Get Started in Personal Bible Study

Want to start reading or studying the Bible personally? Don’t know where to begin? Here’s how to get started.

1. Select a good bible translation. Your preferences will affect which translation will resonate with you. That said, these are the translations I recommend you consider for personal reading and study: New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard (NRSV), Common English Bible (CEB), English Standard Version (ESV). These are the ones I recommend if you are prioritizing readability: The Message, New Living Translation (NLT). If you already have a Bible at home, unless it is the King James Version (KJV – no offense to a literary classic), plan on starting with what you’ve got. BibleGateway.com or YouVersion.com are great websites with lots of translations available to access online.

2. Get a reading plan. This helps address the “Where do I start?” issue. Check out a variety of free downloadable Bible Reading Plans from Zondervan Publishing. For a great place to begin, I recommend the “Two Week Guided Tour” (pdf) that has several great 2-week plans to get you started.

3. Get study support resources, as desired. I encourage you to spend most of your time reading/studying the Bible itself. Support resources are intended to help you with the main thing. That said, we do need help reading and understanding the Bible faithfully. So, I recommend one of the following three options, in order of my preference. I prefer studying a Bible that is just the biblical text, then using other resources separately. But you may find that for convenience, a Study Bible of some sort will serve you well. You decide what matches your needs and interests.

4. Get a Method. Okay, those are my recommendations on what you’ll need to get started. But what to do once you’ve collected the essential resources and you’re ready to begin?
  • First, use your reading plan. I encourage you to value both reading larger parts of the Bible (several chapters in one sitting, for example) in order to hear the big story and reading smaller parts of the Bible (a few verses, for example) in order to hear the finer points.
  • Second, here’s a link to a friend’s instructions for a way to grow through personal study of the Bible from his church website: The “S.O.A.P.” method. It’s not the only way, but it’s one way. And you can adapt it, or discover others that may work well for you also.
A Prayer for Personal Bible Study (based on Jeremiah 31:33, Psalm 119, 2 Peter 3:18, James 1:22
“Heavenly Father, write your Word on my heart, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Make me a doer of your Word and not a hearer only. Amen.”
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