First of all, can I just say, I think it is awesome that you are looking for tips on how to study the Bible! 🙂
I can only assume that Bible study is something you struggle with?
Let me guess, you’ve tried reading the Bible before and it didn’t make any sense.
Did you feel like you were practically reading a different language?
Or maybe you’ve tried reading it before and it seemed really boring, or just completely irrelevant to anything that’s going on in your life.
Does any of this sound familiar? Well, let me just say I’ve been there.
Often times we are so overwhelmed by this darn book.
We know it’s important.
We know there’s wisdom inside.
But the magnitude of everything that’s inside of it overwhelms us to the point that it brings us to a screeching halt.
It’s like we panic and can’t move forward. We don’t know where to begin, so we just don’t begin at all.
So, then what?
Typically, we put the book down and let it start collecting dust while in the back of our minds we feel guilty for not making more of an effort.
If this in any way resonates with you, then friends I am here to help.
I have put together my Top 10 Bible Study Tips that I truly believe will help you on your Bible study journey.
I pray they will guide you in understanding the most powerful book ever written, God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
Top 10 Bible Study Tips
Does this seem obvious? Maybe – but honestly, maybe not.
Praying before you sit down to read the Bible is easy to forget but it’s so important.
You want to come into your quiet time with expectation.
The Bible is alive and active, think of it as spiritual food and nourishment. It’s important to pray and ask God for wisdom and help in understanding His word. Pray before you read the Bible and ask the Lord to reveal His word to you.
Ask for understanding and clarity and how you can not only understand His word, but apply it in your life.
Read More: How to Pray Effectively in 10 Simple Steps
2. Be Consistent
PS: I got this mug from Hobby Lobby but you can shop similar mugs here!
Again is this obvious? Maybe – maybe not, but this is huge!
Reading your Bible consistently is important because this needs to be something you can stick to.
When you make a habit out of reading your Bible, that’s when you find yourself actually growing in your understanding of God’s word.
Pick a time of the day when at least 80% of the time it is available to you for Bible study.
I say 80% because I understand things come up like trips, weddings, finals, sick kids, or just LIFE in general. So that is why I recommend picking a time that you are sure that at least 80% of the time you can devote it towards Bible study.
3. Use the Bible Translation that’s Best Suited for You
A good Bible translation is crucial! Because this topic is quite large and complex, I highly recommend reading my blog posts on this subject:
*The second post dives into the history of Bible translations, textual criticism, etc. I wanted to include it if that is of interest to you!
4. Reading Plans: Reading Entire Books of the Bible vs. Jumping Around
It’s important to have a Bible study plan because they allow you to stay organized, keep track of passages you have covered, and what lessons you’ve learned from each.
But the question is, should you read entire books of the Bible or chose a reading plan that jumps around a bit?
Well, I feel this debate really depends on where you are in your walk, and what your specific needs are. Sometimes I feel reading plans that jump around can hinder you because they don’t allow you to read the entire passage as a whole and understand the larger context of what the Bible is saying.
Other times I think they’re great!
Let me explain.
If you are a newer Christian (or new to independent Bible study), I definitely recommend you read entire books of the Bible in order to have a firm foundation of the Christian faith and a grasp on what the Bible is saying as a whole.
Related: Bible Overview: An Overview of the Whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation
But, don’t be mistaken, I find that reading plans that jump around are also great – especially when they are theme-based. For example, if you are struggling with certain aspects of your faith like identity, waiting on the Lord, trusting the Lord, relationships, etc. they can be great!
A 365-day reading plan might also be a great option for you. To be honest I have never been able to stick to one for an entire year, but if you want to try out one out, here’s one I’d recommend.
5. Read, Interpret, Apply
Bible study consists of three main elements: read the passage, interpret the passage, and then apply the passage.
When you read a passage, it’s important to make sure you interpret and understand what is going on.
Then ask yourself, “how can I apply this to my life?”.
You’ll find that each book of the Bible is quite different.
Some can be read like stories (The Book of Exodus, for example), while others are the farthest thing from a story, but are chock full of wisdom and advice (Book of Proverbs).
However, each book of the Bible is valuable in its own right.
You’ll also discover that you won’t find some groundbreaking, life-transforming piece of advice every time you sit down to read God’s Word.
That’s completely okay – keep going!
Although you might not uncover a golden nugget every time you read the Bible, you should always be asking yourself, “What is God trying to tell me” and “How can I apply this to my life?”.
6. Circle, Highlight, Underline, and Make Notes
Some people don’t like to write in their Bibles, if that’s you, then please ignore this one. But for me, writing in my Bible is crucial for helping me understand and comprehend what I’m reading.
Note: A journaling Bible is super helpful here because it allows plenty of space to make notes in the margin. Check out some of my favorites here.
Image Source: Instagram
I have tried many different methods of Bible study, but unfortunately most of the fancy methods and tricks (verse mapping, color coding, etc) don’t really work for me. I tend to keep coming back to a method that does work, which is below.
