I coordinate a multimeeting Bible study here in Seattle. The usual format is to read aloud the chosen verses in an open, worshipful way. Out of the silence, people comment.

Here's the problem, after 3 years, people are still interested, but running out of ideas for what to look at next. I now have the burden of planning each session.

Given the scope and size of he Bible, I don't understand how it can be this difficult. Any ideas on how to get things going again?

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Have you tried the Friendly Bible Study method?

Our Meeting has been reading the Gospel of Mark recently, two or three verse per session. Good stuff, really helps us engage together with the christian message.
By running out of ideas do you mean you can't decide which books of the Bible to look at? Or do you mean you want to change how you reflect on the verses chosen?

I just ran across a series of Yale University video lectures on the New and Old Testaments which might give you or Friends some new information with which to choose a book to read. Certainly looks like it will give greater depth in terms of the Bible's history or literature. LINK HERE http://academicearth.org/courses/new-testament-history-and-literature

So far as how to structure the Bible Study itself, I am very fond of the Friendly Bible Study method as it gives Friends insight not only to the Bible, but themselves and other participants too. It is a bonding experience.

Three years is a long time for a Bible Study group to continue. Congratulations! It sounds to me like you all are doing some things very well. I am interested in hearing about those things because our meeting is going to start a new Bible Study group in January. We are open to ideas too.

Grace & Peace,

Elizabeth
My only two cents would be to also look at the culture of the group. I was in a weekly Bible study group that had a few participants that knew just enough about the academics to be annoying. Their comments would start into Greek meanings and historical contexts--both of which are fine in the right contexts but really sucked the energy out of the group. It left participants off the hook, as the reading became just an old story about long-dead people.

For Friends, it's the Inward Light that is the Word of God, not the Bible per se. We approach it as our story. What is it saying to us, about us, etc? I don't know if this dynamic is happening with your group but it's a common one in some Quaker contexts.
Given the variety of responses, I should perhaps given a little more background on our group. It started out as an attempt to bring folks from all the local liberal meetings and the Friends' church together. Although we still meet at space provided by the Friends' church, no one from that group currently attends. Probably because they already had a weekly Bible study that served their needs.

So we are now liberal Friends with at very wide variety of backgrounds. The spectrum goes from the very academic to the "what does thee say". Some people have an extensive Biblical background and some have difficulty finding the verses.

I'm familiar with the Friendly Bible Study approach as well as Micheal Brickel's and Walter Wink's approaches. I've come up with my own hybrid:
1. Start with centering Silence.
2. take turns reading the passages aloud. I remind people to listen with open hearts as if they are listening to a message in meeting.
3. Then it follows a worship discussion format.

The first years the discussion was deep and people were eager to come forward with tests that they wanted the group to explore. Now discussion is sparse and I carry the burden of coming up with texts or themes.
What's worked well for a couple of meetings I've been part of has been to plan to meet for six weeks or eight weeks. Then we stop. The Bible study group repeated in one meeting. In another, I don't think it did.

In your situation, maybe laying the group down would make sense, perhaps for a defined number of weeks. You might have new Friends and new vitality after a rest. Nothing freshens like freshness.

I am thankful for the group you've helped lead, for its presence between the meetings and the church in your area. From my few hundred miles away, I've been aware of it.
Hi Jay ,

I was a member of your meeting when it had oversight of Boise Valley Meeting (then Preparative Meeting). I pretty sure we met during that time.

Thank you for your comments. We've discussed laying down the Bible study, but no one is clear to do that. It feels like there is still a role for this group.

You haven't heard about the Bible Study because we really haven't publicized it outside of our immediate area. It is a small group, which I think is best. Anywhere from 1-3 families from each of the local Meetings.
I'm going to propose that we try this for a session or two and see what happens. Thanks.
Isn't it amazing when Spirit pulls you up short and turns you in a different direction?
Hi, Stephanie,

Here is a way to consider engaging with the stories of the Bible. I cannot remember who developed it, or the exact title, but I recall it being called the Slice of Life method of theological reflection. The strength of it is that it connects our current experience to that of the people in scripture. It takes some time, but doesn't have to go longer than the usual hour bible study, if you don't waste time on the initial steps. The strength of the method is that sometimes, if people are genuinely willing to engage with the Bible and its Source, that it can get past some of the usual "ho-hum I've read this before" defenses we have and really help us engage with the story of our relationship with our Creator.

