Engaging the Bible

Already have a bible study going? Need to start or refresh a group? This is a brief article with a number of formats that can be used and adapted right away.

WHY READ THE BIBLE?

There are a number of recently published books that confront common questions and troubles that people have with reading and interpreting scripture. These might serve as introductions to reviving desire and motivation to read scripture.

Inspired: Slaying giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time by Kristin Swenson

The Good Book: Discovering the Bible’s Place in Our Lives by Peter Gomes.

What is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories can Transform the Way You Think and Feel about Everything by Rob Bell 

OVERVIEWS

The Path: An Episcopalian based 22 week small group course exploring the main stories and arcs of biblical narrative. The facilitators guide is free to download and use. The course uses an abridged form of the NRSV bible called The Path which can also be downloaded for free but is available to order in print from Forward Movement: https://www.forwardmovement.org/Products/2418/the-path.aspx

It is discussion-based rather than lecture-based but informed by a literary/theological approach. Each session is designed to be one hour in length.

Pilgrim: The Bible: A six session course designed to introduce adults to an understanding of the Bible, an Anglican approach to it, and an encouragement to regular reading, prayer, and study. It’s an easy to use resource including a slim book for each person with opening prayers, conversation starters, reflections, and next steps.

Parishes that have used the Pilgrim series: St. Anselm’s, St. Christopher’s, St. Catherine’s, Capilano, St. Stephen’s, West Vancouver, St. Mary’s Kerrisdale, St. John’s, Shaughnessy

Enter the Bible
For DIYers, Luther seminary has developed this resource for learning about any book of the Bible. It compiles free courses, podcasts, videos, maps, and articles. Mix and match sources for your own small group or offer these resources for people to learn in their own way on their own time. The layout of the site is clean and easy to use: https://enterthebible.org/

The Bible Project  A Youtube channel with short animated videos on biblical themes such as exile and covenant, introductions to biblical books and literary styles, and studies on key words found in scripture such as agape. These videos can make great, accessible introductions for group studies. They have an emailed weekly bible study that groups can use too. They are made by a Baptist seminary professor and his minister colleague. They are clear in their belief that the Bible has an overarching narrative arc that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection fully reveals. The videos could be shared in a Zoom call or pre-viewed and followed by facilitated discussion.

Parishes that have used it: St. Cuthbert's, Delta, Christ Church Cathedral

Bible Odyssey A website with articles, videos, and images that offers current scholarly insight into the people, places, and themes of scripture. The videos are organized by subject and could be good discussion starters for bible study groups. It would be nice if the resources were indexed to the lectionary, but it's worth browsing and is an accessible introduction to biblical scholarship. Some good overviews of current themes in biblical studies like sexuality, post-colonialism, economics, and race.

Parishes that have used it: St. Hilda's, Sechelt, Christ Church Cathedral

LECTIONARY BASED BIBLE STUDY

Lesson Plans That Work Free, small group session plans based on gospel lections for Sunday. No longer updated but all are downloadable from ECUSA website.

Lectionary Press Downloadable and printable booklets for small groups to study the first, second or gospel readings of the lectionary. Available for seasonal studies and can be customized for parish names/logos. Moderately priced.

Faithelement: Subscription-based bible studies for different age groups and interests. Uses appealing design and variety of media including video, podcasting, music, and web resources. Parishes that have used it: St. Faith's

Reading Between the Lines A lectionary based bible study/magazine for small groups. Participant led, clear group norms, and encourages close reading of the text. Focuses on one lectionary text per week. Available as a subscription from Episcopal publisher The Educational Center.

BOOKS OF THE BIBLE - STUDIES

Kerygma Thematic or book by book studies of the bible. Informed by contemporary scholarship (mainly Presbyterian) and includes discussion to relate scripture to people’s current life situations. Programs include promotional resources to encourage participation. The design aesthetic is a bit 70s looking but the resources are comprehensive. Requires commitment from leaders to prepare in advance. Leader guides are approx. $60.00 and participant guides approx. $30.00. Available: https://kerygma.com/

Parishes that have used it: St. Alban’s, Burnaby

Bible Book Club - The U.K. Bible society offers short, useable and accessible intros to all the books of the bible and offers discussion questions for one session or more. If you’re short on time, this might work well to allow people to dip their toes into a book and get prepared to study with very little prep on the leader’s behalf. View the guides here: https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/bible-book-club/

N.T. Wright for Everyone - Series - The former Bishop of Durham and prolific New Testament biblical scholar has written short study guides for each book of the New Testament. 

Parishes that have used them: St. George's, Maple Ridge, St. Paul's, Vancouver

PODCASTS

A short list of scripture focused podcasts from a range of perspectives

The Bible for Normal People Hosted by college professors and pastors, the mission of the podcast is a conversation that explores questions about the Bible, contemporary life, and meaning. Sessions include many diverse guests to offer insight into wide-ranging topics like the art of translation, the gift of the black church to biblical preaching, transgender Christians and Scripture, the stories of Exodus and David, anxiety and faith. 

Sermon Brainwave A weekly podcast conversation of preachers and profs discussing the upcoming readings for Sunday. No need to be a preacher to listen, the podcast delves into the texts, their historical contexts, and the relevant questions they ask of our lives today. 

The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike) A very popular podcast journeying through the bible with Catholic priest Fr. Mike Schmitz. It combines a scholarly and devotional reading of the bible in daily chunks.

ONLINE COURSES

Several seminaries and universities now offer online courses for many subjects and books of the bible from a scholarly perspective. These may interest motivated learners to do on their own or in discussion with a small group.

Yale Bible Study - over 25 free, multiweek courses on the Old and New Testament books as well as themed studies.

Enter the Bible - self-paced courses for every book of the bible from Luther Seminary