Why the Swedish Bible Study Method is right for our time

We’re launching a network of small groups with bible study at the heart.  We’ve chosen the Swedish Bible Study Method (more details can be found in this article in The Briefing) as the most suitable for our time and place.  This post outlines the reasons for our selection.

We considered three different models for bible study: using a study guide, leader written studies and the Swedish Bible Study Method. There are advantages and disadvantages with all three:

Study guide with study leader
Advantages: the guide is written by a trusted bible teacher which takes the pressure off the group leader to write his or her own study.
Disadvantages: requires someone skilled as study leader, often tertiary educated and an able discussion chair. People can also be slightly suspicious of the study guide, or its author, as an intermediary between the bible and the group. When I know who has written a guide I listen as much for what I disagree with as much as to what God is actually saying.

Self written bible study
Advantages: the local leader knows his group’s level and writes a study to suit.
Disadvantages: this requires significant level of biblical knowledge the ability to prepare good questions with time for preparation in a time poor society. Like the study guide method it requires tertiary educated leaders, who have received enough theological training to put the study together and who have good chairing ability.

Swedish bible study method: self directed study of passage with four simple questions.
Advantages: this method does not need a gifted study leader, everyone can learn to spot answers in the passage to the four simple questions at their own pace.  It engenders a sense of learning together like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 instead of being taught.  The leader must prepare but not to the same degree as other studies.  People get straight into reading the bible for themselves and answer questions without an intermediary.  Everyone feels they’ve made a positive contribution to the group.  We can trust God that with his word and the work of the Holy Spirit the truth will come to light. Answers are shared in the group and this process covers most of the passage as different people select answers from different parts of the passage. Different levels of maturity and education are catered for as individuals answer the questions according to their own ability and level of understanding. This suits the post-post-modern learning environment Don Carson spoke about in the mid-nineties at this lecture at StAG in Cambridge. It is a model that can be replicated quickly, the DNA of this model is easily copied and multiplied, as it does not require lengthy theological training for group leaders.  Ten minutes of quiet, reflective reading, gives time for the introverts to process their thoughts and keeps the extrovert thinkers quiet for long enough to gave the introverts the space they need.  The discussion almost chairs itself as answers are shared in a circle.  Those who are new or don’t want to share can say “pass”.
Disadvantages: until the leader gains theological knowledge, the background knowledge of bible and how it fits together means passages are not studied in context. Questions in the group can be left unanswered at end of study or, worse, the group can think it found the answer but have got it wrong.

Our solution to the disadvantages of the method is to use the same passage in the group as preached the following Sunday. The senior teaching elder can do the work of contextualisation and answer questions which can be sent to him after group studies.

If anyone else is using this method and can offer any observations or lessons, please leave a comment.

Here’s our Swedish bible study bookmarks.

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One Response to Why the Swedish Bible Study Method is right for our time

  1. Peter Blowes says:

    very encouraging to see how the Swedish Bible study method is fitting into your Church’s life and teaching programme, as it is in many parts of the world. It also is being used in parts of the world where people cannot easily meet to hear good teachers.

    There is debate raging in some quarters about people sharing ignorances. I think you have captured that issue well. By not answering questions, people are motivated to investigate outside of the context of the small group, through their own research of scripture, or by seeking the advice of better trained teachers. I think you have responded well by linking it to your preaching prgramme.

    At the end of the day, God speaks through His word.

    The Swedish Bible Study is not the be all and end all of bible study. What it does is focus on observation, which is the fundamental task of all serious bible reading.

    May the Lord bless your bible readers, by speaking into their hearts and lives by His own word.


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