How to Study Your Bible: The Bare Bones Method

Whether you’re new to the Christian faith or you’ve been a Christian for a long time and want to dig into God’s Word, but you’re not really sure where to start: this is the post for you. It can be so overwhelming trying to read your Bible or choose a devotional plan/book, especially if you’re a beginner.

I have been a Christian for the majority of my life, yet it wasn’t until my late teen years when I actually learned how to study my Bible and formed a habit of reading my Bible on a daily basis. I remember getting devotional books when I was a preteen and I was never successful in using them to form a habit of getting into the Word daily. I also remember many, many times trying to read my Bible starting in Genesis, making it my goal to read the Bible chronologically and I never made even made it through the first book. Yet, I could sit and read a fiction novel for hours. Go figure. My problem was that I kept trying the same methods… and they just weren’t methods that worked for me. Devotional books and plans can be great, but there are literally thousands of them and choosing one can sometimes be overwhelming.

My goal is to teach you how to spiritually self-feed, to study your Bible without the use of anything but your Bible, a notebook, and a writing utensil. No extra commentaries, no study books, no devotional plans.

How the Bible is organized:

If you’re already confident in your knowledge of how the Bible is organized, feel free to skip this section. In order to study your Bible, it really helps to understand how your Bible is organized so that you can use it more efficiently. The Bible is comprised of 66 smaller books and those 66 books are split into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written prior to the birth of Jesus Christ and the New Testament was written after the birth of Jesus Christ. It takes a while to get used to where each book is located and some of them are pretty tiny, so utilize your table of contents if you need to. Each book in the Bible is divided into chapters and each chapter is further divided into verses, thus making it very easy to find information. Another key piece of information that is helpful to understand are Bible references. For example, the reference Romans 3:23 tells us that the verse we are looking for is in the book of Romans, chapter 3, verse 23. Bible verse references are always written in this manner with the title of the book first, then the chapter number, followed by a colon, and then the verse number.

Supplies needed:

  1. A Bible. Personally, I prefer and recommend print Bibles, especially for beginners. I still use Bible apps, but not nearly as much as I use my physical Bible. My favorite Bible translations to use are KJV and CSB, but ultimately the choice of translation you use is your choice.
  2. A pen, pencil, marker, crayon, or literally anything that writes. I have a bit of an obsession with writing utensils and office supplies in general, but writing with a beautiful ink color or an aesthetically barreled pen just makes the experience that much more enjoyable. I love having pens in bright colors for my notes and for underlining in my Bible. However, sometimes I use just a plain old boring pencil. If you have a Bible with a smaller font size I would suggest using fine tip pens for underlining.
  3. A notebook. It doesn’t particularly matter to me if my notebook is spiral bound or if the binding is sewn. I really love buying the super cute notebooks (I might love it a little too much, honestly). It may sound really silly, but when I have a beautiful notebook it motivates me to actually use it and read my Bible.

Some additional supplies that I like to have for this study method, but are not necessary include: gel highlighters, a dictionary app, and a timer.

The Bare Bones Method:

I call this the Bare Bones Method of studying your Bible because it gets rid of all the extras. I still use devotional books and scripture writing plans, but the Bare Bones Method is like my meat and potatoes. When I need to switch things up or get back to the basics this is typically the method I choose.

Where to start? I recommend starting in 1 John or one of Paul’s smaller New Testament books like Ephesians, Philippians, or Colossians. 

How to start? I recommend doing your best to find a space free of distractions. Put your phone on silent or do not disturb. I know some people recommend completely turning off your phone or leaving it in another room, but when I first started with this method my phone came in handy for two things. The first thing I used my phone for was a timer and the second was my dictionary app for when I came across a word I didn’t know or was unsure of its meaning. 

Step 1.

Before you begin your time, start off with a prayer. Ask God to help you be faithful in committing time to Him each day, to teach you, to speak to your heart, to understand, to be focused, and to help you apply what you read to your life.

Step 2.

Take note of the time you’re starting or use a timer. You’re going to read chapter 1 of the book you chose for 15 minutes. Depending on which book of the Bible you’re in and which chapter you’re in, reading for only 15 minutes may be enough time to finish the whole chapter or may be not even a fraction of the time you need. If you finish the chapter before the 15 minutes is over, then begin rereading or meditating (to think deeply or focus your mind) on a specific verse you read or theme of the chapter. If 15 minutes is not enough time to complete the chapter note down which verse you ended on or feel free to go beyond the 15 minutes if you want to finish the chapter.

Step 3.

During your 15 minutes, you are going to slowly read through the chapter. While you’re reading, take notes of what stands out to you and underline/highlight verses that God uses to speak to your heart. If you find yourself reading and realize you’ve read 10 verses but you have no idea what is being discussed, go back to verse one, take it slower, and focus. If you really don’t understand it, it’s okay. Acknowledge that you don’t understand it and ask God to help you understand.  I have a list of things I try to keep in mind and look for when I’m reading to help me process what I’m reading. 

  1. What does this tell me about God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit? 
  2. Is there a sin I need to confess? 
  3. Is there a promise from God?
  4. Is there a command I need to follow?
  5. How can I apply this to my life?

When I come across any of those five things I note it down in my journal/notebook. For example: If I was reading in 1 John 1 I might write in my journal, “v5 God is light. There is no darkness in Him at all.”

Step 4.

Pray over the verses you read. Pray the verses if that’s applicable.

Modifications to The Bare Bones Method:

Doing this style of Bible study does not always have to look like the 4 steps I described above. Feel free to modify it and make it your own. Adjust it so it works for you.

Here are some modifications I’ve made in the past:
  1. When I first started with this method setting a timer was SO beneficial for me. It really helped hold me accountable and prevented me from rushing through my devotions to just get them done. Eventually, I increased my time to 20 minutes However, after a while I no longer needed the timer at all. 
  2. Read 1-2 verses at a time. Examine them for key ideas, promises, attributes of God, look for commands, applications, etc. Note it down.  Then pray over the verse(s). This method really gets you praying throughout the duration of your devotional time rather than just a prayer at the beginning and/or end.
  3. On day one of a new book, instead of reading just one chapter, read through the whole book. Set aside your notebook and just read to get an overview of the book. Then on day two start with chapter 1 and take notes. This works really well for the smaller books, however, this would be a difficult modification for longer books like Matthew, Acts, Job, Isaiah, Psalms, etc.
  4. Write out and/or memorize a key verse from your chapter of the day.
  5. Start the book out with the intention of looking for a keyword/theme. For example: in the book of 1 John I might read with the intention of looking at the theme of love and highlighting that word each time it appears.

The modifications really are endless. Find what works for you, experiment, play around, and adjust things. 

If you’re interested in another Bible Study technique check out our Scripture Writing + Bible Reading plans on the Radiantly Brave Blog!

Valerie loves going on adventures, spending time in nature, and getting lost in the wonders of God’s creation. She works in the 6th grade resource room at the local middle school, co-runs a faith-based youth mentoring program, and is actively involved in Bible camp ministry. Valerie loves mentoring other women, teens and children. She has an obsession with pens and stocking up on beautiful journals. Valerie’s greatest joy is sharing Jesus with others. Her greatest desire is to know Him more deeply and make Him known. You can find her on Instagram @valerieeejayyy