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Preparing Effective Bible Discussion Lessons – Part 2

Updated: Jun 9

In our last blog we discussed the first 4 steps in an 8-step process for preparing effective Bible discussion lessons.

In this blog, we will examine the remaining 4 steps of this process for preparing effective Bible Discussion Lessons, beginning with step 5.

5.        Determine the Method of Bible Study

Having determined the lesson’s purpose and function, the next step is to decide on the Bible study method to be used in achieving it.

There are a number of different ways in which a small group can be led through a study of a Bible passage. In Using the Bible in Groups Roberta Hestenes, for instance suggests the following available options:

  • Discovery study (inductive)

  • Chapter study

  • Book study

  • Thematic or topical study

  • Word study

  • Biographical study

For purposes of our discussion in this blog, we will choose to focus on the inductive or discovery study method.

Inductive Bible study is a form of Bible study in which the discussion leader facilitates and supports the Bible discussion group’s learning and discovery. It is about self-learning by guided and controlled discovery. For this reason, it is also called discovery learning.

The inductive method of Bible study consists of 3 distinct steps or ingredients. (1) observation of the text for important facts or elements which convey meaning; (2) interpretation of those facts and elements to determine the meaning that the text intends to convey; and (3) application of that meaning to the contemporary life of discussion group members.

6.        Outline the Bible Discussion Lesson

The basic outline for a Bible discussion lesson will contain 3 stages: (1) an introduction of the passage; (2) interaction with the passage; and (3) internalization of the passage by opportunities to react or respond to it. In Now that’s a Good Question: How to Lead Quality Bible Discussions, Terry Powell  usefully describes this process as follows: (1) approach the Word; (2) absorb the Word; and (3) apply the Word.

  • A basic outline of a Bible discussion lesson will include the following:

  • Opening Question / Activity

  • Introduction

  • Main Body of Discussion

    • Properly sequenced questions

      • Observation of text

      • Interpretation of text

      • Application of text

    • Illustrations, explanation of background & difficult questions

  • Application & Conclusion

7.        Questions, illustrations, ordering etc.

Jesus often used questions effectively in his teaching (e.g. Matthew 9:5; 12:48; 16:13, 15 & 26; 21:38-31; 21:41-46). They are an important ingredient in effective Bible discussions.

As Powell notes, “Questions are a crowbar for the mind”. However for your group members to give satisfactory responses to Bible discussion questions, the discussion leader has to ask the right questions and word them well.

In Effective Bible Teaching, Wilhoit & Ryken explain:

“Good questions have a purpose. Questions should be written to accomplish one of the three steps of the inductive method (observation, interpretation, application), and they should in some way relate to the topic and the theme for the Bible passage.”

Observation questions guide participants to carefully selected facts that set the stage for interpretation. Interpretation questions lead participants into an analysis of observed facts to identify meaning (timeless truths stated, implied or illustrated by passage content). Application questions prompt participants to connect truth to their lives by asking “so what?”; “how does this apply to us?”.

The sequence of questions is important. Observation questions should be asked first to lay the foundation for interpretation questions, which will interpret the facts highlighted by the observation questions. The meaning unearthed by interpretation questions should then be applied to the lives of participants by asking application questions.

This cycle (observation question ® interpretation question ® application question) can be repeated 2 or 3 times during the course of the Bible discussion in developing different points in the discussion.

Illustrations and background explanations can be added at different points in the discussion as necessary to explain and elaborate content that cannot be elicited by asking questions of the group.

8.        Introduction & Conclusion

The introduction to the discussion lesson can be added after the other elements have been completed, as at this juncture it will be clearest what your Bible discussion is about, thereby best enabling you to know how to introduce it.

The opening question or activity should relax participants and connect them with each other, thereby creating an environment for discussion. The introduction should command attention, earning interest, rather than assuming it. It should do so by raising a relevant question or issue, which by tapping into some felt need, gives the group members reason to pay attention. The opening activity and introduction should be brief (usually no more than about 5 minutes) and should seamlessly flow into the discussion.

The conclusion should flow naturally from the discussion, and should express the lesson’s big idea, perhaps also leaving group members with a choice or challenge related to the lesson’s function.

The potential impact of effective Bible discussion lessons

Hopefully, these 2 blog posts will help you to prepare and effectively lead Bible discussion lessons which help others to see God more clearly through His Word. My one last exhortation would be to not underestimate the impact that honing these skills could potentially have.

In Acts 19:8-10, we are told that after Paul left the synagogue in Ephesus, for 2 years he held daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and by this means all the Jews and the Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

What can you do with a Bible discussion lesson?


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