10 Steps to Help Your Church Fall in Love with Bible Study

church member doing Bible study at coffee shop

Bible study can be as addictive as eating Fritos: “You can never eat one. You can eat a half a bag, but not one.”1 That’s what Chuck Swindoll, one of the best Bible teachers, says.

But for many Christians, reading the Bible feels like eating vegetables raw and unsalted. If you’re a pastor, you’ve likely noticed a lack of biblical literacy in much of your congregation. You might be able to relate to pastor and author Tim Challies. He says in When Christians Just Don’t Read the Bible:

Over the past few years, I’ve found the most common prayer request from the people I shepherd is that they would be faithful in personal devotions. . . . While I receive some requests about difficult circumstances and advanced matters of obedience, the most common by far are the simplest: Pray that I would read and pray.2

It’s a struggle. The distractions of life provide a constant magnetic pull. Satan doesn’t want Christians spending time in Scripture. 

Yet increasing biblical literacy and love of Bible study is possible for each Christian individually and the church body corporately. For example, when Max Lucado led his church through a nine-month series encompassing the entire Bible, this focus on biblical literacy didn’t shrink the church. It grew it. 

Lucado says, “People were thrilled. Our attendance went up 17 percent and baptisms 28 percent! What that told me is that people are hungry to be given the tools to understand the Bible.”3

Teach these 10 steps to in-depth study from well-loved Bible teachers to help you as you’re guiding others in how to study the Bible—increasing biblical literacy in your church, your small group, or your family.

1. Grasp that you CAN do in-depth Bible study on your own
2. Start with the right motivation
3. Select small goals
4. Keep it simple
5. Create a routine
6. Add variety
7. Use good tools
8. Read in community
9. Expect growth
10. Begin with prayer
How your church can use Faithlife Equip to increase biblical literacy

Unless otherwise noted, quotes throughout come from Study the Word: 12 Christian Leaders on Bible Study, available now from Lexham Press.

1. Grasp that you CAN do in-depth Bible study on your own

In Letters to a Christian, J. D. Barry says “each of us who knows Jesus is empowered by his Spirit to read his Word”4.

And in Study Like a Pro: Explore Difficult Passages from Every Book of the Bible, he says that people “often end up finding Bible study to be intimidating—but it shouldn’t be. With some basic methodology in mind, you can study the Bible accurately and effectively.”5

There’s no secret ability, a specific talent that only a select few have for studying the Bible. You don’t have to go to seminary to be able to do it.

Bible teacher Kay Arthur serves as an example of that fact. 

With no formal Bible education, she’s authored over 100 books and Bible studies. Arthur places tremendous emphasis on Christians studying the Bible for themselves. She says, “If we’re really going to understand God’s Word in a way that makes it the core of our being, we need to know without a shadow of a doubt that it is what God said. We don’t need secondhand knowledge, we need firsthand knowledge.”

Note: You can follow Kay Arthur’s inductive Bible study method with Logos Bible Software for free. It walks you through each step of this popular and successful method for studying Scripture and gives you Bible study resources for free too.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss echoes the power of each Christian to study the Bible for themselves:

I use a lot of different resources and tools for my study, but I would say that none is more important than personal meditation. If you had no other study tools, and you only meditated on God’s Word, you could teach it. I just taught a series on Psalm 119 after spending weeks soaking it in personally. When people say to me, “I wish I could get out of the Word what you do,” I say, “You can! It just takes some time and effort.”6

2. Start with the right motivation

Many Christians try to do Bible reading or Bible study because they think they should. They’re right, of course. But knowing you should is only one motivator—and it’s more powerful when it doesn’t stand alone.

Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “Even growth in Bible study and a desire to read Scripture flows out of understanding what God has done for you and how much he loves you. If you think God’s disposition toward you is based on how well you are getting your act together, then you’re not going to want to spend a lot of time studying the Bible because you’re going to assume God is unhappy with you.”7

Unlike those who study the Bible only because they think they should, others seek to gather biblical literacy for knowledge. J. D. Barry talks about the weakness of that motivation:

I used to study the Bible for all the wrong reasons. I desired knowledge and rules—not a relationship. An honest relationship with God was frightening. It meant changing: giving up my wants and desires.

