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.
At the IFES Bible Study Consultation last February, research reports showed that one of the weakest areas of Scripture engagement in most IFES regions was “personal Bible study.”
In response to this a small working group came up with an idea to help: Use social media to encourage students to get into Scripture on their own on a regular basis. The hope was that having an “instant Bible study” on a student’s Smartphone, email, or Facebook page each day might inspire them to be more regular in their personal Bible study. This project was named “Thirsty.”
Four staff from the IFES region of North America volunteered to take on Thirsty as a pilot project for a year. Our goal by next June is to have 500 regular users. Thirsty delivers a passage of Scripture each day along with three inductive questions to a blog site, Facebook page, email inboxes, and Smartphones via a text message. The passages go consecutively through books of the Bible. The study questions are written by a multi-ethnic, multi-national group of staff and students. Thirsty users can interact with each other about the daily study on the blog site or Facebook page.
Take a look for yourself: http://thirsty.ifesworld.org/ A video presenting the Thirsty project can be found at http://vimeo.com/28412649/.
Since Thirsty was launched Sept 1 there are about 250 regular users, and more than 3000 people from over 60 countries have visited the blog page. We don’t know how many of the users are new to regular personal Bible study or whether these are regular Scripture users switching to using Thirsty. We’ve received enthusiastic feedback from some of the regular users who really appreciate the way the inductive questions help them think more deeply about the passage and apply it to their lives.
A full evaluation of the Thirsty pilot project is scheduled for early 2012. At that time we will also consider how Thirsty could be shared and expanded among other IFES movements who may be interested.
Bob G., InterVarsity/USA
For more information contact: Elizabeth.english (at) intervarsity.org
Other New Projects Using the Internet to Strengthen Personal Bible Study:
_WordUp: 99 days of reading psalms. Cf. https://www.facebook.com/groups/wordup.nz/ The documents on the facebook page include some very creative videos on Bible study.
_Reading through the Bible in one year. A facebook group started by a Danish student.