by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28
She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has two published Bible studies for women, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory and Faith, Courage, and Victory which won the 2016 Selah award for Bible studies. She is an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine and the designer of Broken but Priceless: The Magazine. She makes her home near Atlanta, Georgia.
If you’re a Bible study author, you’re a messenger of hope and truth. You’ve most likely read a study that affected you for good, and you want to be that kind of writer for others. God’s Word has the power to change lives and heal hearts, revive the soul and break bondage. As Bible study writers, let’s depend on God for the understanding, wisdom, and warmth we need to write our studies, and remember to include the most effective elements in our writing.
Writing Bible studies doesn’t just involve seeing a treasure in Scripture and writing down thoughts about it. Writing is both science and art. There are good rules to follow, but there’s also room for personality and creativity. So what are the ten effective elements?
Top 10 Elements to Include in Your Study
10. Good Grammar
Of course, we want to offer excellent writing to our readers, but sometimes a sentence that sounds good to us may not sound good to others. Getting feedback from a critique group or writing buddy is crucial and makes your writing as reader friendly as possible.
9. Tight Writing
A meandering train of thought may lose your readers’ interest, just as too many words in a sentence can overload them. Read your study out loud, and as you read, cut out what’s not absolutely needed. To ease that stress, see my post, 5 Reasons Why Writers Must Overcomethe Pain of Deletion.
8. Meaningful Prayers
Although this one isn’t seen in too many Bible studies today, it personalizes the application you make, and turns your book into a complete aid for a quiet time. Write prayers based on the principles you teach in your book—prayers that connect the reader to God’s heart and focus on doing the good He wants us to do. These can be three to five lines long and strategically placed at the end of each chapter.
7. Thought-Provoking Questions
Ask questions that emphasize the application you want readers to understand and embrace. Draw out their experience with the topic, and ask questions that help them discover how to live out Scripture’s principles in daily life. Avoid questions with yes or no answers.
6. Attention-Grabbing Lead-Ins
Every chapter needs a good lead-in to keep the readers’ interest. A scan of the first five pages of your book may determine whether someone buys it or not. For effective ideas on how to start books, chapters, and paragraphs, visit my column The Starting Line: FirstLines, First Pages on Almost an Author.
5. Relevant Stories and Illustrations
In addition to good lead-ins, stories and illustrations add interest, vitality, and richness to your Bible studies. For ideas, see For Non-fiction Authors: Tips for Choosing the Right Story.
4. A Concise Explanation of Scripture
The key word is concise. Be sure to study a passage thoroughly, but limit how much information you pass along to the reader. Use definitions and commentary notes sparingly. For ideas of how to explain Scripture, see 8 Tips to Make Scripture Come Alive in Your Writing.
3. A Conversational Voice
Without a conversational voice in your writing, even the most amazing take-away will fall flat. Let your love for Scripture, for God, and for the reader come through in the tone of your writing. Never talk at the reader, but to them as a friend. For 6 ways to develop your voice, see How to Make Your Writing Conversational.
2. Enough Application
Although this may be a no brainer, I often get disappointed when a Bible study has too little application. Don’t save your “take-away” for the last paragraph of a chapter or the last chapter of your book. Weave great take-away all the way through your book, and give the reader reason to read every chapter and every page. For 6 types of take-away, see Creating Great Take-Away for the Reader.
1. Understanding Scripture
Our #1 effective element! As the indispensable foundation of any great study, understanding Scripture is a process in which the author takes the time to learn from God what a passage or book of the Bible means, and how it relates to life today. Numerous tools are available for understanding Biblical terms and customs, but the best teacher is God Himself. He wrote the Book. And He helps us as we diligently and prayerfully write about His Word. Always take enough time to understand Scripture, and you will reap a reward not just for your readers, but for yourself. (Stay tuned because I will write more about this element next month!)
Great power resides in your pen or your keyboard. It’s the power to affect lives for good—a power that comes from God as we depend on Him to make a difference through our writing. Use that power well.
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word.