When we make Bible study only an academic or doctrinal endeavor—an end and not a means—we divorce ourselves from the real reason for studying the Bible.
Bible study is not about knowledge alone. It’s about reaffirming how and why we serve God and other people.

The Bible isn’t like the other books on any “need-to-read” list: it’s “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).8

We should be motivated to study the Bible because it’s God’s Word to us (2 Tim 3:16), because of God’s love for us (1 John 4:19), because it’s the light we need for every day (Ps 119:105), and because it’s the nourishment we must have to thrive spiritually (1 Pet 2:2). 

3. Select small goals

Besides starting with incomplete motivation for studying the Bible, many Christians fail for another reason—they launch off with too-large goals. Perhaps trying to make up for lost time, they try to go from 0 to 100 instantly. 

Like people who attempt to go from never exercising to hitting the gym 45 minutes twice a day every day, they find this good intention is nearly impossible to follow through on.

Instead, start small and aim for consistency, like by starting a reading plan.

Kevin DeYoung says, “It’s easy for people to get overwhelmed—it’s a big book. But five minutes every day is better than two hours every other week.”9

Yes, even five minutes a day is a worthwhile goal.

Max Lucado “says a daily reading of the Bible, no matter how short, is absolutely essential and more fruitful than lengthier sessions.”10 

In Lucado’s words, “You cannot eat all the meals you need for a week in one day. Just as the body needs regular portions of nourishment spread out over time, the Spirit needs regular bite-sized portions of Scripture.”11

4. Keep it simple

If you choose a manageable goal but a complicated method, consistency will be an uphill battle. Keep it simple, especially in the beginning.

Philip Yancey “reads, meditates, and prays through one chapter of the Bible per day.” He says, “I just focus on seeing what speaks to me, and what I need to learn from and be challenged from that day.”12 

Max Lucado says, “What works best for me is to have one book in the Bible that I am reading, and I read it until something strikes me. I don’t have any prescribed length to read—it could be a chapter or a few verses. When something strikes me, though, I’ll put a date in the margin of the page.… [I note why] that passage … speaks to me.”13

Kevin DeYoung adds another vote for keeping it simple. 

There is no substitute for just sitting down and reading. The Bible is an ancient book; there are going to be parts that don’t make sense the first time around. Don’t get bogged down trying to understand everything right away. Just keep reading and piecing things together.14

5. Create a routine

A remarkable 45 percent of the decisions we make are actually habits, not decisions.15 By incorporating Bible study into a routine, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and make it a habit. And once it’s a habit, you’ll be more likely to keep consistent. 

Max Lucado studies the Bible every morning. He says, “I’ve done pretty much the same thing for the past 30 years—I have a morning Bible study time.”16 

Lysa TerKeurst says, “I work out first thing, usually listening to sermons. One morning it’s John Piper, and the next it’s Andy Stanley. Then I have my personal Bible reading.”17

Ann Voskamp reads the Bible with her family at every meal. She says,

If you’re going to eat food, you’re going to eat real food as well—“Man does not live by bread alone.” In the 18 years we’ve been married, we’ve never left the table—breakfast, lunch or dinner—unless we quote from the Bible and read together. It’s a way of preaching the gospel to yourself all of the time.18 

6. Add variety

Max Lucado may have used the same Bible study method for 30 years, but many other Bible teachers mix it up.

Priscilla Shirer shares how she’s studied the Bible in the past and what she’s doing now: 

Sometimes, I’d pick a book of the Bible and look at one or two verses every day. I asked questions of the verses. I call them the five P’s of Bible study. Basically, it goes something like this: I pore over the passage, paraphrase the passage, and pull out the spiritual principles from the passage. I pose a personal question to myself to help me begin a dialogue with the Holy Spirit as to whether or not I am living what that verse is teaching. And then I plan obedience in regard to what I think the Holy Spirit is saying. I’ve used that for years.

Right now, I’m reading the Bible [all the way] through this year.19

Kevin DeYoung’s method has varied too. 

