Inductive Bible study 

When you look for gold, it’s good to have tools. Just reading the Bible might bring you something, but with a good Bible-study method you get much more from it! This is the most used method within IFES. You could say it’s deeper than a method, it’s a very thorough listening attitude. Most people in general don’t observe and listen well, interpret too quickly and make poor applications. If you grow in this attitude or skill, and learn to observe longer and better, you’ll discover more new things, make better interpretations and hence better applications! And that’s very useful, not only when reading the Bible, but also in many professions and in (love) relationships. Let’s grow and let’s go for gold!

 Choose a passage of a few verses up to a chapter. Usually 10-15 verses is a good portion for a Bible discussion of 1,5 hours.


Step 1: Observation – What exactly is written here?

Read the text thoroughly, (if possible, print it out,) use a pen or pencil to underline words and phrases that strike you, draw lines to make connections and main themes clear.

  1. Pose the traditional questions of a journalist – What? Where? Who? How? And when?

  2. Mark the relations within the text, linguistic and regarding meaning – repetitions, similarities, parallelisms, contrasts, cause-effect relations, main and marginal thoughts.

  3. Imagine you were the first reader or hearer of the text, in that time. What impression do the words and the text make on you?

  4. Mark signal words – because, therefore, since, so (that), but, if, etcetera.

  5. Mark logical units in the text – what parts belong together? Unity in time, place, thought, action, perspective, etcetera.

  6. Does anything strike you when you focus on the nouns? Or when you focus on the verbs?

  7. Note down what you find especially remarkable – things that amaze you, things you don't understand, irritate you, or make you happy, etcetera.

  8. Are there any references to, or associations with other Biblical texts? Read those texts, in their context (not only the verses themselves) and wonder why they are quoted or alluded here.


Step 2: Interpretation – What does it mean?

Formulate the meaning of the text by answering the question: what does the author want to say with this text?

  1. Look again to the linguistic relations and relations regarding meaning you found. What are main connections and main themes?

  2. Formulate questions that come up out of the text. Which things don't you understand? Which questions could be posed? What do the theological terms mean?

  3. Formulate questions about the connections in the text you found. For instance, 'why does the author repeat this?' 'why....?' 'what is the meaning of...?'

  4. Focus on the crucial questions – questions that a) come up out of the text itself, b) deal with a large portion of the text, c) deal with the main topic or thought of the text

  5. Try to answer the questions. Use the text itself, the direct context within the Bible book, references to other portions of Scripture, perhaps a Biblical dictionary, concordance or commentary.

  6. Pose 'the big question': What message did the author want to give to the original readers? Or: To what question contains this portion of Scripture the answer? What are the main points of the text? Why is this passage here?

  7. Try to write the main thought of this passage down in one sentence. (This really helps to penetrate to the core of meaning of the passage, writing it down forces you to formulate sharply and most optimal.)


Step 3: Application – How does this passage of Scripture relate to my life / our life?

Make a connection between the passage and my/our own life and the world we live in.

  1. Which connections do you see between the text and your own life and world? For instance, do you recognize yourself in one of the persons in the text? Where does the message touch your life?

  2. In what way does God specifically speak to you through this passage, regarding an aspect of your life?

  3. Which concrete commandments, promises, examples or bad examples are there in the passage? Which concrete choices should you make, or steps should you take? Be clear and honest to God, yourself and others.

  4. What does this passage teach you about God, His character, His ways, His plans, etcetera? How does this correct your image of God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit?


Preparing a group Bible Study

The next step is to make an outline for a group Bible study. Out of your findings (of all the previous steps), formulate and write down (!) a set of good questions you can ask the group after reading the passage together. If the conversation goes natural and well (not discussing opinions, but: discovering God’s Word): great! If not: use your questions to lead the group into the passage, and into fruitful conversation about it.

Good questions are:

  • short and directed (so not vague, too broad, complex or too spiritual)

  • stimulating to study the Biblical text again (O/I)

  • stimulating to think actively about the text (so not too easy 'text questions', like 'how many fish did the disciples catch?')

  • asking for personal impressions (I) and experiences (A)

  • lead towards good applications by talking about the Biblical passage (A)


Pray together, stimulate everyone to pray to God about the Bible passage and the things you talked about. Stimulate them to really react to God and to pray about their applications, not only for things like exams or health.



“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Matthew 13:44

O What strikes you in this passage?

O What’s the sequence of cause-and-effect in this story?

O Which nouns are used in this story? Which verbs?

I What are the characteristics of a kingdom? What does ‘kingdom of heaven’ mean?

I What questions could be asked when reading this story?

I What is (in short) the central message of this short story? Or: What’s Jesus point, you think?

A Do you think you have ‘sold all you have’ for Jesus? How does one do that?

A Have you experienced the joy Jesus speaks about? How did you find or receive that joy?

A Do you search for treasure in your life? Why? How do we search God’s Kingdom?