My Bible study method is actually quite simple:
- I circle or box words that really stand out to me
- I underline and highlight entire sentences or passages that stand out to me
- I make notes in the margin if something really jumps out at me. Usually I recap what the verse is saying in my own words, or sometimes I even write down exactly what the verse said because it was so powerful and meaningful I felt it needed to be reiterated.
- I also make notes in the margin for historical information and further explanations that help draw context to what the verse or passage is saying.
- I then draw a box around that note with an arrow pointing to the verse it is referencing so I know which note corresponds to which verse
Tip: Don’t over think this! Circle, highlight, and note whatever you feel needs to be circled, highlighted, and noted. Your Bible is for you and no one else.
For everything you circled, highlighted, and made note of, ask yourself, “Why did this stick out to me?”. God might be trying to speak to you through that verse or passage.
- I tend to write down questions and concepts I don’t understand on sticky notes so I know to come back to them later, or can ask my pastor or small group the next time we meet
- I also tend to use sticky notes for personal takeaways, life application notes, or for longer explanations of a verse or passage that requires more writing space
If you love making your Bible cute and artistic like me, you might appreciate these cute sticky notes I found online here!
7. Study with a Journal
Using a journal is a game-changer! It can be time-consuming to journal as you read, but the pros far out way the cons.
Image Source: Instagram
I recommend studying the Bible with a journal in hand so that when you come across things that confuse you, or is speaking to you in a powerful way, you can write it down.
Shop some of my favorite Bible study journals here!
Here’s what I like to do:
- Start by writing in your journal the book of the Bible and chapter you are reading and then the date
- Briefly summarize each chapter (time consuming but worth it!)
- Write down any questions you might have so you can look into it more in-depth later, or ask your small group/trusted friend
- Write down everything that stands out as interesting, or where you are able to connect the dots from sermons notes, other books in the Bible you’ve read, etc.
- Write down how what you are reading applies to your life, or how you plan on applying it to your life
8. Reading vs. Studying
I have made the most progress in understanding the Bible when I began to not just read the Bible, but actually study it.
Just be warned – studying the Bible takes a lot more time and energy, but wow, your return on investment truly creates a rewarding dividend.
What are some ways you can study instead of read?
Glad you asked!
For starters, read slower.
Expect to spend upwards of 5-10 minutes on just a few verses or only one passage. You’ll find it’s really easy to go down rabbit holes of deeper understanding when you slow down and really try to wrap your head around what the Bible is saying.
As you read the Bible you will quickly find words, ideas, or phrases throughout the Bible that make absolutely no sense.
When you get hung up on something, don’t brush over it.
Stop and investigate.
Here are some examples of what I’ve come across in my own Bible Study:
- What the heck is a gentile? – a person who is not Jewish.
- What’s a Pharisee? – a Jewish person reference in the New Testament who thought himself to be superior than others and had a strict observance of the Law without truly having a heart for God.
- What does “yoke” mean? – a yoke is a wooden beam used between a pair of oxen to lessen the load of the farmer to enable farm work. Jesus says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) meaning that when we are weary and burdened we can come to Him for rest. This isn’t referring to physical burdens but instead burdens on our hearts and minds that weigh us down.
You will run into many new words and phrases like this, and they will likely to sound like a foreign language (been there).
As you read the Bible, write down everything that confuses you.
It may take you days of chewing on one particular topic before you feel confident and ready to move on.
Sometimes you never feel ready to move on, and that’s okay!
Write down your unsolved question on a sticky note and leave it in your Bible to come back to later. Sometimes simply clearing your head and revisiting it later will really help. You never know, you just might receive future revelation on that subject next week in church (which has happened to me numerous times!).
What also helps A LOT is if you purchase a study Bible that gives greater context and explanation to what you’re reading.
I love the NLT study Bible, and you can purchase the exact one I use here.
Note: Getting plugged into a Bible-based church and small group is crucial for staying motivated when reading and learning God’s Word. The love and support from other Christ-followers will make you feel less alone if you are struggling, and help explain difficult concepts when you run into questions. Friendship and community literally makes everything better. 🙂
9. Bible Study Tools to Help You Study
Okay guys, get excited because I’m gonna spill the beans on which tools I personally use and find the most helpful:
- Use a Study Bible – Study Bibles have literally made a HUGE difference for me. They include a ton of added info about the author, the time period in which the book was written, maps, application tips, and so much more! I HIGHLY recommend. Here’s the exact Study Bible I use for everyday Bible reading – hopefully it will also bless you!
- Commentaries – I personally love N.T. Wright’s commentaries, however if I’m being completely honest with you, the free commentaries you find online are usually pretty good as well. Google the passage you are struggling with and you are bound to find a reliable interpretation. Of course, test every answer and spirit. If you aren’t sure if a particular interpretation is accurate, back your findings with your pastor, small group, Christian mentor, or literally anyone you can trust who has a solid understanding of Christian faith and doctrine.