In high school I started out reading a chapter every day. I picked the book of Romans first. It was short and manageable, and it laid a good foundation for sticking with it. . . . There was a season in college when I just tried to read as much of the Bible every day as I could, and that serves me well today. Sometimes when you’re trying to get through a high page count, your mind wanders and you’re not paying attention, but getting intake on that scale provided a sense for the big picture of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. At other times I’ve slowly worked through a book of the Bible or memorized chapters from it. But my most consistent plan is usually to read through the Bible in a year or read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once.20

Elyse Fitzpatrick has also changed her Bible study method.

I have read the Bible in a year a number of times, but I’m not doing it anymore. I always end up skimming over the surface. I want to take time to process through what I’m reading. Now I take a paragraph at a time and ask, “What is this saying?” I’m not asking what it says to me, but what is the context in which this truth is being said? Where do I see the gospel? Is this an indicative or an imperative passage? How would that play out in my life today? I will work through about a chapter this way, trying to slowly pull out what the author is trying to say.21

7. Use good Bible study tools

There’s no substitute for studying the Bible on your own, but good tools can help. For instance, Elyse Fitpatrick loves The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge because of the cross-references it includes.22 

Note: The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge comes for free with the free version of Logos Bible Software, accessible from the mobile app, desktop app, or app.logos.com.

N. T. Wright calls study guides, Scripture notes, and a good Bible dictionary “great demystifiers.”23

Lysa TerKeurst also recommends using tools to help add understanding during Bible study:

The gospel message is simple, but when it comes to understanding the Bible, there are historical and societal contexts to consider. I think the Holy Spirit can interpret the message—opening the gospel to our souls, for sure—but using the right tools helps us to gain a depth of insight, knowledge and wisdom we wouldn’t otherwise. I’m a big fan of the Strong’s Concordance for looking up Hebrew and Greek words. It can seem intimidating to a beginner, but it’s really quite simple.24

Kevin DeYoung also sees the benefit of Bible study tools:

We don’t want people to depend on secondary resources over the primary one, but there’s value in a good study Bible and a beginning commentary series.25 

Note: Bible software can put all your Bible study resources in one place and make them accessible with a click (so you can stop wasting time pulling out volume after volume and flipping through indexes).

Free Bible Software. Priceless Insights. clickable image

8. Read in community

In Letters to a Christian, J. D. Barry says, 

Each of us who knows Jesus is empowered by his Spirit to read his Word. We are called to interpret the Bible for ourselves and in community. We will always have disagreements because our perspectives color our interpretations. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. God’s Word is complex, like him, and for that reason we need insight from different types of people.26

According to Kevin DeYoung, “There’s value in reading Scripture with others; [they] help us learn.”27

And Study the Word shares N. T. Wright’s thoughts on studying the Bible in community:

Though Wright believes it’s every Christian’s birthright to read the Bible, he feels that individual study should be balanced with communal Bible study. “This might be a study group of five friends or a church group,” says Wright, adding that key parts of Scripture are often better understood during group interactions.

“There may be some people who have the gift of the eye who can actually see what is going on, but the eye is useless all by itself. The eye needs to hear from the ear and from what the hand is feeling, and how the heart is beating, and so on. And it’s only when you get together in a group that people with particular [types of] insight have [them] honed, sharpened, and shaped. One has to relish the corporate nature of that—and that isn’t to squelch the individual contribution. It actually enhances it. The individual is more because they are part of this group.”28

Lysa TerKeurst also has a suggestion for how to study Scripture with others:

If you read something and don’t understand, go to the people who have been studying longer and just say, “Could you help me understand this based on your experience?” or “How can I gain this insight for myself?”29

9. Expect growth

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand passages right away. That’s part of Bible study. And just because you might not understand it now doesn’t mean you never will. 

N. T. Wright offers an encouraging perspective: 

The Bible is like a suit of clothes that is a bit too big for us. The challenge for us is to grow so we feel comfortable in this set of clothes.

