It’s maybe a shame that we use the shorthand ‘prep’ for what we’re talking about. It sounds horribly homework-y and not very spiritual. But, let’s face it, ‘thoughtful-and-prayerful-consideration-of-the-passage-in-advance-such-that-I-can-lovingly-build-up-my-group-by-contributing-more-during-the-study’ is a bit of a mouthful. So for now, can we stick to ‘prep’ and just agree that we all know what we really mean?
So what is prep and how can you do it well? Here are five top tips:
God gives us understanding of his word, a love for his word, and a desire to serve our church family. So, if we’re going to do this job well we need to do it in dependence on our Heavenly Father, who loves to answer our prayers. Ask for his help.
Don’t leave it to the last minute
I’m a slow thinker. If I try to prepare for a Bible study last minute, it’s not enough time to process things. That means when I try to explain something in the study, I make no sense or have to resort to using sound effects. Not helpful, to anyone. So, why not pick up your Read, Mark, Learn(RML) study guide on a Saturday morning, make some coffee, and have a first look through the passage and questions? The things you learn will be swimming around your brain for the next few days, and you’ll have time to really think about them.
Read the passage as often as you can
This is one of the simplest things to do, that will have the biggest impact. If you’re studying a tricky part of Romans or a longer passage in Mark you can’t possibly take it all in during one quick read. Try reading it 3 or 4 times, before you have a go at the questions.
Ask yourself a ‘what difference does this make?’ question
Not primarily ‘what difference does this make to me?’ but ‘what difference does this make to the big Bible story of God rescuing his people?’ What would we lose if chapter 5 wasn’t in Romans? What does chapter 6 add to Mark’s gospel? This is a thinking question, which means you can mull on it as you walk to work or go to the gym.
Think about your group – then pray for them
What situations are the people in your group facing and how might the passage you’re looking at build them up?
Don’t get me wrong; sometimes our week does not go as planned and we can’t do much more than read the passage on the tube journey to RML (if that). When that happens, pray, enjoy the study, and love the people in your group. Next week is a new week. But why not give prep a try, and see what difference it makes?
This article was originally published here, on the blog of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London.