Non-crappy Bible Study

This message was sent to me on a BBS forum I frequent. I asked the other person if I could post it here, to get your input on her question:

Hey Michael, I’m hoping you might be able to help me with something. The background is, there’s this woman in the neighborhood who I have recently become friends with, and she suggested that the two of us do a Bible study together as part of hanging out with our collection of babies during the days. For a variety of social reasons, there’s no way I can politely get out of doing it.

The problem is, I have spent my adulthood avoiding Bible study groups like the plague because, at the risk of sounding hopelessly arrogant, most of them are SO PAINFULLY INSIPID. It is not enjoyable or interesting in any way to listen to someone say, “I think what he’s saying here is [insert some synonyms for exactly what's on the page],” and then everyone nods sagely. I find large portions of the text to be really, really self-explanatory, and somehow these always seem to be the ones that get focused on in Bible studies. The last time I was in one, in fact, I got in a lot of trouble because I actually said in frustration, “Come on, it’s not like it’s Shakespeare.” Yeah.

So on the occasions where I am obligated to participate in such things, I’ve generally learned to just keep my mouth glued shut and practice my sage nodding. But that’s not going to work when I’m one of only two people in the room. So my question is, are you able to perhaps recommend a set of materials that are meatier and more interesting than your typical “See, here’s how we know God loves us!” kind of thing? She wants me to pick the subject, which is good because I have a chance to make sure it doesn’t suck, but is bad because… well, I’ve kind of been operating on the assumption that they all suck. I know there must be some smarter ones out there, but I don’t know where to find them.

So, any suggestions?

14 thoughts on “Non-crappy Bible Study

  1. aly hawkins

    She’s right…most Bible study materials suck (I know because I’ve edited a vast library of them). I recommend nudging the neighbor toward the ever-trusty ladies’ group fallback, the Book Club. Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book is fantastic, and there’s a study guide. All about the Bible, and much, MUCH better than 99.6% of the fill-in-the-blank type Bible studies so popular in MOPS groups across the country.

  2. Rach

    Sigh, this woman from the forum told the story of my life right here…

    There are two things I would recommend for the situation. First of all, because I have attempted brain activities like book clubs and Bible studies with small children and/or babies about the house, I can guarantee the subject matter is probably irrelevant, because no one is going to be able to focus anyway.
    Secondly, why not ditch a topical study in favor of a good ol’ fashioned exegetical read-through and discussion regarding the text? (Oh yeah, because we may come to different understandings of passages and in American culture, when we vocalize that, it can turn an awkward direction socially, O Shakespeare-lover.)
    Oh well, it’s frustrating when we insist on combining Bible studies and social outlets anyway. (Although that last Friday-Night-Skate-Zephaniah-Overview-Scrapbook-Extravaganza I attended was not too bad).
    I enjoy both, but not together. If it were me, I would encourage the social aspect since forming relationships with other Godly women are cool. But I am not going to put myself in a torturous typical women’s topical Bible study situation again because I turn resentful, I feel fake, I don’t feel free to express myself, and that kind of goes against the spirit of it all, doesn’t it?

    Aly, I will check out your recommendation.

  3. Karen

    As a former MOPS mama I have found many of the Bible studies to suck as well. I have lots of friends that love them but I have a hard time with verses being taken completely out of context and more typos than a Stephan King Novel.
    Unfortunately, Rachel I have a feeling many people like the spoon fed Bible Studies rather than an exegetical read through and discussion. Why actually think for yourself when you can nod sagely and just agree.

    I also like your suggestion Aly and will check it out. I did just read The Shack with a bunch of girls and got together to discuss all the finer points. It was a great discussion with women not stuck on tradition Bible studies.

  4. sharolyn

    “Digging deep into the Word” and “children present” don’t really go together.

    Having said that, I would recommend anything by Beth Moore. I’ve done “David” and “The Patriarchs: Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and they have been my favorite.

    Kay Arthur is also good. My mom hated the circling and underlining, etc. (Kay Aruthur actually has you buy colored pencils), so if that is not your style of learning, pick another.

  5. Chad

    “I say jump right into Revelation, and spend most of the day trying to figure out which current political figures John is referencing!”

    My dad tells a revealing story about some of his more fundamentalist acquaintances watching closely in November of 1963, convinced that JFK was going to raise from the dead after 3 days and confirm that he was the anti-Christ. Headwound and all…

    I remember a misguided teacher in High School talking to the ironically named “Christian Outreach Club,” laying out how the first gulf war played perfectly into the Revelation narrative.

    I bought it hook, line, and sinker.

    Cynicism always follows false prophecy.

  6. Paul Reisser

    While we’re on the subject, is there anything we can do about “fill in the blank” sermon notes??

  7. sharolyn

    Paul (to add my rant), doesn’t it bug when they all start with the same letter? Like, “—perspective, perservere— and patience”? When that’s the case, I feel my intelligence is underestimated. My coping mechanism consists of imagining Telly Monster closing the sermon and asking if I remembered the letter of the day.

  8. sharolyn

    The goal of the alliteration is likely to help us remember the sermon points, but for me, at least, that doesn’t work.

    We just said goodbye to a wonderful associate pastor of four years, and I can remember all of his sermons that I attended. He was known for props.

    -There was a sports car on the church patio when he preached on materialism.
    -There was a casket on the platform when he preached about death and eternity.
    -There was an actual and full magazine stand from the grocery store when he preached on vanity.
    -When he taught about Jesus being present in our everyday lives, there was a guy dressed like Jesus walking around the sanctuary.
    -When he taught on being still and silent, he was silent for about 10 minutes while he scrolled his thoughts on Powerpoint and we read. (I mean, wouldn’t that be ironic to preach on being silent?)

    He would also have us stand and read the scriptures aloud. Strategies such as these help me remember the text and sermon points better than alliterated fill-in-the-blanks.

    If this is irrelevant to anyone but me, thank you for typing some of my grief for his loss! Boo-hoo! :(

  9. Bill Metanoya

    If you want to REALLY go deep, then take on The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. That should challenge even the most studied Bible dude.

  10. Paul Reisser

    We actually declared a moratorium on alliterative sermon points. They always seem to have a counterproductive effect when it comes to remembering the bottom line of the sermon. A close second to the imaginative props that Sharolyn mentioned are good stories.

  11. Julie

    I for one love sermon notes, if only they were not so predictable I really try hard to have my whole notes filled out before he even starts. hehehe! I think that it is good to have something to go back to because I keep mine and restudy the subjects, but the fill in the blank things are pretty lame, just do not know what else would work for the group as a whole. As far as a bible study for your friend, anything by the Women of Faith group is good and for doing it with babies around it is always better to read a book together so you can read a chapter or two on your own time and then discuss when you meet.

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