Inductive Bible Study

How To Study A Book Through Inductive Chapter Analysis

The “Study the Scriptures” study is flexible and designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of people with varying abilities and opportunities for study. An entire chapter, a portion of a chapter, or a single verse may be studied at one time. 

Men will group together once a week for one hour of study. I'd suggest you meet with men, when possible, before they go to work at a central location or at the church. Women find an hour and a half better for their discussion. Depending on the length of the passage, it could take from 30 minutes to two hours to complete the inductive Bible study. For morning study time, the group has a pot of coffee, and buys donuts or muffins to eat while we share our studies together. 

The leader keeps the group on time, where all four sections are covered. Also, the leader will select those questions that are most important to discuss, and referee and return any discussion that might be out of focus with the passage. The leader points all questions back to the Bible for their answer, or assigns a volunteer to look up the answer for the next week.

Some 50 minutes should be taken up with answers by group members to the four questions. Then the final 10 minutes is for group prayer. Always stop after the hour. Allow those who need to go to work or to leave, to do so, and discuss informally with any who want to stay briefly. 

Before leaving, each person writes on a slip of paper their name and phone number. These are handed to a person on your left or right. They will begin praying for you the next week, call you on the phone to see how you're progressing in doing the new lesson. Have prayer together on the phone. We encourage accountability through the telephone call. Our goal is that everyone will have done the study during the week. Or, if the person you call is having problems, offer to meet them to help them complete the Bible study lesson.

If someone comes without doing their written study, they are welcome to attend, but not to speak about the lesson. Only those who have completed a section of the study, may discuss the study.

Use the following four easy steps for your study. You may desire blank paper for taking notes and/or for an outline. You may also desire to print a copy (here) of our study form, “Bible Study for Growing Disciples.” 

First, “What Does It Say?” 

This is to be a summary of the passage and also, using your own words, a paraphrase. We ask a number of those present to volunteer to read their summary-paraphrase to the group and share their word count, written on their front page. This might take 5-10 minutes of group discussion time.

A summary is, as the word suggests, a brief rèsumè of the chapter. Care should be taken to include all parts of the chapter in proper balance, not giving too much space to one part and overlooking another. It should include all the important points and must be briefly, yet clearly, stated in your own words.

One way is to summarize each paragraph of the chapter, using synonyms for the words of the text and making the summary as long as necessary to be complete. Summarize by thoughts or paragraphs, not by each verse. Then go through the summary and condense it into fewer words bringing it down to an average of eight to ten words per verse. Add your total words at the end (for instance, 20 verses x 10 = 200 — the maximum number of words in your summary.)

If you do an outline, divide the chapter into natural divisions of paragraphs, giving a brief title or heading to each one and noting the verses each includes. List as many subpoints under each of these main headings as are needed to define its contents. Do not give too much space to one part of the chapter or portion and overlook another part. All important points should be included.

Second, “What Does It Say I Don't Understand?” 

List the verse number, then make up a question for each verse in the passage. You may ask more than one question per verse. When the group meets, some 15-20 minutes of the 50 minutes discussion time could be taken to pick out questions and discuss. We have personal questions we need answers for that are not immediately available in the passage. Also we anticipate the questions of others and write out possible questions for problem areas of the text we know others may not understand. The leader of the group will warn you as a passage is assigned: If you don't list a question for a verse, then you may be asked to answer any question another person has about that verse.

Third, “What Does It Say To Me?”

I'm asking the Lord to show me ONE application from the passage for my life this week. It must be specific enough to be checked by my spouse, a friend, or myself. An application is too general that says, “I need to witness more, study the Bible more, pray more,” etc. How much more, when, about what? Then I use these three steps to narrow down what God is saying:

  1. What is God saying to me from this passage this week, that I need in my life?
  2. List where I have not applied a truth from the passage. Where have I stumbled, came up short, discovered a new truth to learn, or something to stop, change, or begin (see 2 Timothy 3:16 )?
  3. Specifically state what God is leading me to do to get this truth into my life this new week. For example, I might say I am weak in my devotions. Last week I spent less than 10 minutes a day in Bible study and prayer. This week I will spend 25 minutes a day for all seven days of this week.
  4. Application should be private, personal, but checkable by yourself or a friend. No one MUST share what they have written; it should be personal. However, we can generally share how God spoke to us; sometimes we can read our application to the group. The leader of the group should be helpful in encouraging group members to be specific enough to share with a friend their application. This is the most important part of the study. All the study is really to do is move from the Book into our life and make the Word our flesh. This sharing might take 10-15 minutes of group time.

Fourth, “What Does It Say In Other Places?” 

The most challenging part of the study for many is getting cross references for each verse. Some people have few verses memorized, or know little of the Bible. Cross references help us illuminate any passage of the Bible. The Bible is its own best commentary. “Precept upon precept, line upon line . . .” Many Bibles have center column references to a word or idea from a verse. These may be used. However, the best cross reference is one that parallels the verse's heart, giving you the truth of the verse but in another book of the Bible. Our goal is to have a cross reference from another book of the Bible for each verse studied. It will say the same truth or illuminate the truth of the verse through the life of a person in the Bible. This could take 10-15 minutes of group discussion time. Record your choices of cross references for your own study and for discussion with the group. They can be entered either on a separate piece of paper or on our convenient study form (see below).

Study Form

We have a handy form for your use in this study. You can print a copy of “Bible Study for Growing Disciples” by going to it here. 

As you fill in your form, in the Title of the passage, you will, in a sentence, give color and meaning to the passage you've been studying this week. Write a brief title after you've done the whole study. I suggest something eye catching and current that would make a person reading your study want to hear a study or message about it. 

The Best Verse is the one you would memorize, a favorite truth from the passage. 

The Basic Verse is the verse that summarizes the passage, the doctrinal verse that has the essence of the truth of the passage. 

At the end of the form, in the column marked “Reference,” put the book, chapter and verse of the cross reference you found. In the column to the right put down the key thought or idea of the verse that makes it a good cross reference. This enables you to refer quickly to all your passages. Use extra paper if necessary to complete any of the steps.