For many men, the 2.4 kids, job promotion and house in the suburbs are accompanied by a dramatic decline in meeting with others to read the Bible.
And when I say decline, I mean death.
Blokes who were keen Bible readers, eager to know their Lord better and share that knowledge with those around them, seem to lose the ability to stay on top of Bible reading, while also trying to stay on top of work and home life.
This is a tragedy for at least two reasons: one, their own Christian lives stagnate; and two, this is the stage of life when a husband and father needs to lead his family in the things of God and in reading the Scriptures.
We faced just this problem: how can we not only find the time to read the Bible again, but also train ourselves to teach it to our families? The answer we came up with was The One Minute Bible Study. (No patent applies, so feel free to use it yourself!)
The One Minute Bible Study is a very simple idea that a group of men can use together (a small group of 2-4 is ideal). Here’s how it works.
Before the group meets each time, every group member is to pick and explain one verse from their Bible reading that has been helpful to them, and be willing to speak for just one minute about that verse. We aren’t talking about consulting commentaries, analyzing Greek translations or even finding some witty anecdote to begin your ‘sermonette’. We simply want one minute of discussion of what the verse is saying and how it is important to the lives we lead.
There are some great strengths to this approach.
- Every member of the group reads the Bible for themselves and has a stab at explaining it. No-one can merely come along for the ride.
- The one minute expectation means that it is possible in the briefest of meeting times: over a cup of coffee together at workplace morning tea, or even on a conference call!
- It also means that everyone can prepare, even if they have been out of town all week and returned just before the meeting. They only need a few minutes in order to feel prepared for the group.
- We not only teach each other the Bible, but we also practise teaching it in a way that we can reproduce in our own families. It is Bible reading and teacher training at the same time.
- It becomes a normal habit for men to talk to men about what they are reading in the Scriptures.
Our experience with this approach has been uniformly positive. Men who had neglected their Bibles for years found that this was an achievable goal, and rekindled not only the passion of Bible reading (some never lost it), but also the habit of Bible reading. Like all training and study, Bible reading needs habits. We also found that men who were never willing to lead a ‘Bible Study’ were happy to do their one minute spot. It ‘lowered the bar’ or ‘stretched their legs’, whichever metaphor is most appropriate.
What’s more, we quickly found that no-one was content with one minute. As their confidence grew in understanding the Scriptures and explaining it to their friends, they were eager to read more and teach more. The ‘One Minute Bible Study’ is no longer a true description of what is happening in the group.
When I ponder why this approach to Bible reading for men works, a few things come to mind.
- It acknowledges that many men experience time and responsibility pressures. It gives them an achievable goal within their busy lives. And it isn’t a chore; it brings back some pleasure to Bible reading by making sure it isn’t another hill to climb in the working week.
- It liberates men to talk about the Bible with each other. Instead of expecting only the trained clergyman to do the ‘God-talk’, they get used to doing it with each other. I’ve been thrilled to see how the sports chat is now intermingled with the Bible chat.
- It recognizes that men can teach each other; they don’t need degrees in theology or public speaking to be able to explain the Bible, and apply it to their lives and the lives of those around them.
We have found that the brevity of the approach keeps things practical, rather than bogging down in argument or chasing irrelevant details. For example, one discussion I recall was the result of reading James 5:15, where James writes that prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, and will bring forgiveness for their sins. Instead of having a huge debate about whether sin leads to sickness, what kind of sin, and so forth, one member of the group decided that his very ill family ought to examine themselves to see if forgiveness needed to be sought. He decided there was no unrepented sin to be dealt with, but the exercise of applying the Bible to his situation strengthened his understanding of the everyday relevance of Scripture.
We also found that we needed to be generous to each other early on. Instead of correcting people, the more mature members of the group added to what was said, and helped to demonstrate how to read the Bible. One man in our group wasn’t reading his Bible at all because he felt like he needed to spend ages in isolation to do so. The One Minute Bible Study was a liberation to him. I told him (not trying to be irreverent, but to make a point) that he could prepare for the group on the toilet or on the train. Or while on hold to the phone company in his lunch hour.
He had the desire to read the Bible, but his high expectations of what he would achieve were stopping him from doing it at all. It’s not that the word of God doesn’t require any effort. Rather, we can start to read it at walking pace, not sprinting or attempting the marathon. What’s more, the One Minute Bible Study approach also helps us to grow in our confidence in explaining the Bible to others. And men who can teach the Bible will change the world, starting in their own homes.