For example, for a study on the Trinity, if the questions are along the line of, "Do you believe in a triune God?"—that requires only a yes or no answer and kills discussion. Instead it should ask something like, "What difference do you think it makes that God is triune?" or "How would you explain the Trinity?"
If a study does ask a yes or no question, it should always ask for an expansion. For a study on forgiveness, if a question asks, "Do you struggle with forgiveness?" Then it should follow it up with, "Share your story." Knowing that can help you turn less than ideal questions into ones that will create a better group experience.
A great study should also have engaging, excellent writing. In fact, Bible studies should be as engaging to read as any article or book. Here are some examples of great writing in a Bible study. From a study called Pulling Weeds in the Church Yard:
Christian faith has been used to justify acts as violent as the Crusades, the lynching of blacks in America, and the bombing of abortion clinics. And maybe not as violent—but certainly as vicious—can be the rhetoric Christians use in public political and moral debates. However, faith requires Christ followers to put ourselves under the Word of God, not the other way around, to fit our agendas.
Doesn't that intrigue you and make you want to know more of what the study is about? It certainly sets the stage for a lively discussion. Here's another snippet from Can I Trust My Bible?
The Bible is not an arbitrary collection of cute, nice, or even wise writings that simply amassed themselves together in some dusty corner of a Jewish rabbi's personal library; it is a set of literary creations built on the foundation of God speaking words of covenant relationship.
That makes me want to know everything I can about the Bible and to know this God who wants to have a relationship with me.
Make Sure It's Applicable
Finally, make sure the study is practical. Remember that the point of all Bible study should not be to simply impart knowledge. It should produce change. The study should present the Word of God as the living, active thing it is. It should help us to savor the Word of God as a precious morsel and allow it to ask questions of us, rather than we simply asking questions of it.
For example, if a study presents the story of the rich, young man who Jesus tells to sell all his possessions and follow him, it shouldn't make up an analytical interpretation to explain this away. It should force us to listen to Jesus' words as if they are directed to us and consider what that means for our lives. In other words, it should avoid making God in our own image and let him make us in his.
Look for a Bible study that digs into the meaning of the text but also provides a way to apply it. We can study the Ten Commandments until we've completely dissected them, but if we don't figure out how to obey them, that will be meaningless. We can debate all day what it means to "honor your father and mother," but unless we figure out how to do that, it's not going to do us any good. So keep in mind the highest form of knowledge is wisdom. As you are looking at curriculum, decide whether it is merely imparting information or moving you beyond that into wisdom.
Of course, the best Bible study in the world can still fall flat. So pray that God will give you and your group a thirst that is never quenched in a mere hour a week, but that each person will want to know more because they can't get enough of it.
JoHannah Reardon is the managing editor of ChristianBibleStudies.com. She blogs at www.johannahreardon.com and is the author of seven fictional books and a family devotional guide.
Reprinted from Christianity Today, © 2008 Christianity Today. For more articles like this, visit www.christianitytoday.com.