Re-energizing Bible Studies

Thursday, February 1, 2018

After teaching Old Testament in the Theological Studies program at Grebel for more than a decade, Professor Derek Suderman notes that he is most often asked how to address declining biblical literacy in congregations. “But it’s not primarily a question of literacy,” notes Suderman. “It’s a question of of consistently engaging the Bible in a positive way. How do we provide leadership for a life-giving experience with the Bible?”

Derek SudermanIn response to that question, Suderman is teaching a course called Teaching the Bible this winter at Grebel. The main assignment will be to facilitate a multi-session Bible study and then reflect on the experience. “Leading a good Bible study is an essential skill – it should be funny, engaging, and enjoyable,” explains Suderman. “A good facilitator knows how to offer insight and knowledge, paces the group, and has the background to point out important aspects of the text. My goal as a leader is not to convince the group to think like I do, but rather to encourage the group to emerge with its own understanding.”

“The Bible should not be interpreted alone,” cautions Suderman. ”it is meant to be studied and discussed in groups. We need to learn to trust the Bible and each other before we tackle big issues. If you interpret non-threatening ideas first, hearing multiple views without taking or giving offence, then you build a strong foundation for future conversations. We can again function as priesthood of all believers.”

Just as diversity in perspectives and backgrounds keeps a Bible study interesting, so does diversity in the Master of Theological Studies program. This ecumenical program attracts people from a wide theological spectrum. “When students come with different biblical translations and understandings, it spurs dialogue and reveals new questions. Through these ongoing conversations and inquiries, students build bridges, overcome communication challenges, and learn to explore deeply.” Suderman adds, “interpreting the Bible together is a profoundly counter-cultural activity. Done well, it prompts a different way of seeing the world.”

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