Your Mind and Your Bible Study: A Lesson in Compatibility

Education — By on February 27, 2013 at 7:00 am

Research in education suggests that individuals have unique ways they best process, organize, and understand new information. If you’re curious about your ways of learning, here’s a great link to one test (it’ll take 10 minutes tops. Click “Learning Style Descriptions” at the bottom of your results page for explanations).

So, what does this have to do with Bible study?

In general, students are taught study techniques as though learning is a one-size-fits-all enterprise; this goes for Bible study as much as it goes for academic study. One of the best time investments for anyone to make is learning how they learn, reflecting on that process, stopping techniques that don’t work for them, and incorporating techniques that do.

When approaching your Bible study methodology, perhaps praying about what you’ve been told is the right method to study the Bible and about the way God designed your own learning modalities can help move you toward the best ways for you to learn and internalize the most important thing we study: Scripture. Here’s a couple attempts toward how you might think about incorporating into your Bible study the way God designed your learning process.

Active or Reflective?

If you took the test above, you saw that active learners work best by trying out an activity first, and reflective learners understand better if they have time to think about it before trying it out.

What does this mean for Bible study? Bible studies tend to be very reflective. If you’re very active, it may feel like you’re spinning your wheels when you try out the reflective methods your pastor or bible study book describes, like meditating or journaling. Since active learners prefer studying in groups, you may benefit from being part of a ministry that includes a group Bible study.

Sensing or Intuitive?

Probably the least helpful names for the most helpful concept, the difference between sensing and intuitive learners is a little complicated. Sensors like practicality, facts, and well-established methods, while they dislike abstract ideas and messy categories. Intuiters prefer innovation, possibilities, and abstractions, while they dislike memorization and slow, detailed work.

Fortunately, traditional Bible study practices reflect both of these, but it’s helpful to be conscious of how our methods fit or stretch our learning styles. Reading all over Scripture with varying questions in mind may be more helpful for Intuitors than memorizing the numerical references of the Bible verses they learn. Reading straight from Genesis to Revelation every year may be a better practice for the Sensor, who enjoys details and repetition more than the Intuitor.

But, the biggest difference is that Sensors like to know what to do with information, while Intuitors feel like application is of secondary importance to deep understanding. Keep in mind that both knowledge and practice are vital outcomes of Bible study, and remember to self-correct if you’re leaning too far to either side.

Visual or Verbal?

Visual learners understand best through images; verbal learners understand best through words, either read or spoken. If you’re verbal, pretty much every Bible study technique ever conceived is perfect for you. Congrats – it’s good to be you.

If you’re a visual learner, you probably haven’t had many Bible study materials that complimented your learning style. A Bible study suggestion I heard on one occasion was keeping a devotional sketching journal. Instead of responding to your Bible reading by writing words about the text, respond to it by drawing it; either draw the concept or draw the scene described. The quality of drawing isn’t important, of course; it doesn’t have to be a work of art to help you see Scripture a little better. Still, if drawing people or places is too daunting, you could always draw diagrams, flow charts, or color-coded graphs. Or, you could color-code your highlighting – every verse about trusting God could be in blue.

Sequential or Global?

Does studying details lead you to comprehension of the big picture slowly and gradually? Can you use the parts comfortably before understanding the whole? Then, you’re a sequential learner. Or, do you need the big picture before you can make heads or tails of the parts? Once you get the big idea, do the parts all slip into place? Then, you’re a global learner.

I remember trying to follow a Bible study program that involved underlining verbs and highlighting different people within the passage in different colors. You were supposed to fully understood each verse before moving onto the second. (I test as 100% global; I quickly stopped doing my Bible study until I determined I’d better just do something else). For a sequential learner, this may be an excellent way to go. The global learner may want to skim a larger passage, write down the key points, then closely read back through the text to understand how each part relates to the whole which they already understand.