It’s key to accept that growth comes in different ways and at different rates. “If you find that the parables are really where you are, fine, get to know the parables within an inch of their lives. Study them in detail. Read commentaries, etc., but don’t forget the whole sweep as well. While reading Old and New Testaments, be prepared to live with the puzzles: ‘Well, Lord, I don’t understand this bit at the moment. I find it quite odd and dark and strange. Maybe I’ll understand it better next time.’ And it’s amazing how often, when you come back to that passage a year or five years later, you say, ‘I can’t see what I found so difficult in it.’ That’s a sign that I’ve grown. Don’t be afraid to ask why things happen in Scripture because that will open it up. It means that you are engaging with it.”30

10. Begin with prayer

Chuck Swindoll starts his Bible study with this earnest prayer:

Lord God, I am going to open your Word. Help me to break through my prejudices and help me to see beyond my own culture, times and training. Help me to see what you have written and how it applies to how I live. Guard me from being closed, and open my eyes and heart and mind so I might see clearly what you have written.31

How your church can use Faithlife Equip to increase biblical literacy 

Faithlife Equip offers a convenient bundle of the software churches need to run smoothly, from a church website and online giving to presentation software and an online community. But that’s not all.

With Faithlife Equip, churches also get discipleship content to provide to their leaders and members—including access to scores of seminary-level courses from top Bible teachers and Logos Bible Software loaded with resources and tools.

For example, members in Equip-subscribed churches can watch these courses (and 250+ more) anywhere, anytime:

Help keep Bible study simple 

An excellent, easy way to teach Bible study is to direct people to just open a workflow inside Logos. 

A workflow presents all the steps to Bible study so people don’t have to think about what’s next or wonder what resources they have. All they need to do is follow along with the directions onscreen. (Cross-references will show automatically, and all it takes is a click to open resources—multiple Bible versions at once, for example).

Basic Bible Study Workflow in Logos

Here’s how to open the Basic Bible Study Workflow, available on the desktop app or app.logos.com:

  • Click on Guides from the top menu bar.
  • Scroll down to the workflow you want and click to start it.

That’s it! Once you start a workflow, you’ll see it on your homescreen. 

To use Kay Arthur’s Inductive Bible Study Workflow, add it to your Logos cart and check out. Then that workflow will show in the same place—under Guides from the top menu bar. John Piper’s Ask Questions Method Workflow is available for free too, and you’d get it the same way. 

You can do so much with Logos, but start here to jump right into powerful Bible study without taking a second to figure anything out. 

All these come preloaded into Logos for the Church:

  • Basic Bible Study Workflow
  • Basic Biblical Topic Study Workflow
  • Biblical Person Workflow
  • Biblical Theme Study Workflow
  • Devotional Workflow
  • Inductive Bible Study Workflow
  • Praying Scripture Workflow

Help people use good Bible study tools

Logos for the Church includes many of the types of Bible study tools Bible teachers recommend. 

Here are just a few examples: Easton’s Bible Dictionary; Lexham Bible Dictionary; The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, and Systematic Theology. It comes with multiple Bible versions too: the Faithlife Study Bible, ESV, KJV, and Lexham English Bible; and The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible.

People don’t have to go hunt these resources down in a library or purchase them separately. They’re already right there in Logos, ready to use.

When people follow a workflow, related resources automatically show. But by clicking on the Library icon, you can see what’s in your Logos library, search through it, and filter resources.

Plus, you can purchase additional specific resources to give to people in your church, if you’d like.

Help people study in community

Your church’s free group on Faithlife provides the perfect place to build online community—from asking for prayer, to publicizing events, to running church-wide Bible studies online.

You can do this and more:

  • post a memory verse of the week
  • host Bible study challenges in your group
  • post videos teaching how to study the Bible
  • post how-to guides and discussion questions
  • invite your church to participate in a Bible reading plan
  • host a video chat where you teach Bible study or examine a passage together 

Explore what else your church can do with Faithlife Equip or schedule a live one-on-one demo for a guided tour. 

