I. Biblical Study:Most of those in Christian ministry know that the Bible is the primary source of material that will be used in preaching, teaching, counseling and personal development. Because they use it so much, the time they give to studying it is very important. Many youth pastors have had some form of formal Bible training which has familiarized them with the skills necessary to do this kind of research. Others have not had any such training and so find studying a fairly challenging task. For either group there is always a need to become more familiar with things that are available to streamline and enrich their time of study.
There are some important things to know when proceeding into the activity of biblical study. Each will now be presented and described. In addition to each one there will be suggestions of material that can be looked at to help understand each one more.
A. Bible Translations: An important part of studying and ministering the Scriptures is a good Bible translation. The choice of a good translation is crucial in order to provide a clear and understandable text of what is being studied. Picking a translation is more than a matter of personal taste; much should go into making such a choice.
In most systematic theology textbooks the first area to be discussed is called “Bibliology”. This doctrine includes things like the origin and formation of the Bible as we know it; the transmission of the text to our present time; and the philosophy of translation used to construct the present contemporary versions of the Bible. Becoming familiar with all of these is important for the leader in order to use the text with confidence and to answer questions that students will have about the Bible.
How We Got the Bible– Sailhamer
The English Bible from KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation– Lewis
B. Observations in the Word:Here are some basic study techniques that can be performed by most believers without the purchase of additional reference material or taking formal training classes.
1.Carefully read the scripture text: Much Bible reading is done either too fast or too casually. Reading this way allows many little but important details to be overlooked. To avoid doing this, try the following suggestions.
- Read the same passage from several translations of the Bible. The wording in different translations can trigger new perspectives and insights in familiar words.
- Don’t be afraid to highlight key words or ideas. This makes them easier to locate as well as note where there are concentrations of words in a passage.
- After reading the passage several times, attempt to verbally recall what was contained in it. Paraphrase a verse. Retell a story in order to get the details clear.
2. Learn to make general observations from a passage. Note the details in the text: James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (NASB)
What are things to look for in the text?
- Repeated words and phrases: These are how the author indicates areas that are being emphasized. Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (x26)
- Watch for comparisons: Often symbols are used in order to aid in communicating a nonmaterial concept. Matthew 13:33 He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
- Watch for contrasts made in a passage: Putting opposites side-by-side can really enhance a point that is being made.
- Look for lists: Usually with lists certain things are all connected because they all share something in common. The common connector is important to understanding the purpose for the list. Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
- Look for cause and effect connections: There are certain words and phrases in the English language which indicate that an author is making such a correlation. These are words and phrases like accordingly, as a result, because of this, therefore, and thus. These words should indicate to the reader that such a correlation is being made.2 Peter 1:5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
- Watch for conjunctions: These words are connectors and tie together parts of a text.Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- Watch for questions in the text:
- Watch for the tone of the writer:
C. Basic Background Material:
When approaching any section of the Bible it is important to already have some basic understanding of the overall structure, themes and background of the text. This is equivalent to stepping back a few steps and seeing the big picture of all that is being communicated. There are specific things to gain by this larger perspective of the Bible.
- An overview of Bible history and chronology
Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament-House
Chronological Charts of the Old Testament– Walton
- Familiarity with the culture of the biblical world:One of the most important elements in biblical research is to be able to read the Bible in light of the historical context of the day it was written. We in the western world with our 21st century perspectives are very unfamiliar with the way that people lived in those ancient times. Their actions seem very strange to our modern thinking. That is why it is crucial to get past our contemporary way of thinking and begin to see life from their perspective.
To do this requires that the student access research material that can acquaint the student with this type of material. The best basic resources to do this are good Bible dictionaries or books on the manners and customs of the ancient world. Here are some good starter sources.
New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.- Marshall, Millard. Packer, and Wiseman
Manners and Customs– Gower
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life– Miller, Miller, Bennett, and Scott
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament– Keener
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament– Walton and Matthews
The NIV Cultural Background Study Bible– Keener and Walton
- Understanding of Bible geography
Essential Atlas of the Bible– Rasmussen
Holman Quick Source Bible Atlas with Charts, Maps. And Biblical Reconstructions– Wright
D. Theology: The Bible is basically a theological interpretation of history. The narratives in the Bible are a means of communicating the theological content of the Scriptures. There are different systematic theology texts available and most are written from differing perspectives. Following is a list of some popular texts available today.
