How to Get the Most Out of Your Bible Study (When You Don't Know Where to Start) Click To Tweet
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I'm sure you've seen plenty of pictures of journaling bibles on the internet. They're probably beautifully decorated/painted/scripted and you might be over there looking at your little bible with just a few measly words underlined and thinking, “welp, where did I go wrong?”
Before you think that or compare your Bible to one you see on Pinterest, I'd like to argue that maybe you didn't go wrong at all. It's entirely possible that the two lines you underlined on one page was done more intentionally than half the decorated Bibles you see pictures of online.
Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to create or celebrate God's word. So, for all you Bible journaling fans out there, don't freak out. I am saying though, that it's important to do so with intention. You also don't need a ton of fancy tools. It's actually best to focus on the resources you're using than the stickers you have.
I know it can be scary to read the Bible. You might be asking questions like,
“Where do I even begin?”
“How can I understand the text better?”
“How can I dig deeper?”
“What do I do if I don't feel closer to God during my Bible study?”
All normal questions. But just because they're normal doesn't mean you need to get stuck there. It's time to stop hesitating and bring your Bible study to life.
So, if you need a little help getting started on the right foot, here are 9 tips and tools to help you get started.
Ps. I also have an ebook, Brighten Your Bible Study, that covers my highlighting and note taking techniques in even more detail. You can download it here!
1. Check Your Heart and Mindset
Why do you want to try Bible journaling? Because it's a popular art form or because you want to dig deeper in your study?
It's important to make sure you're focusing more on the Truth inside the text and actually learning from it than you are entertaining yourself. It's a heart issue, so before you dive too much into Bible journaling, my first tip is to check your heart.
Why do you want to dig deeper in the Word? Because it's what you think you're supposed to do or because you long to know God more?
It's very possible to have a creative, enjoyable, therapeutic study while still digging deeper in the Word but it's difficult to dig deeper in the Word if your heart is most focused on the art. So, first, check your heart.
2. Pick a Shorter Book of the Bible and Start in Chapter 1, Verse 1
Don't worry if you don't know where to start. There's no “perfect place” to start reading because it all ultimately works together and is part of God's big story.
However, it's not wise to just pick one verse at random and then jump around. You can start in Genesis and read the Bible all the way through, you can read through it chronologically according to when they books were written (FYI they're not arranged in perfect chronological order), or you can study one book at a time in depth.
Do a little research on the books of the Bible (what they're teaching, when they were written, their purpose, etc.) and then pick one. It may be easier to start with a shorter chapter in the Old Testament, like Ruth. Start in chapter one and read through the whole chapter, and then the whole book. Of course, not all in one sitting. But focus on that book and work through it little by little each day. It'll give you a place to pick up the next day and you'll have a clearer understanding of what you're reading as God reveals more and more through your intentional reading.
Once you get through one chapter, you'll realize that you CAN do this and you'll be eager to learn more and try out another chapter! Dig deeper by following the rest of the tips/tools included in this post and using the techniques described in Brighten Your Bible Study.
3. Dig up a Common Household Pen and Highlighters
Remember, just because it's a journaling Bible doesn't mean it requires anything super fancy. Spend more time writing the Word and memorizing Scripture than you spend money on fancy markers.
Some markers/highlighters cause worse bleed through than others, though, so I would suggest getting the same highlighters I use. You can grab a set by clicking here: Best Highlighters for Bible Journaling
4. Get a Single Column Journaling Bible
There are several study Bibles and journaling bibles out there but my first recommendation would be to get a single column journaling Bible. You can get the exact Bible I have here.
I suggest this for a few reasons.
First, consider the words “journaling + Bible.”
This type of Bible is meant to serve as both a journal and a Bible–with room to study and take notes all in one place. A single column journaling Bible only has one column of text on each page, which leaves plenty of room to write prayers, notes, and Scripture in the margins.
I also love that this Bible has some helpful footnotes and contextual clues at the bottom of the pages. It's not a ton, but if you don't have or can't afford a study Bible, this still has a little bit of guidance for you to reference and find other paralleling verses in other parts of the Bible.
5. Use Sticky Notes
After a little while, you'll find that the pages of your journaling Bible will fill up with notes. If you want to study a passage you've already studied six months ago, you may find that there is no room left on the page for notes. Not to worry! Jot your notes, or the prayers you saw answered since the last time you studied that passage, on a sticky note and stick it inside!
God's word is a Living Word. Don't be afraid to touch it or write in it…or to add more notes to it as life goes on! It will come to life for you as you let go of your preconceived notions and freely live in and out of it.It will come to life for you as you let go of your preconceived notions and freely live in and out of it. Click To Tweet
6. Use Supplemental Resources
If you read a passage and feel like a deer in the headlights because you don't even understand what you just read (hey, it happens!), turn to a resource to help you break it down.
I suggest using a commentary or devotional study. If you're looking for some new study material, I suggest checking out some of the studies from Daily Grace Co., my devotionals or SheReadsTruth) alongside your reading.
I've included a few great studies here. Just click one of the the photos below to grab one!
I also LOVE to study with a study Bible and journaling Bible at the same time.
Here's why: a study Bible is full of contextual clues, lessons about what the passage is ultimately teaching, and more. However, the down side is that there isn't much room to take other notes or write down thoughts/prayers next to those notes. A journaling Bible offers that room to write but doesn't have a whole lot of helpful notes or context clues.
I personally use the MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE. It is packed full of notes throughout the text but also each book of the Bible includes information about what you will learn, such as the theme and historical context surrounding the book, which helps give you a more complete understanding of what you will learn.
When you use these side by side, you can learn more about a passage from the study Bible and jot down in the margins of your journaling Bible which ones you really want to remember or the ones that really stood out to you. Highlight each note in different colors to add a little fun to your page 🙂
7. Ask Questions and Write Down Your Answers
Take notes of what you're learning by answering intentional questions, such as, “What does this passage/verse teach me about God?” or, “How does this point to His ultimate plan of redemption through Christ?”
Write your answer to questions like these down next to the passage/verse.
As you read through the chapter or book of the Bible you're studying, you'll learn more about the character of God, the meaning of every Word in Scripture, and how united and woven together it all is!
8. Write and Speak the Word
Writing Scripture is one of the best ways to memorize His Word and this may be the very best place to start with your new journaling Bible.
As you read, ask Holy Spirit to guide your reading and show you what God is teaching you. When a verse or passage stands out to you, write it in the margin AND say it out loud as you write.
Writing and also speaking the Word out loud will help those Truths be written across your heart so you can carry Truth with you wherever you go!
Prayer doesn't have to look fancy or formal or un-smudged. God knows your heart. He will lead and guide it. Pray for His guidance. Pray for Him to reveal Himself to you and open your eyes to what He is teaching you about Himself. Pray for His presence, invite Him in, and for Him to write His Word on your heart.
Let this journey in the journaling Bible be one big prayer–a conversation between you and God where you learn directly from His Word and write back directly on the pages of His word.
You see, this doesn't have to be hard or intimidating and it certainly doesn't need to look perfect. It needs to be personal and purposed. Add these simple tips and tools to your study and you'll see your faith deepen and you'll be able to carry His Word beyond just your study time. It'll live in your heart.
Ps. For even more, you can subscribe to my emails below and get FREE access to my 45-Day Gospel reading guide, try out my tutorial videos inside The Sisterhood, or download my ebook, Brighten Your Bible Study!
For a brief tutorial on how I take notes and draw connections, watch this video!