How can a group study any passage of the Bible together?

In chapter 12 of What’s So Amazing About Scripture? I encourage small groups of people to study biblical passages together. Here is a simple method that develops The Swedish Bible Study Method for doing so with minimal preparation: 

  • Everyone needs a pencil, and a hard copy Bible or paper copy of the relevant passage.
  • After reading the selected passage aloud, give everyone 15 minutes to make markings on their own copy:
  • A vertical line (|) when it seems to you that the author introduces a new thought; a circle (O) around the most important word/phrase in each separate thought; an exclamation mark (!) or a light bulb icon for verses that reveal new insights or appreciations about God, ourselves or anything that speaks to them directly; a question mark (?) for verses that remain unclear or spark a curiosity; and a side-arrow (→) for verses that call for personal application.
  • Circle the room, allowing people to share where they put their five markings and why. Either let one person at a time share all their responses, or do one marking at a time and circle the room five times. 
  • Close with prayer about what has been discussed and discovered.

This adapts the Swedish Bible study method, which only requires three markings. I have added the first two symbols, because, in my experience, the final three markings work best after one is forced to follow the author’s train of thought.

The thinking behind the Swedish Bible study method is “to promote good observation of the text, group participation and self-guided discovery. Each person has the opportunity to discover for themselves what God says.” I can’t fault the importance of any of those goals.