Christian Theology– McGrath (Historical)
Christian Theology– Erickson (Evangelical)
Systematic Theology– Grudem (Reformed)
Integrative Theology– Lewis & Demerest (Integrative)
Renewal Theology– Williams (Reformed & Pentecostal)
Lectures in Systematic Theology– Theissen (Dispensational)
Truth Aflame– Hart (Charismatic)
An Old Testament Theology– Waltke (Biblical)
Theology of the New Testament– Thielman (Biblical)
Along with these texts it would be important for the pastor to become familiar with the differences that exist concerning various topics. Some topics are complicated and there are numerous factors that must be considered when working with them. Some topics are very controversial and great care must be used when teaching about them. Our young people pick up on varied theological ideas through social media and online material. Some topics become important to them because of the changing cultural climate. Youth pastors must keep themselves abreast to the ideological trends that are currently influencing our young people. To acquaint yourself with some of the varied opinions that exist on these topics the following sources are recommended.
Across the Spectrum– Boyd & Eddy
The Survivor’s Guide to Theology– Sawyer
The “Perspective” series by Broadman & Holman
The “Counterpoint” series by Zondervan
E. Specific Books: Apart from general information that can be used for all scriptural study, there are specific things that should be learned about each individual book of the Bible. These things include the setting and purpose for them being written. The author and time of its writing is also crucial. Internally each book is formed by the use of repeated words, phrases, and themes. All these things may not be immediately apparent just by reading the biblical text. This is why books that focus on these things are crucial for the student to gain a big overall view of each book.
Following are a list of sources that can provide this kind of information. They are not commentaries of each verse in a book, but rather they act as introductions to the whole book.
Old Testament Survey– Conner, and Malmin
New Testament Survey– Conner, and Malmin
How to Read the Bible Book by Book– Fee
Zondervan Handbook of the Bible– Alexander
Grasping God’s Word– Duvall and Hays
F. Special Studies:
- Word Studies
- Character Studies
- Place Studies
- Passage Studies
G. Uncovered: This is a reference to a resource being made available to you compliments of Portland Bible College. Two years ago, the junior class put together a research booklet called “Uncovered”. It is designed to be used by church leaders to help train leaders in the basic aspects of Bible research. It is not meant to be an exhaustive work on Hermeneutics, but rather an introduction to the things mentioned in this paper. Along with its brevity, one nice feature of the book is that is can be used without purchasing any additional material.
II. The Delivery Process
A. Setting Goals:
The development of a series: There is a general process utilized in the initial development stage of a series. The goal of the process is to create a big picture of the series that includes its purpose, content and anticipated outcome. The process will be similar to the following outline.
- Identify the issues/problems/needs that the series will address.
- Define the intended learning audience (age, needs and background).
- Determine the resources/assets you have available to use.
- Determine the desired changes/outcomes/objectives that should occur in the learners. (These are the objectives of the series. They include what students should know or be able to do by completing the series.)
- Establish the content of the series.
- Lay out the plans/methods/and processes that will be used to accomplish the objectives.
- Evaluate the process to see if the objectives were achieved.
B. The Application Process:
- Help to develop an internal motivation for change.
- Establish goals for behavioral change. Think through the steps necessary to achieve the goal.
- Plan activities that will help accomplish the goals. Plan activities that stress function and not mere activity.
- Establish indicators that reveal that change is occurring.
- Work the plan through several scenarios to see how it will stand up to obstacles.
- Use repetition.
- Pray the process through.
- Work on one thing at a time.
- Model the process for the people.
III.The Ongoing Education of the Youth Pastor
Like so many other Christian ministries, a youth pastor is never off duty. They are either administering their youth program, counseling their teens, or trying to figure out what they will teach next week. Along with all this they try to raise their family, stay physically healthy, and keep up with episodes of NCIS. They are busy people, and because of this what is often neglected is further education. Time and money limitations make it seem like this is an unattainable goal.
The ongoing education of a pastor, however, is crucial. The culture we find ourselves in is constantly changing. Social media affects our young people more than the few hours we can spend with them every week. This means that our communication with them needs to be informed and relevant. Following are three recommendations to enhance the study life of any youth pastor.
It is important to constantly be reading. It is a great mental exercise and printed material is a great way to keep in touch with the mindset of society. What to read? Here are some suggestions.
- Some Christian publications regularly present suggested reading lists
- Order catalogs from Christian publishing companies to know what is currently available as well as upcoming releases.
- Look online at syllabi in university courses to see what instructors think are important books in different fields.
- Note footnote and end note references in material you have already read.
B. Ongoing education:
- Portland Bible College online courses (portlandbiblecollege.org)
- The Bible Project
- Great Courses