Discovery Bible Study – How It Works

The Discovery Bible study approach has proven to be an extremely effective way to spread the gospel and engage with unchurched people in many nations. iBAM partners with a number of churches and disciple-making movements that have used this approach to grow exponentially.

Discovery Bible Study is one of the basic building blogs to the effective multiplication of fully functioning local churches in closed countries.

So, how does Discovery Bible work?

This article will walk you through the basic process for a small group study using the Discovery Bible approach. You can learn more about Discovery Bible here, and you can go to their main webpage to find a list of passages they recommend starting with.

How Discovery Bible Works

Each meeting using the Discovery Bible approach is broken down into three parts.

  1. Opening discussion – first 25% of the time
  2. New passage study – next 50% of the time
  3. Reflect and apply – last 25% of the time

Your group can decide how much actual time to spend, and it may depend on the size of the group. But when groups get too large, the idea is to multiply and start new groups instead of having one group grow so big that it’s hard for everyone to participate. 60-90 minutes is enough time for a Discovery Bible study meeting.

Let’s look at what happens during each part of a meeting.

Opening Discussion

Begin by having each person share what’s going on in their lives and in the lives of people they know. Ask four simple questions: 

  • Did you do what you said you would do since our last meeting?
  • What are you thankful for?
  • What is causing you stress?
  • Who needs our help and how can we help them?

That last question helps bolster a core principle of Discovery Bible, which is to always be looking outward. If someone in the group knows someone who needs help, the group can mobilize and serve that person’s needs. This act of ministering to practical needs outside the group is one reason Discovery Bible tends to spread so fast.

After everyone has shared, the group looks back at the passage from the last meeting.

Have someone retell the story from that meeting, and then ask everyone what they did differently in their lives since then, based on what they learned.

Then, have people share who they told about last week’s passage, and what kind of reaction they got.

Again, the emphasis is on personal growth in our walk and knowledge of God AND on reaching new people with the gospel and starting new groups.

Each meeting blends inward change with outward action.

This first section should take about a quarter of the time for the meeting.

New Passage Study

Here, you will read the passage three times. The idea with so much verbal repetition is to help everyone remember the story so they can share it with someone else from memory. Here’s the process:

First, read the story from the Bible, and have someone from the group retell it from memory. Other people will fill in the details so everyone feels like they know it.

Then, read it again, and discuss what the passage says about God, Jesus, or His plan. What did you learn about God from this passage?

Finally, for the third time, read the story again and discuss what it says about people. What does this passage tell us about humans? What are we like? What do we need? What are we capable of?

Spend about half the meeting time in this section.

Reflect and Apply

For the last part of the meeting, ask two questions of the group:

  1. What am I doing well based on what we’ve learned in this passage?
  2. What do I specifically need to change?

The first question builds up the group and encourages them. The second question gives them something to work on. At the next meeting, they’ll share what they did during the opening discussion.

Then, you will close by asking two more questions:

  1. Who else needs to hear this story, and how can I tell them?
  2. Who can I invite to study the Bible?

At the next meeting, people will share who they told about this story and the reaction they got.

You want the group to think about how they can tell someone about the story, because sometimes you have to be strategic about this. When do you see that person? When are they less busy and more available and willing to discuss this with you? By talking through details like this, you increase the chances that the person will actually share what they’ve learned.

Guidelines for Discovery Bible Studies

Discovery Bible recommends a few basic guidelines to keep the meetings focused and beneficial for everyone.

Share in sentences, not paragraphs

You don’t want meetings getting dominated by one person. So encourage everyone to share shorter thoughts. Make this part of the culture of the group so that everyone gets to share and reflect.

Focus on this passage, not others

Because everyone comes with different levels of knowledge, you don’t want new people to feel afraid to talk because someone else is drawing all these connections with ten other scriptures. By focusing on this passage alone, everyone has to work with the same content. Plus, it teaches people to study context and make interpretations that are consistent with the passage.

Focus on what this group is seeing

You don’t want a constant string of random ‘interesting’ thoughts that have no connection. Teach the group to build off what others are saying, and you will draw out a richer understanding.

Give time to respond – silence is okay

Some people share quickly. Others need more time to put their thoughts together. Make it part of the group to wait so different people can share.

Facilitator does not teach

 The facilitator can and should share along with the group. But you don’t want them to dominate by instructing everyone else about the passage. The goal is to help each person learn to see and extract meaning and truth from the Bible, rather than just be taught it. This is not a sermon.

Guidelines for the Facilitator

The facilitator needs to prepare for these meetings and know how to adapt based on where the discussion goes. A few guidelines recommended for Discovery Bible studies:

  • Keep on schedule and complete all sections

 You may not get through every question with every person, and that’s okay. What you don’t want is for the first or second parts to go on so long that you don’t get to the reflection and application. You need to get through all three parts.

  • Prepare for the study

The facilitator needs to spend time before the meeting by praying and studying the passage. They should look for the main idea and themes, then think of some examples, stories, or applications from their own life, and other things they could share. Be ready to guide the discussion as needed and keep the group focused on the passage.

  • Be ready to respond to questions and distractions

 When questions come up, it’s very tempting to just answer them. But remember – the goal is to build up each person’s ability to read the Bible, understand it, and learn from it. When someone asks a question, rather than answer it right away, the facilitator should first ask, “What in the passage helps us answer that question?”  

If someone makes a distracting or ‘strange’ comment, or references something outside the passage, the facilitator can ask, “Where is that found in the passage?” or, “Help us understand what you’re thinking.”

What Bible Passages Should We Use with Discovery Bible?

In addition to what you will find near the bottom of the Discovery Bible webpage, you will find many more Bible passages based on different themes on their additional studies page. These studies cover themes and topics such as:

  • Honor and shame
  • Stories of hope
  • New believers
  • Leading others to believe
  • Hope
  • Signs of John

Discovery Bible and iBAM

Many of the ministries iBAM works with across the world use Discovery Bible as their main approach to growing and making new disciples.

 Our work is to train believers in how to start kingdom businesses and use their entrepreneurial skills to make disciples and spread God’s kingdom through business. Many such entrepreneurs, because of their leadership, reputation, and influence, can also become very effective Discovery Bible facilitators.

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