Related products

Ten Ways to Improve Your Bible Study with Digital Tools (free)
Ralph West’s Weaving the Textual Web Workflow (free)
Study the Word: 12 Christian Leaders on Bible Study
Letters to a Christian
Learn to Study the Bible

Related articles

How to Empower Your Church for Serious Bible Study 
Simple Steps to Create an Online Bible Study or Small Group
Inductive Bible Study: How Kay Arthur Studies the Bible
3 Reasons to Use Better Bible Study Resources than Strong’s

  1. Jones, K. (2014). Chuck Swindoll: Seasoned to Taste. In J. D. Barry, R. Van Noord, & J. Strong (Eds.), Study the Word: 12 Christian Leaders on Bible Study. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  2. ​​https://www.challies.com/articles/when-christians-just-dont-read-the-bible/, accessed November 9, 2021.
  3. Jones, K. (2014). Max Lucado: What’s Taught and What’s Caught. In Study the Word.
  4. Barry, J. D. (2014). Letters to a Christian. (R. Van Noord, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  5. Barry, J. D., & Van Noord, R. (Eds.). (2014). Study Like a Pro: Explore Difficult Passages from Every Book of the Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  6.  Rabey, L. M. (2014). Nancy Leigh DeMoss: A Timeless Message. In J. D. Barry, R. Van Noord, & J. Strong (Eds.), Study the Word: 12 Christian Leaders on Bible Study. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  7. Strong, J. (2014). Elyse Fitzpatrick: From Confusion to Clarity. In J. D. Barry, R. Van Noord, & J. Strong (Eds.), Study the Word: 12 Christian Leaders on Bible Study. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  8.  Barry, J. D. (2014). Letters to a Christian. (R. Van Noord, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  9.  Strong, J. (2014). Kevin DeYoung: Foundations for Bible Study. In Study the Word.
  10. Jones, K. (2014). Max Lucado: What’s Taught and What’s Caught. In Study the Word.
  11. Jones, K. (2014). Max Lucado: What’s Taught and What’s Caught. In Study the Word.
  12. Strong, J. (2014). Philip Yancey: Finding Grace in the Borderlands. In Study the Word.
  13. Jones, K. (2014). Max Lucado: What’s Taught and What’s Caught. In Study the Word.
  14. Strong, J. (2014). Kevin DeYoung: Foundations for Bible Study. In Study the Word.
  15. https://healthland.time.com/2012/03/02/mind-reading-qa-with-charles-duhigg-on-changing-your-habits/, accessed November 9, 2021.
  16. Jones, K. (2014). Max Lucado: What’s Taught and What’s Caught. In Study the Word.
  17. Strong, J. (2014). Lysa TerKeurst: Simply Trusting. In Study the Word.
  18. Strong, J. (2014). Ann Voskamp: Seeing God at Work. In Study the Word.
  19. Van Noord, R. (2014). Priscilla Shirer: She Speaks: How Priscilla Shirer Leads by Surrendering. In Study the Word.

  20. Strong, J. (2014). Kevin DeYoung: Foundations for Bible Study. In Study the Word.
  21. Strong, J. (2014). Elyse Fitzpatrick: From Confusion to Clarity. In Study the Word.
  22. Strong, J. (2014). Elyse Fitzpatrick: From Confusion to Clarity. In Study the Word.
  23. Jones, K. (2014). N. T. Wright: In Tune: Developing an Ear for the Word with N.T. Wright. In Study the Word.
  24. Strong, J. (2014). Lysa TerKeurst: Simply Trusting. In Study the Word.
  25. Strong, J. (2014). Kevin DeYoung: Foundations for Bible Study. In Study the Word.
  26. Barry, J. D. (2014). Letters to a Christian. (R. Van Noord, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  27. Strong, J. (2014). Kevin DeYoung: Foundations for Bible Study. In Study the Word.
  28. Jones, K. (2014). N. T. Wright: In Tune: Developing an Ear for the Word with N.T. Wright. In Study the Word.
  29. Strong, J. (2014). Lysa TerKeurst: Simply Trusting. In Study the Word.
  30. Jones, K. (2014). N. T. Wright: In Tune: Developing an Ear for the Word with N.T. Wright. In Study the Word.
  31. Jones, K. (2014). Chuck Swindoll: Seasoned to Taste. In Study the Word.
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Written by
Mary Jahnke

Mary Jahnke is a content marketing specialist. She has a background in marketing, especially for Christian education, and feels blessed to serve the Church at Faithlife.

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Written by Mary Jahnke