For the record, totally abandoning the Bible study curriculum of your church is probably not ok. But, as the title implies, there is a bit of rogue in all of us.
For the past two years, I have been teaching weekly Bible study in two different locations. My life group knows me as the guy who doesn’t use curriculum. I prefer to teach verse by verse through an entire book of the Bible and have followed that model for several years.
A little over two years ago, a friend introduced me to the Set Free Ranch in Lake Elsinore, California. It is a residential home for men who have just come off the street and are in the midst of overcoming the horrors of drugs, alcohol, and often homelessness. After that visit, the Lord kept the Ranch on my heart. One day I picked up the phone and asked how I could support their ministry. They asked if I would be willing to teach a Bible study for the residents. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Teaching without curriculum requires you to do your homework. It requires a higher level of confidence with the subject matter. That normally requires commentaries and other resources that are built into a curriculum resource. The teacher has to approach Scripture as a learner first. There is always something new to discover as you teach the Bible.
The primary reason I prefer a verse-by-verse approach relates to the sections of Scripture that often go untouched in a normal curriculum study. Every word of the Bible, every verse, every thought, and every comment are included because God wants us to pay attention to them.
Here are some principles I suggest to those who desire to teach without curriculum in this manner:
- Before you teach the first verse, read the whole book—a couple of times.
- Read the text from different translations such as the NIV, ESV, NASB, and NLT.
- Seek out scholarly commentaries that provide insight into the meaning of the text.
- If your learners are Christians, remind them that they should never take your word for what you teach. They should test everything they hear.
- Remind your audience that you are not trying to talk them into anything. (There would always be someone who would try to talk them out of it.) They must follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Remember that the text cannot mean now what it didn’t mean when it was written. Understand the meaning for the original hearers before you teach it to contemporary learners.
- Let the text do the talking. Stay focused on the text.
- Be cognizant of what the text says . . . and what it doesn’t say.
- Don’t read into the text a clever idea that is not there.
- When you don’t know the answer to a question, say, “I don’t know.” And then find out.