(Note: the various examples are not connected, please don't look for continuity.)

1. Have everyone in the group consider to themselves, not out loud, a recent emotionally charged experience that they would be willing to share (in generalities - no naming names, no trashing others' reputations). No sharing yet. By the way, it can be a positive experience, though most will recall negative experiences. Either works, but it is nice to have a good one in there from time to time! (c:

2. Give it a few minutes of quiet.

3. Ask who would be willing for the group to use their experience as a starting point.

4. If more than one person volunteers, jot down on a board or paper easily seen by all a VERY BRIEF description of the experience, with the emphasis on the BASIC outline of the experience. It should take no more than two minutes per experience. This is not for catharsis or therapy. Example: I fussed at my neighbor for running over my rose bushes.

5. Of the few experiences to choose from, give it a few more minutes of quiet for all to decide which they wish to explore together. This is not an opportunity for anyone to horde the limelight. It is an offering that will be used by the whole group.

6. Once the experience is chosen, the person whose experience it was is given the opportunity (two or three minutes) to share their emotions. One-word, or short phrases only are what work. Those are written down for all to see. Examples: angry, betrayed, frightened, sad

7. Once all those feelings are out, the group brainstorms some metaphors to describe such an experience. It may be helpful for each person to recall a similar experience if possible. Most of us have enough common ground that this is not difficult (our group did it together for 3 years). Example: it felt like a bucket of cold water thrown onto my face.

8. The group agrees on one metaphor to explore more deeply.

9. Once the metaphor is chosen, focus is shifted to the Bible. Whose story in scripture most closely matches that metaphor? Your group should, by now, have enough familiarity with the people of the Bible that this would not be difficult. If it is a draw, just pick one story to work with.

10. Read that story together out loud. This means it is not Moses' entire life, or the entire Gospel story. We are looking for an experience that someone in the Bible has had for which the same metaphor applies. For example, when Paul was lowered over the wall in a basket. Short. Snapshot. Slice of Life.

11. Shift focus to the emotions of the person of the Bible story. What were they feeling? Explore that for a bit.

12. Draw comparisons between the two stories. How were they similar? Different? What can be learned, based on what is known from the Bible story, about the initial experience shared?

This method relies less on intellect and history and more on making connections between ourselves and the Biblical narrative. If participants are genuinely seeking an encounter with the Source of scripture, this can be very effective. As I mentioned, my group practiced this every week for three years. We never ran out of material, and we often learned quite a bit about ourselves, and about the Lord in relationship with His people.
Have you read any of the books through? Among the 1st Testament texts: Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, i & II Samuel, Ruth, Job, Psalms, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jonah, Amos, Micah, Malachi. Among the 2nd Testament texts - all - but particularly Mark, John, Galatians, Hebrews, The Revelation.

Reading the 4 Gospels in sequence could also bring new insights.
Thanks for inspiring this excellent discussion. We have used Friendly Bible Study here for 3 years, and still have momentum. We are a tiny cell of people, and we enjoy one another personally. I think the size of our group allows us to break the rules and vary the format easily. I especially like studying a handful of verses at a time (5-15), because I get to hear everyone's responses to the same small piece I've been pondering. We read through James over a period of weeks, and that worked. Also Sermon on the Mount. But more often we're jumping around from week to week, dependiing on what people are feeling a need or desire to explore.

This week we started pondering evil (of all things), and used our whole session brainstorming what questions come up for each of us about evil. This could have gotten pretty dry, intellect-heavy and theoretical but we kept reminding each other not to do that. Our thoughts were a mix of broad, cosmic questions and very personal ones.

Next week we'll see what scriptures this brainstorming leads us to.

I'm from Seattle. I'm curious if you're meeting in the Friends' Church at NE 83rd and Ravenna.

David

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