond to God
  • 99 Essential doctrines of Christian faith identified
  • 3 year study plan
  • 18 months in Old Testament
  • 18 months in New Testament

4. Discipleship Bible Studies

There are even some groups who are focused on discipleship. These groups like to study doctrine, biblical understanding, biblical principles and practices of discipleship.

If you or your group is interested in an intentional plan for discipleship, then you should look into Disciples Path. Starting with Disciples Path: The Journey, a one-year Bible study created to nurture believers into disciples who make disciples, Disciples Path is designed to be progressive, relational, disciplined, and replicable. Discover more about Disciples Path.

Is one of the starting points better than the others? Not really. No matter what the starting point, all four kinds of Bible studies place the Word of God in front of group members. Scripture is central to the study. All deal with theological issues. All examine the text. Application will be made to real life. But the way the Bible studies take place in the group and the kinds of questions and group activities that are experienced may be different in order to best accomplish the goals of the Bible study.

Ken Braddy leads a group of empty nest adults at his church in Tennessee. He regularly blogs on the topics of Sunday School and small groups. Visit his official blog.