I think one of the greatest skills you can teach your class is to study the Bible themselves.
One fun way to teach kids how to study their Bibles is to teach them how to be Bible detectives!
Great detectives ask lots of questions and observe carefully. Great Bible detectives ask lots of questions and observe the passage they are studying carefully for clues.
In order to know what types of questions to ask, Bible detectives have to first observe the passage being studied. Is it a narrative or story? Is it teaching like one of the epistles in the New Testament? Is it poetry or wisdom literature?
If the passage is a story, Bible detectives will ask questions like:
- Who are the characters?
- What is the conflict? What are they doing?
- When does this story take place?
- Where does this story take place?
- Why did they character do what they did? React the way they did?
- How does the conflict resolve?
If the passage is teaching, Bible detectives will ask questions like:
- Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it to?
- What is the topic of the passage? What is the argument?
- When did the author write this?
- Where was it written?
- Why did the author write it?
- How does this passage apply to my life?
If the passage is poetry or wisdom literature, Bible detectives will ask questions like:
- Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it for?
- What genre is this passage?
- When and where is the context for this passage? (ex. Psalm 51 was written after King David sinned )
- Why did the author write it?
- How does the style (or genre) inform our understanding? How does this passage apply to my life?
This category of questions is all about people. Who are the people in the story? Some good follow-up questions would be, “What is said about the person or people in this passage?” and “What does the person say?”
- Who is speaking?
- Who was there?
- Who is it about?
- Who are the main characters?
- Who wrote this passage?
- Who is this passage written for?
This category of questions is all about action. What are the main events taking place?
- What is happening in the passage?
- What happens to the characters?
- What does this passage say about God?
- What caused the trouble or conflict?
- What is the subject covered in the passage?
- What do you learn about the people in this passage?
- What do you learn about the events taking place in this passage?
- What do you learn from the teaching in this passage?
- What instructions are given in this passage?
- What is the argument?
- What is the writer trying to communicate?
- What is wrong with this picture?
This category of questions is all about time. Questions are related to when things happen. What year; what time of day, etc? These are key questions in figuring out the order of events.
- When did it happen?
- When did it take place?
- When do or will the events occur?
- When did or will something happen to a particular person, people, or nation?
- When did the events occur in relation to other events in Scripture?
- When was the writer writing?
This category of questions is about location. Did the story take place in the wilderness; on the sea; in a boat; on a mountain; in Egypt; in Jerusalem?
- Where did it happen?
- Where did it take place?
- Where will this happen?
- Where was it said?
- Where was it written?
- Where are the people in the story?
- Where are they coming from? Where are they going?
- Where is the writer?
- Where were the original readers of this text?
This category of questions is all about motivation.
- Why did it happen?
- Why is something being said?
- Why would or will this happen?
- Why at this time?
- Why this person?
- Why does this passage follow that passage? Why does this passage precede that passage?
- Why does this person say that?
- Why does someone say nothing?
This category of questions is all about the mechanics of a situation and/or the application of a passage.
- How did it happen?
- How did lives change?
- How did the story end?
- How does this apply to my life?
- How will it happen?
- How is it to be done?
- How is it illustrated?
Here’s an Example
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Who is in this story?
- Jesus and His disciples (v. 35). We know it’s Jesus by looking a couple of verses earlier in verse 33 (context is really important).
What happens in this story?
- A storm hits (v. 37) and the disciples in the boat are terrified. Jesus stops the storm (v. 39).
When does this story take place?
- Evening (v.35)
- After a day of teaching by the lake (vs. 1-34).
Where does this story take place?
- On the sea (this is inferred since the disciples get into a boat in order to get to the other side).
- Bible detectives have to go all the way back to the beginning of chapter 4 to discover where this story happens. In verse one we find out that Jesus is teaching by the lake, probably the Sea of Galilee.
Why was Jesus able to calm the storm?
- Because He is the Son of God and has power over nature.
How does this story end?
- The disciples ask who Jesus is (v.41). The identity of Jesus is key.
Good observation skills and the ability to ask good questions are just the start of becoming Bible detectives. Teach your kids these skills and then give them lots of practice!