BEST-P: Students Learn to Teach the Bible

logoFOCUSSince 1989, FOCUS Kenya has run Best-P (Bible Exposition Self-Training Program). This program trains students in Bible study and expository preaching skills. At its heart are small groups of students studying books of the Bible – with each person preparing short expositions, presenting them to the others and receiving feedback. The students participating in this program receive some initial training in Bible study. Below you can read about one students’ experience of BEST-P. You will find a description of the BEST-P concept by following this link.

I first heard about BEST-P in 1998 in my second year at university. During this time, I struggled with low self-worth and uncertainties in my Christian walk. Even though I was raised in a Christian family, I had not gotten much discipleship training. When I heard about this group of 40-50 Christian students who met each week to learn how to study the Bible, I got interested. From then on, I never missed a BEST-P meeting until I left campus! In the group meetings, biblical books were exposited. The group was divided into smaller groups of 4-6 students; each group was allocated a portion of the biblical book to study. A week later they presented a short exposition of this passage to the big group. After each presentation, there would be a plenary discussion and an evaluation. I found this quite fascinating since the church meetings I had known were basically monologues.

Before leaving campus, we studied topics like Inductive Bible Study, Hermeneutics, Homiletics, Expository Preaching, Apologetics and writing Bible study guides. Knowing there would be discussion and feedback after each presentation motivated us to do thorough research and study ahead of the meetings. This made the learning more engaging and inspirational. I soon became part of the team of student preachers of the Christian Union. My passion for the Bible grew strongly as reading the Bible became more meaningful to me. This passion led me to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies.

I have since been involved in preaching and teaching the gospel in schools, Christian Unions and churches. I also write Bible study guides in my place of work for group meetings. Long live BEST-P!

Kepha Nyandega, serving with National Council of Churches in Kenya

Let’s Face the Book

FacetheBookFace-The-Book is a Scripture engagement initiative by the Caribbean Fellowship of Evangelical Students (CARIFES). Its aim is to help young people study the Bible. Specifically, we want students to develop the habit of spending time in God’s Word and praying daily. We set this initiative up to specifically target today’s ‘information technology’ generation e.g. by using terminology with which students are familiar from the computer world.

Quads
One of the unique things about this Bible study initiative is that students are encouraged to form groups of four called “quads”. Ideally, this group meets once a week. It provides mutual support, encouragement and accountability as members endeavour to grow in the knowledge and practice of God’s Word.
They:

  • Pray regularly for each other.
  • Find out how others in the group are progressing in their studying and sharing of God’s Word.
  • Share with each other what they have learnt from the Word of God over the past week.
  • Share Bible study resources with each other.
  • Encourage each other in their Bible study and sharing activities.

Each group member signs a personal commitment with regard to their own spiritual life.
Each quad has a mentor who can be a student leader, staff worker, faculty member, youth pastor or any other mature person. Mentors are there to pray for, encourage and motivate quads.

Today’s PDF (Personal Devotion Focus)
This initiative encourages students to spend personal time in God’s Word using the PDF approach:
Document: What is today’s Scripture passage?
Background:  What is the background to this passage?
Review: What has your journey been like in relation to what you have read in this passage?
Highlight: What point(s) would you like to highlight from this passage?
Delete: Based on this passage, what would you like to delete from your life?
Copy: Based on this passage, what would you like to copy and put into practice in your life?
Underline:  What verse(s), thought(s) or idea(s) would you like to underline, memorize or meditate on?
Share: Based on what you have gleaned from the passage today, what would you like to share with others: face-to-face, on the phone, via text or social media, etc.?  Pass the word on.
Pray: Based on what you have learned from today’s study, spend some time praying.

In the Face-the-Book manual, Bible passages are recommended for reading. The manual also introduces the whole concept and approach of this initiative. Currently, the manual is being revised. It will be available in a few weeks’ time in English, French and Dutch.

If you are interested in the manual or have any other questions, please write to Bevaun Ragobeer, Scripture Engagement Coordinator for the Caribbean region at carifes100(at)gmail.com.

Weekly staff meetings to study the Word

Almost ten years ago, our staff team decided that it was important to hold weekly meetings to study the Word together. This may not seem like something special in itself, but it becomes more interesting if we say we’re in Chile, a very long country with nearly 4,000 km from one end of the country to the other. Fortunately, this distance can be reduced thanks to the internet.

Over the past ten years, the staff team of GBU Chile has met every Monday afternoon for a couple of hours. We study the Bible together, pray for each other and the movement, and plan our weekly activities. The staff in Santiago (the capital, located in the centre of the country) meet in the national office, while the workers from other cities connect with us through the internet. This meeting is our weekly priority.

The meeting consists of three parts: The first part is dedicated to an inductive Bible study, which lasts about 45 minutes. We successively study complete books of the Bible. At the beginning of each semester, I send our calendar to the staff with the meeting dates and the people responsible for directing each weekly study. In this way, we have advanced a lot in our Bible studies over the past ten years: we have studied the Minor Prophets (they took us about a year and a half!), John and the epistles of John, Genesis, Revelation, Acts and we are currently studying Luke. The second part of our meeting contributes to the intimacy of our staff team. It is a time of mutual prayer and intercession. Each one of us shares their blessings and current struggles and is prayed for by the others. We also take time to pray for specific situations the movement is facing. Lastly, each one of us answers the question: What are you doing this week? This helps us organise our work and know what the other staff will be doing, even if they are 1,000 km away!

I personally believe that these weekly meetings have been key to the operation and growth of the Chilean student movement during the past years. On the one hand, they help staff workers from distant cities feel part of a body which encourages and exhorts them. Pedro Valenzuela, Santiago advisor, shared: ‘It is good to feel like a work team, no matter where we are located.’ On the other hand, I believe that these meetings help us to identify with our students, given that the main strategy of our movement is small group Bible studies. This time together helps us model these small group studies for the students we are pastoring, while also making us aware of the difficulties involved in finding and setting aside space for studying the Bible in our current world. Last of all, these meetings help us to understand that this is the Lord’s work, that we are the ‘channel and not the source’ of living water, and that the agenda of our life is directed by the Lord.

Gustavo Sobarzo, General Secretary of GBU Chile
gsobarzo (at) gbuch.cl

The Joy of Studying the Bible with Seekers

I believe that seeker Bible studies are the single most effective way to show Jesus to a friend. God is not a message or a theory, but a person. And this person is made known to us by the gospel stories.

The Italian context in which I live is characterized by suspicion and skepticism. It surprises me that in this context more seekers than I would have expected are curious to study Bible passages in a safe place with other fellow seekers. And when they come, oh, it is fascinating to see their reactions: “My first impression was shocking: I discovered in the Bible a marvelous figure, so human when angry and indignant in the face of unbelief and hypocrisy, and so divine in speaking with an authority never seen before… and even able to forgive his persecutors!’” says Gianluca, a medicine student.

Over and over again, I’ve witnessed how in studies like these, people get so much into the story that Jesus himself seems to jump out of the pages. They see Jesus, they see God. They are so shocked by his actions and struck by his words that they become hungry for more. As the weeks go by, and as they discover different aspects of this fascinating Nazarene, some cannot respond otherwise than with a decision to follow him.

When the first person in the group decides to do so, it’s amazing. The others see the life of someone who was sitting next to them in the previous weeks (‘one of their own’) transformed – just like the people they have been reading about in the gospels. The new believer becomes the most powerful witness within the Bible study group.

“It is real. It is not a fairy tale. Something happened to me that I still cannot fully understand, but I know that it is real” says Viviana, a business student. This is so intriguing that sometimes others in the group will want to experience the same thing. I had the joy of seeing almost entire groups of seekers become followers of Christ.

This is the power of God working through people who have met him in his Word. The Word did become flesh, and he is living among us today. He is waiting for our faithfulness and boldness in inviting our friends to find the living God through the gospel stories.

Sarah Breuel, GBU staff in Italy
sarahbreuel (at) gbu.it

Entering into the Big Story

We tend to always turn to the same books of the Bible – those which are easily accessible and which we have grown to love. Could it be that some aspects of God’s character and purposes therefore remain hidden to us? God gave us 66 books, not 13 or 40!

Word UP is a project run by TSCF, the IFES movement in New Zealand. It encourages students to discover the whole Bible. I talked with Li Lian Lim, TSCF staff worker to find out more:

_Please describe the Word Up project.
Word Up is a Facebook forum for reading the Word individually and together. The Facebook page enables students to ask questions and to help others with their questions. We also use it to post resources and the daily reading plan.

In 2011, Word Up started with 99 days of reading Psalms in the summer. In 2012, we encouraged students to read the New Testament in 27 days. One book per day. Now we are challenging students to go zipping across the Old Testament in four months.

_What motivated you to run Word Up?
When I talked to some student leaders, I realized that they had never read the entire Bible. In Christian circles, Bible verses are often quoted out of context to support a variety of Christian positions. I hoped that after reading through the Bible, students would start to appreciate the big picture and see how individual passages fit into this context.

_How are students involved in setting up the project?
Last year, a group of student leaders tried out the material before the Facebook page was launched. They rejected what they felt would not connect with students and suggested alternatives. This year, a team of students has made a monthly commitment to blogging daily on the Bible passages being read.

Zane Norvill, one of the bloggers writes, “The accountability of needing to write something for others motivates me to spend more time meditating on a passage. When I am reading just for myself, I don’t always grasp or remember it as clearly.”

Create your own Word Up! Join the students in TSCF on facebook. Or let this project inspire you: How can you start to explore unfamiliar parts of the Bible? With whom could you share questions and thoughts from your personal Bible reading? Have you ever read through a Biblical book in one go? If not, give it a try!

Sabine Kalthoff

Further Information on Word Up:

Being Formed Through the Psalms

The Psalms Project started in October 2010 as a seven-year journey. Those participating meditate on twenty-one Psalms each year and memorize at least a few of them. The aim is for the psalms to transform one’s worship, prayers and understanding of Jesus. As part of this journey, those involved share brief meditations each month on what God is teaching them. Each year, they also read one book on the Psalms. In the first years, these have been:

  • The Psalms, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
  • The Conquest of the Inner Space: Learning the Language of Prayer, by Sunder Krishnan;
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, by Eugene Peterson (on the Psalms of Ascent: 120-134).

Polina, a staff worker from Central Asia, participates in this journey. When asked about her experience, she shared:

The Psalms Project is a great opportunity for me personally to have a clear Bible reading plan and to be accountable. This project keeps me focused on the Word of God and on God Himself. Memorizing helps me develop discipline in organizing my time and thoughts and to know God’s Word without looking at the Bible. Moreover, every psalm I’ve memorized led to discussions with students and friends that have strengthened their focus on Scripture. Better than any other book, the Psalms describe spiritual life and experiences happening inside a believer. Due to the great variety of psalms (psalms of praise, sorrow, etc.) they can be read anytime and be suitable. The Psalms help shape my prayer as I go deeper into them. All these reasons keep me motivated to go on.

I sometimes struggle with my own laziness, usually not in reading, but in writing my meditations. However, thanks to the clarity of the schedule and the monthly reminders, I have managed to keep going. Exchanging meditations with the other participants is a valuable part of this project. The meditations we send to one another usually reflect our personal understanding of a psalm, something that struck us most or an experience of ours which connects with the psalm.

Tim Berends, IFES staff in Central Asia, facilitates this online spiritual formation opportunity. If you would like to join in this international journey or would like more information, please write an email using the contact form of this website.

An Albanian Experience

I really wanted to help students read the bible, not only on a daily basis, but also in such a way that they read it book by book. Together with the students, I discussed about how we could do this. It was hard to find a way. Many things did not work:

  • We thought that each one of us would read the bible on their own and then once a month we would discuss what we had read. That did not work because a lot of us did not find the time to read.
  • We tried to meet together to read a bible passage and discuss it. That did not work because we were reading isolated passages and it was difficult to see a connection between them.
  • We had problems finding a time for the group to meet together.
  • We found it hard to decide how we would do the reading with so many reading plans around.

In the end, we decided to read through the whole bible in three months. We helped each other by meeting twice a week to read and discuss together. We discovered that it was best to meet at 6:00 in the morning. Since we did not have a place to meet, we met in a bar café. This was really good because it gave us the opportunity to speak about what we were doing with the waiter, bar manager, and other staff members.

It was a difficult experience because towards the end we struggled with our readings. If we missed a day, we had to read double as much the next day. Now, the three months are over: one of us finished on time and three of us finished two weeks later.

We are really happy with what we did. So, we decided to read through the bible another two times this year – once in six months and once in three months.

We have started to pray for October 2012 because our desire is that each of us can get involved with three other people to read the bible next year.

Was it a worthwhile experience? It was one of the best experiences in my Christian life: the joy of reading together, studying together, discussing together and starting the day with God is an experience that I would never trade for anything else. It is not over. I’m looking forward to doing it with another group and seeing how the students will do with their new groups.

The question is: Reading the bible? How can we help students to do it? My experience and answer to this is: READ IT WITH THEM.

Juljan Muhameti, staff worker BSKSH (IFES Albania)
juljan.muhameti (at) gmail.com

 

 

 

Left Alone?!!

We are told by our Christian community that time alone in God’s word is important.

We are maybe given some training in personal bible reading.

We are usually left alone to live out this important aspect of our faith.

Maybe your context is different, but this seems to be what often happens. Left on their own, many students struggle. They want to spend time in God’s word, but encounter numerous obstacles. Do they have to overcome them on their own? By definition, personal Bible reading is something we do on our own. Does that mean we have to struggle alone?

Last spring, a Swiss student sent out a questionnaire on bible reading to students in Switzerland and France. One question was: What would encourage you to read the bible?

Many answers pointed in the same direction:

  • Defining a passage beforehand which everybody reads during the week and then sharing about it the next time we meet.’
  • Deciding to use the same reading plan in our student group. All read the same passages and then we share about them. I think that would be very motivating.’
  • Having friends who read the same bible passage on the same day. That would give me a bit of positive pressure.’
  • Every week define mini-groups of two people who read the same bible passage and then share about what they have read.’

Other responses were similar. These students want a communal context for their personal bible reading. Their concrete suggestions are worth trying out. Just recently, a student wrote saying that he and a friend read one chapter of the bible daily. During the day, they exchange text messages about their reading. He comments: ‘The sharing really helped us to enjoy reading the bible.

These are not the only ways to create a communal context for personal bible reading. Which other experiences or ideas come to your mind?

Time alone in God’s word. Time to deepen intimacy in our relationship with Jesus. Time to stop, receive, and regain perspective in our busy day-to-day lives.

Let’s not leave one another alone in this important aspect of our faith.

Sabine Kalthoff