How to Study the Bible in College: Four Easy Steps

Dear little sis,

For a long time I would open my bible and not have a clue on what to do. My youth leaders always said the best way to truly learn about the Lord, and understand what it means to be a christian, is to read the Bible. I never grew up in church and opening the Bible was super intimidating for me. I didn’t want to just read the word of God, but I wanted to truly understand it, and take it to heart. Of the countless bible studies for women, or bible study guides online I looked up, none of them really made the cut for a busy college student. 

I wanted my time with the Lord to be a time of quiet reflection. To sit down, open my bible to a chapter that speaks to me, and feel personally moved afterward. That’s why I created the perfect way to study the Bible in college. You may have heard of the Bible study method SOAP. It stands for scripture, observation, application, and prayer, many people recommend this method to truly absorb what the Bible says. My bible study guide is similar to that, but with a little less structure. This method takes me about thirty minutes a day, but it prepares me for a day built on Christ. 

Before we dive into how I study the Bible, I wanted to share what I use to do just that. I think when it comes to studying the word it’s best to do what works for you. Get a notebook that you’ll enjoy writing in, maybe a few fun pens. Find a bible that truly speaks to you. I’m going to share what I use, and feel free to use the same things, but don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work for you. 

This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Materials

1. A bible

Everything from the picture above is what I use to study the Bible. Obviously, to start studying the word you have to have a copy. I personally enjoy having a physical copy of the Bible to write in so I don’t get distracted by my phone. If you don’t have access to a physical copy of the Bible or aren’t ready to invest in one that’s perfectly fine. There are tons of Bible apps out there. The other great thing about a digital copy is you’ll always have it on hand. I have the Bible app through YouVersion. I love this digital resource because I can switch between multiple bible translations whenever I want. 

As for my physical copy, I have two that I use for different things. My favorite bible for studying the word is The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. I have the cheapest version because I knew it would be difficult to keep it in good condition, but amazon has lots of options if you prefer to have an aesthetic bible. I love that it’s written in contemporary language because a lot of the metaphors are changed to be more relatable to current issues. For someone who’s never read the Bible it was a great start. This way I wasn’t getting confused by complicated language and metaphors. I’m able to truly understand what I’m reading. Peterson also introduces each book of the bible by explaining who is talking and what they’re talking about. 

For my creative side, I have a different bible. It’s a red letter niv bible which allows me to get a different translation and sometimes even a different perspective. There are a ton of super cute hardcovers made by NIV Journal the Word. The exact one I use can be found here, but they have so many options. 

Bibles I recommend in Contemporary language:

Bibles I recommend for doodling:

 

2. Notebook or Journal

Now we got the hard part out of the way! Finding a bible that works for you is tough, but finding a notebook and other materials is a breeze. There are so many places that you can find notebooks for keeping track of thoughts while reading. I know a lot of people love to go to TJMaxx because they have super cheap journals and notebooks. I got mine from amazon because I wanted a journal that had 8.5 X 11 inch pages that were dotted. Lines can be constricting for me because sometimes I like to create art out of verses or do little doodles. Having dotted pages really allows me to take in the word in a way that works for me. I’ll share a sneak peak into my journal later. 

I actually love the business I got my notebook in the picture from because they are made here in the United States. The notebooks are made by a company called Iron Star Design which is based in Columbia, SC! Their planners are super affordable and if dots aren’t your thing they have lined and blank pages in almost every design. There aren’t a ton of options on their shop as far as cover designs go, but I really like the one I have.  

Journals I recommend:

3. Highlighter & Pens

These are my weakness. If you put me in a pen shop, I’d be broke. I have so many pens, but I still can’t stop buying more. I like to have a large pack of Crayola markers for doodling in my notebook, but I need highlighters and pens for marking up scripture in the Bible. Truly the only must haves are a highlighter and regular pen. If you have those two things, you’re set for studying the word. You can get any kind of highlighter or pens you want, but I’ll link some of my favorites below. 