- Google is Your Friend – I feel like every seminary student is giving me a giant eye roll right now, but I swear Google has been super helpful in my growth and understanding of the Bible. My two favorite sources are Gotquestions.org and John Piper’s website, Desiringgod.org. They both cover a lot of Christian related questions and provide fantastic answers. Again, test every spirit and answer and back it with your own Christian network, but I have found both websites to be extremely helpful.
- Blue Letter Bible – BlueLetterBible.org is a great resource for going in depth with a passage. I tend to use it the most when doing word studies. I have found the interlinear translations to be the most useful and really help amplify the meaning of a verse or passage. There’s an option to click on Strong’s Concordance of the original Hebrew or Greek word which I love. It really helps me understand the meaning of the word because you’re going straight to the source and not relying on someone else’s translation or interpretation.
Interlinear Bibles are also a great option for word studies, shop one of my favs here!
- Logos Software – If you want to be really fancy and thorough in your Bible study (and don’t mind paying a monthly subscription) definitely sign up for Logos! It’s a more professional Bible study software that pastors and seminary students use for Bible studies, sermon preps, and more!
Image Source: Pinterest
10. The Most Helpful Tip I Have!
Okay guys, now we’re really spilling the beans. I have saved the best for last because these are my favorite Bible study resources and I am so excited to share them with you!
All three of these resources just so happen to be fo’ free on YouTube (YAY!) so subscribe, watch, and enjoy!
Note: These are not in order of importance or usefulness
- Verse by Verse Bible Study YouTube Channels – The below YouTube channels are both fantastic! They are truly verse by verse, and you will receive so much knowledge and wisdom from them that you’d normally completely miss if you were simply reading the text by itself.
- Calvary Church with Skip Heitzig – Skip’s Bible studies are loaded with knowledge, historical context, and background information. He really gets into the nitty gritty behind each verse and loves delving into deeper meanings. His studies help me find a different way of understanding even the most overused Bible verses and stories.
- Calvary Chapel Ontario – Paul LeBoutillier is my favorite from this channel. His studies are also loaded with knowledge and historical context, but I feel he tends to explain the passages on a more personal level that always seems to resonate with me. I find myself always thinking, “Yes, me too! That’s exactly how I feel!”. He has an honest way of dissecting and explaining each verse that helps me not only grow in my faith, but do it with a renewed sense of passion and love.
Here’s what you do:
Go to YouTube, type in the chapter of the Bible you are wanting more insight on in addition to the channel you are wanting to watch.
Example below: John 13 Calvary Chapel Ontario”
- The Bible Project – If you haven’t heard of The Bible Project, then where have you been, man?! (I kid, I kid, but honestly, it’s fantastic.)
The Bible Project was created by Tim Mackie (who’s own sermons available on YouTube are also amazing) and Jon Collins, who is fondly referred to as the “Architect of Ideas”.
What The Bible Project does is provide an overview of each book of the Bible, as well as explain biblical concepts using really well done animation and commentary.
But don’t take my word for it, click here to watch the Bible Project’s own explanation of what the Bible project is.
There you have it my friends, my Top 10 Bible Study Tips!
If you apply everything mentioned in this post, I am positive you will begin to have a new sense of understanding from this life-transforming collection of books we call the Bible.
I so am excited to see how you grow in your faith and the Lord changes and transforms your heart with His written word.
Bible Study Supplies
- NLT Study Bible – This Bible was a game-changer for me
- NLT Chronological Bible – As you’d expect, it’s a chronological Bible with lots of added info to help you understand the Bible
- Interlinear Bible – Great for word studies and being able to quickly reference the original Hebrew or Greek
- Floral Journaling Bible (NIV) – I gifted this one to a friend and it’s gorgeous!
- Brown Leather Journaling Bible (ESV) – I bought this recently and WOW it feels so luxurious!
- Teal Leather and Gold Cross Journaling Bible (ESV) – My first journaling Bible
Bible Study Tools
- N.T. Wright’s Commentaries – The whole collection is honestly a bargain if you can afford it – but I personally only own 3 of his books
- Strong’s Concordance – The purpose of Strong’s Concordance is to provide an index of the Bible. It allows you to find where words appear in the Bible. Each original-language word is given an entry number which allows the user of the concordance to look up the meaning of the original language word in the associated dictionary in the back. This shows how the original language word was translated into the English word in the King James Version Bible.
- Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie – A great read!
- “Be Still & Know” Journal – A great faith-based Bible study journal
- Ballpoint Pens – My absolute fav
- Dual Tip Brush Highlighters – They don’t bleed!
- Colorful sticky Notes – Because white gets boring
- Bible Tabs – These ones are a fun calligraphy font
- Bible Tabs – These ones are a rose color with a more classic font
- Washi Tape – I feel washi tape is self explanatory lol
- The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling Collection Set – This one’s a lot of fun!
- Bible Journaling Stickers – These just make me happy
What are your favorite Bible Study Tips? Love to know below!
How to Read the Bible for Beginners
Bible Overview: A Summary of the Whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation