Bible Marathon: Brilliantly Simple

Reading the Bible in groups is something we deeply care about and actively encourage in VBG (IFES in German-speaking Switzerland). And so, we are always open to ideas which can inspire our communal Bible study. One year ago, we discovered the Bible marathon. Today we are enthusiastic about this method of reading Scripture.

In a Bible marathon, you read through one whole book of the Bible in a group setting. Reading out loud helps the participants enter into the passage.

This approach does not focus on individual verses, but on seeing connections and beingphotoBibelmarathonklein impacted by the text as a whole. Especially with a long reading such as Genesis, it is obviously not possible to remember everything. That is not a problem since the Bible marathon does not aim at a detailed understanding of the text. And yet, it is always amazing to see how through this approach, new insights from individual Bible passages emerge.

This simple form of reading and hearing Scripture helps participants experience biblical books in a new and meaningful way.

Leading a Bible Marathon in Your Group
We have done marathons with very different biblical books such as Genesis, Isaiah, Mark, Luke, and Corinthians. The time needed depends on the book and the speed of reading; e.g. for Genesis, the reading time is around 5.5 hours.

It is important to create a quiet and simple setting for the communal reading. This helps make space for God’s Word. Those participating should stay for the whole reading. A good size for such a meeting is 7 to 15 people.

The reading should be based on a translation which is easy to understand. It is advisable to use only one translation. The participants take turns in reading one chapter out loud. Chapters with more than 35 to 40 verses are divided into two parts. After every six chapters, the next chapter is read verse by verse in turns with everyone standing up.

After every full hour, there is a five to ten minute break. This break can be used for some participants to briefly share which verse or section spoke to them – without entering into any discussion. This break is also an opportunity to stretch one’s legs or get a drink.

After reading through the whole biblical book, it is very valuable to have at least 15 minutes for the participants to talk about what they heard. This time is often a real highlight!

The Bible marathon approach is very straightforward without high demands on those leading or participating in it. Why not try it out?

Benedikt Walker (benedikt.walker (at) VBG.net)
General Secretary of VBG

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

 

 

 

The Big Picture

The Bible is not a collection of isolated texts. It tells the story of our world with a beginning, a centre (Jesus), and a goal. Grasping the flow of this story provides us with the necessary context for understanding individual Scripture passages. It also helps us see our lives as a part of this story: this is our past, present, and future. The entire Bible is given to us as a lens through which to interpret all of life and society. So we must ask: What helps students get an overview of the biblical narrative? What helps them understand individual texts, themes, and their lives in light of the whole revelation of God?

Let me share with you some approaches:

_Biblical overviews

In February, I joined a student weekend of GBU France on the theme of what it means to be human. Besides Bible expositions and workshops, they included three Biblical overviews in their training. In one such overview, for example, the biblical theology of work was explored. How is work a part of God’s good creation? How was it affected by sin? What does the New Testament have to say about work? Based on a work sheet, the facilitator led the students through phases of group study (looking up and discussing relevant Scripture passages) and plenary interaction. Helping students trace themes through the Bible is one great way of teaching them to think in terms of the big picture!

_Reading through the Bible.

Some students in IFES do this regularly. A student from Martinique shared that for the past three years, she has been reading through the Bible once a year. Others have never done so. How can we encourage them? Reading plans (e.g. the M’Cheyne plan) can help. One German student group initiates a new reading group every year. Those who join meet once a week to discuss what they are reading – a strong motivation to keep going.

_Facilitating Access to All of Scripture.

We all have the tendency to know some parts of the Bible well, but to neglect others. Which biblical books are rarely read in your context? Which books are hard for student groups to study on their own? Teaching or developing good Bible study material on these books could help students develop a fuller picture.

What do you think helps students understand and live in the big picture? Any comments or experiences are welcome!

Sabine Kalthoff