Pens & Highlighters I recommend:

4. Sticky Notes

You really don’t have to get sticky notes, but my bible doesn’t have much space to write in it. I like to use sticky notes to mark certain verses that really stand out to me or write a little takeaway. I’m not going to link any here because you can get sticky notes literally anywhere. There are plenty of fancy ones out there if that’s your thing, but I found that generic cheap ones are the best for studying the Bible. 

Bible Study Method

1. Pick something to read

I found that reading a chapter of the Bible each day works best for me. It’s not too much, but I’m able to really make progress. I’m not the type of person who wanted to do a chronological study or really go in any kind of order. I wanted the freedom to choose parts of the Bible that were related to whatever I needed to hear in that moment. In order to keep track of how much I’ve read, I use a Bible Reading Checklist. The website I found this on is a bit odd, but I just took screenshots of it and printed them out. I like to mark off each box as I go. This particular checklist is great because it separates the Old Testament and New Testament and also provides a prayer for before and after reading. If you don’t like this style, there are tons of checklists on Pinterest. 

2. Take notes and highlight scripture

This is an example of how I marked up Luke 6. As I read, I highlight verses that really speak to me, or ones I would like to remember. In addition to the highlighted verses, I will often make small notes off to the side. I like to highlight verses so when I move on to journaling I can look back at the things I really wanted to focus on. Sometimes I’ll highlight a bunch and other days I’ll only highlight one or two verses. There’s no magic number. Just read and take note of what stands out. Things that you want to remember or you hope to pass along to others. 

One of my favorite verses which I marked in brackets is Luke 6:43-45, “It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts.” The brackets help draw my attention to that verse anytime I open my bible. Whatever works for you is great. Maybe you circle words that are important or underline phrases. There’s no perfect formula to reading the Bible. It’s all about just sitting down and handing the time over to the Lord, if that means simply reading that’s enough. 

3. Journal the takeaway

This is an example of how I journal the takeaway from each chapter. These are my notes on Philippians 4. I like to make a heading for each chapter, and before I take notes on scripture I like to make a few notes on what the Book means. I think it’s always important to take a second to understand who is speaking and why. It looks something like this:

Philippians 4

  • Letter written by Paul – perhaps filled with the most happiness of all
  • Doesn’t tell us how to be happy, he just is and that is example enough for us
  • “Spilling out” quality of Christ’s life that accounts for happiness of christians

It’s super broad and quick, but it just lets me know what I’m reading and it can be helpful to begin that application portion when you know who and what it was written for. 

Next I move into the “from scripture” portion. This is where I take those highlighted points and do my own application and takeaway. I will write what the verse was or paraphrase a line that was said, and then underneath I’ll write what it means to me. Sometimes I’ll write how it applies to my own life, but other times I’ll just note the importance of a verse. You can see I like to highlight my favorite verse from the chapter and make a little bit of art as well. This helps me when I want to look back through my notebook on a hard day. Having verses pointed out makes it easy to find whatever it is I need. 

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4. Prayer

I put a less personal example here for you. Sometimes my prayer will be related to whatever scripture I just read, but it isn’t always. I found that praying over a specific verse felt forced if there was something bigger bothering me. I like to use this section for whatever I need to talk to God about. Just really open your heart to everything you’re feeling. It’s really cool to go back and read these later. By writing my prayers down, I’ve been able to see all the ways God has answered my prayers in life. Sometimes my prayers serve as a reminder to me when I read them later on. Just remember this journal is yours, friends, so make it what you want. Write those personal things down and truly allow yourself to be real. God already knows what’s going on in your heart, so don’t lie to yourself. 

That’s it! That’s my super simple bible study method. When I was asking myself how do I study the Bible, I found this method is what worked best. It can take as much or as little time as you want it to. Like I said before, this is your time, so use it in whatever way works for you. Maybe put some christian music on in the background, or find a quiet, cozy place instead. In order to truly stick to it, you need to find something that is enjoyable. I hope that your time with the Lord is something you can look forward to each day, and not something you see as a task. 

with love, 

ashley ardele

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