I think I call them Bible Studies out of habit, not because that’s what they are. They’re small books written by people to help small groups of other people relate to the Bible by not studying the Bible itself. They might use a verse here or there, from various Bible versions, but the majority of the text will be anecdotes on how the author felt, experienced, or realized something about the Bible by something that was going on in his or her life without actually quoting Scripture itself. Much of the group activity is discussion about what we think or feel about the anecdote – which isn’t a problem for the natural extroverts, but can be extremely uncomfortable for the introverts among us. Conversations were never really allowed to go off-topic, the studies are pretty regimented about what to allow when.
As I got older, the next sort of Bible Study was based on actual books, the ones off of the Christian best-seller list. We’d read a chapter over the week and discuss it on Sunday. Think Book Club, always on-topic, nothing deep about scripture. These books would quote from scripture slightly more than the small group books did, but few elaborated on scripture, and always found a way to get back to the main theme of the book – how the author realized something about the Bible through their various life experiences that regular people will never get to experience for themselves – like going from country to country to country meeting all sorts of people and having a translator conveniently around to explain things to them about God.
Now that I’m in the adult class, we’re actually stuying a book called the Bible. We only get through two or three verses at a time because we discuss each section of the verse in context. If the discussion ever goes off-topic, we go where it does, learning whatever we can along the way. It’s probably because I learned nothing from the first two sorts of studies that I feel like I’m learning everything actually stuying the Bible.
Which brings me to an actual verse today – Hebrews 6:7, “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.”
Now that I’ve tasted the rain, I don’t think I could teach the small book Bible Studies – I just looked through one of the guides and was disappointed by it’s shallowness. The students that the study is marketed to are old enough to handle more than two short verses each week! I want to help the students realize that they can figure out what they believe and why the believe it for themselves, not use a random person’s memoir to learn about God.