I hope you were able to find my youtube channel for my very first vlog that went up yesterday. In it, I talked about how to write a Bible study. I want to dive a little deeper into some of the areas here.
I am not going to recap what I talked about in my video (oh, I know, you’ll just have to go watch!), but I do want to talk about a few other things that are related.
Writing a Bible study is no small, insignificant task. While the actual writing time may be less than, say, a novel, the content couldn’t be more important for a Christian. That’s why it is so important to make sure it’s right. Truth, absolute truth, is not subjective. Take, for instance, the context of your life. You have experiences that color how you approach the Bible and study. Your experiences change how you interpret, but it doesn’t change the truth contained inside. When writing a Bible study, we need to acknowledge that the Bible is the irrefutable Word of God. To treat it in any other manner is to disrespect it.
I want to reiterate that I have no formal Biblical training. I attended college at a small state university and have degrees in music and psychology. I applied to seminary to pursue a career in counseling, but things didn’t really work out as planned, though that’s a story for another day. I have no special training that makes me “more qualified” than someone else to write a study. I’m just a girl who loves Jesus and gets a kick out of studying the Bible in a deep and meaningful way. It fires up my faith in a way that nothing else does and I want to share my passion with others.
I do accept the weight and responsibility that comes along with presuming to be a teacher and I do not take this lightly. After all, we are warned in James 3 that teachers will be judged more strictly. Before you ever begin to write, evaluate yourself with sober judgment. Are you living the kind of life that serves Christ? Do you watch what you say and do? Do you spend time in the Bible, in prayer, in study to grow your own faith? Do you attend a local church and support it financially? Do you tithe? Do you give financial offerings over and above the tithe? Do you give of your time and talents to your church and community? I’m not saying we need to be perfect, but friend, we must take our responsibility seriously if we are going to presume to teach others and bring them closer to Christ.
I’m sure you are eager for me to get to the nuts and bolts of writing, correct? If you haven’t already, go watch my video and write down all the questions I asked in it. There were six main points and each point had some subquestions to consider before starting to write.
Now, the nuts and bolts.
ONE:: You will need to decide on a theme of your study. This is the overarching idea. I will have a video up next week about this and a post expanding more on deciding on and building a study off a theme.
TWO:: With the actual writing, it is important to make a plan. Now a plan and an outline are not the same thing. If you are an outliner, this is the time to make your outline. Decide on your main points or chapter titles and figure out some supporting verses.
If you are a pantser, like me, this process will look very different. You still need a theme and I highly recommend figuring out some, if not all, of your chapter titles. So by plan, I mean pick a regular time, whether daily or weekly, and write. Write whatever comes out, follow your train of thought even if it doesn’t seem logical at the time. You will have plenty of time for editing later.
When you do write, be sure that you are being an objective relater of truth. Sometimes, and I’m sure many of us have experienced this, Bible studies can shove a certain rigid belief system down our throats. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes downright wrong. This is the importance of using Biblical context to make or support your points. It’s fine to look up or use a single verse as a starting point, but don’t make it the only support of your point. Read the entire section or chapter to get a feel of what else is going on. Very rarely should you ever use one verse to make a point.
A Bible study should be viewed as more of a study facilitation tool than a knowledge-dispensing guidebook. A good study evokes good discussion or introspection. If you are writing a group study, point out that groups should be safe spaces where people are free to explore their beliefs. If our studies create an environment where people aren’t welcome to share differing opinions or beliefs, explore the Scriptures, learn new things, and grow spiritually, then friends, we have screwed up.
We all start out as new believers and grow with study and learning. The reason you’ve decided to write a study is very possibly that you’ve learned something and want to share it with others, right? You feel you have something to say that will benefit others. Then be sure it actually does. Be sure that your truth isn’t so rigid that it blocks people’s search for Christ. Not everyone is in the same place and, as such, our studies need to reflect this. What I mean by this is take care to not create extra hoops for people to jump through in order to experience Christ. The Jews in early church history demanded to prophets that Gentiles be circumcised and required to follow the letter of the Jewish Law in order to be counted worthy as God’s people. Don’t add man-made obstacles to a faith that many people throughout history have given their lives to make accessible to all.
When you are outlining or going about your writing, keep these things in mind. We need to make sure that Scripture is informing our beliefs and not the other way around. Our experiences shape how we experience Scripture and interpret it, but Scripture should always be the primary shaping of how we view God and Christianity
FOUR:: Once you have your first draft complete, take a break. Find some alpha readers. Have them read the study in its entirety, without working it, to find major problems. These are the people that are going to point out major problems, illogical jumps, and weak supports. Give them a timeline, but let it be long enough that your brain can take a rest. I won’t go into too much detail here because I will also have another video on alphas soon.
FIVE:: Then it’s time for editing. You will need to develop the editing process that works for you. I will share my process with you and maybe it will work, but maybe it won’t. If it even helps to launch you into a process that works for you, it’s worth it. I also have a video coming up on this where I will talk more.
SIX:: After you’ve finished your first full round of editing, it’s time for beta readers. These are the people that are going to be the first to actually work your study. This was the most financially costly portion of my study writing process – between printing, binding, delivering, and mailing, I spent a couple hundred dollars. I tell you this to urge you to not skimp here. You want to treat your betas with the utmost respect because they are doing you a HUGE favor out of the goodness of their hearts. Respect your readers. As you may have guessed, yes, I have more information coming up on this soon.
SEVEN:: After you’ve received your beta feedback, it’s data mining time. You will need to figure out a process by which you will organize all your feedback. If you are a data nerd like me, this will probably be the most fun part (once you’ve finished crying over the negative feedback). You want to look for trends and not outliers. My study is out with my beta readers right now and I am so excited to see what they have to say about it. Yes, I’m very nervous too. That’s totally normal!
EIGHT:: Once you’ve organized and grouped the feedback, it’s time for another round of editing. This time, you will want to incorporate the high-trend feedback from your betas. If your returned sample size was 20 and 18 of them think chapter 6 was terrible, then you need to go back and rewrite chapter 6. If 2 thought chapter 5 was terrible and 18 thought it was the best, just leave it alone. The majority rules here otherwise you will be rewriting until the end of time.
We all doubt ourselves. We all second guess. When I find myself in a doubt cycle I can’t break, I recruit some people for objective feedback. I have them watch a video or read a post or listen to an idea and I ask for honest feedback. I make sure to tell them not to worry about hurting my feelings. I can easily get caught up in overthinking (like when I bought a pack of pens to send along with my study – everybody has pens!) and so I need to trust the judgment of people who aren’t so emotionally invested.
NINE:: After this round of editing, your study is ready. Ready to be pitched, ready to be self-published, ready for the world. It’s not unreasonable that this entire process will take a year or more. This isn’t something to be rushed. Take your time and make it great. After all, it’s your name on the cover, right? If that’s not enough pressure, remember who you are representing with your study. Is it worthy of Him?
Finally, don’t stress too much. Remember, you can do this. It’s not something to take lightly, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Take it one step at a time and keep moving forward. It’s all about forward progress.
Let me know what you’re working on or if you have any questions. I’d love to connect!