Inductive Bible study is a method to induce people to mentally process and apply the principles of Christianity to their lives. The process involves observation, investigation and application of the teachings contained in God's Word. In a group setting, the leader has usually done the observation and investigation, and prepared questions that apply the Scriptures. Discussion is encouraged, so everyone processes the information. This article offers some important suggestions to help you lead affective and enjoyable inductive Bible studies.
What's The Difference Between Leading And Teaching? This is probably the most important question that distinguishes a genuine inductive Bible study from, say, Sunday School or the preacher. In a teaching setting: the teacher asks the questions and gives the answers the questions are designed to have only one "correct" answer, and the purpose of the class is to deliver information. Leading an inductive Bible study is very different from teaching. With inductive study, the leader asks questions, solicits comments from the groups, never answers the questions and allows more than one answer per question. The purpose of inductive study is to allow the group to process and apply the information...not just hear it.
Why Open-Ended Questions? Open-ended questions are important because they require thought. Questions that have only one answer are for children, or for teachers who want to puff themselves up and show off their knowledge. For example, you can ask "What did Judas do after the Last Supper?" (closed), or, "Why do you feel Judas would betray Jesus? (open). The first question conveys information and shuts down both thought and discussion. The second one encourages both thought and discussion and allows the Holy Spirit to work through all participants.
What If Someone Gives A Wrong Answer? If the question is open-ended, there won't be any wrong answers, because the answer is subject to the perspective of the person answering. This is very important! Remember, the purpose of inductive study is to induce people to apply Biblical concepts to their lives. If we allow each person to process the concept within their own experience, they begin to own it in a way it can impact their lives. If we "correct" someone after they've done this, they will be made to feel stupid, dismiss the concept and probably not offer another comment in the future. Besides, in almost 20 years of administering and leading small group studies, I've never actually heard a wrong answer. There were a lot of answers that were different from mine, but that was how the Holy Spirit used the other people to teach me. Don't lead an inductive study unless you're open to being taught by the most untrained person in the group.
If we feel there are more possible answers, we can always ask if there is anyone else who would like to offer their perspective. In fact, group inductive study works best when no one is put on-the-spot by being called upon or commenting in order. That's for children! People will think of every question and pressure themselves into commenting at some point, if they feel their thoughts will be respected and considered. As long as it's a comfortable, loving environment, everyone will feel comfortable to participate.
How Do I Get Inductive Questions? Most leaders can come up with their own questions by 1. Reading the subject Scripture in a few different translations (observation) 2. Considering the location and time it was written while asking who, what, why, how, where, when questions (investigation) 3. Applying those questions to our lives here and now (application). You can also use an online resource like the one I'm providing for Bible Study Guides. Lord willing, I'll be producing free inductive-style chapter studies each week until I finish the New Testament and Old Testament. You can also purchase books of inductive-style questions. Let me strongly recommend you learn to develop the questions yourself. There's nothing like freshness to spur interest.
What's The Best Size Group? Because comfort and discussion are important, the group must be small. 5-15 people is optimum, but inductive group study can sometimes work with 2-20 people. If we measure success by the number of people, we're missing the point of inductive study. The larger the number, the more discussion will have to be controlled and fewer people will be comfortable commenting, at all. It's better to have someone who is gifted for this kind of study leave your group and start another one than to build this group any larger than 15-20 people. If our purpose is to apply God's Word to our lives, personality, ego and competition have nothing to do with it.
What's The Best Schedule? The best schedule is the one all participants are comfortable with, and usually includes a mixture of study, prayer and social. If any have small children or an early work schedule, they might have to be done by 8:30 PM. If it's a group of retired people, it might be in the middle of the day around lunch, with no set ending time. I've found, for most people on weeknights, 7:00-8:30 works best. It's also best to have a fixed closing time so no one has to feel like they're begging to leave. If some want to stay afterwards...great. Flexibility is important, but not if you continually go later and later. Some studies have worked well as a pot luck dinner, starting at 6:30, as long as the late workers didn't have to participate in the dinner.
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Leading Inductive Studies
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Colossians Bible Studies
1 & 2 Thessalonians
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