It’s that time of year when the “read the Bible in a year” plans are rolling out. And I was once a purchaser of a Bible-in-a-year text.
It sounded great— by the end of this year, I will have read the whole Bible! But I did not yet understand that, as a college student at the time, squeezing the whole Bible into my busy work and study schedule would mean that I was just quickly getting through the Bible, and not marinating in its beauty and truth.
Setting the wrong goal was the first of many things I learned the hard way. But trial and error has its spoils: I now have several strategies for making Bible-reading fruitful and manageable.
1: MAKE YOUR BIBLE READING GOAL WORTHY AND SPECIFIC
Quickly getting through the Bible was not the goal I should have set.
As you might imagine, I started off strong in January, and by the end of February, as midterms neared, my Bible-in-a-year book began its stagnation that would ensue the rest of the year.
It took a long time for me to realize that getting through the Bible in a year wasn’t right for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, a plan like this is right for some people. I’m certain there are people who have great success with that plan.
I needed to find a worthy Bible-reading goal for me in my current lifestyle, just as I am.
So last year, I set the goal to read the New Testament— and not in a getting through kinda way. I set a goal to read thoughtfully in a meditative way, and to respond once a month in a blog post.
I met my goal and my year was so enriched by it. So I am here to share what worked for me.
So, if you are wanting to read the Bible, maybe your first worthy, specific goal is read the four accounts of the gospel.
2. SET A REASONABLE TIMEFRAME FOR YOUR GOAL
Let’s say you do set the goal of reading the four accounts of the gospel, and you set the goal of reading them all in January.
In my Bible, the four gospels amount to 123 pages. Now, 123 pages is reasonable reading for a month, but reading these accounts is not like reading a drugstore novel.
They are dense, saturated, profound.
Ask yourself if you will be able to give these accounts the consideration they deserve if you have a month for all four. Will your schedule allow for reading, pausing to reflect, researching context or corresponding passages?
If you feel rushed at all, give yourself ample time.
I took four months to read the accounts of the gospel, and it allowed me to journal through each and hold space for God to reveal truths to me:
In the first month, I reflected on the remarkable faith that accompanied each story of healing.
In the third month, I applied the “consider the lilies” passage to my difficult season of anxiety.
And in the fourth month, I marveled at Jesus’ radical civil disobedience in favor of God’s law.
Had I not allowed myself time and space for the activities that accompany critical Biblical consideration (annotating, praying, re-reading, meditating, writing), I would not have walked away with the powerful faith-altering truths that I did.
3. BREAK THE LARGE GOAL DOWN INTO SMALLER, MANAGEABLE BITS WITH THEIR OWN TIMELINES
As I mentioned, I read one account of the gospel each month for the first four months of the year.
And I did this for the entirety of the New Testament. I divided the reading into 11 chunks and allotted one month for each reading, making sure to save December for my advent reading of The Greatest Gift.
Would something like this work for you? Would you like your own version of this graphic? Leave me a comment and I will get one to you!
4. SET AN ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURE
In my inaugural post for this blog, I talked about the chapter in Joshua that inspired my blog’s theme: Joshua 24.
When Joshua challenged the tribes of Israel to choose—once and for all—whom they would serve, they answered that they would turn away from worshipping the Canaanite gods and serve the one true God.
To seal them to this statement (in other words to keep them accountable), he recorded their words in the Book of the Law of God (understood to be the early version of the Bible which was a stone tablet).
He then proclaimed “this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us” (24.27).
It’s unclear if he etched these things into the stone itself, but nevertheless, the communal commitment, the recording (on paper or stone), and the stone in front of the mighty oak were collectively became the measure of accountability. It was a way of saying— with God as the witness—we are holding you to your proclamation.
We are more likely to meet goals when we have someone or something keeping us accountable. By sharing my reading calendar with the blog-o-sphere, I felt the healthy pressure to meet my goal.
Who do you need to keep you accountable? A Facebook group? A best friend? A pastor?
Share your goal and timeline with someone who can check in with you and challenge you to keep going if you fall behind.
5. LEARN HOW YOU LEARN BEST
At my work at the community college, one of the learning tools we find really helpful is an assessment called the VARK assessment. VARK is an acronym for four common learning style preferences (visual, aural/auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic.
The ten-minute assessment gives you a variety of scenarios and asks you to select how you would learn best in each one. At the end of the assessment, it will show you the style of learning that might work best for you.
For instance, I always score highest in kinesthetic learning which means that I like to use my senses and body when learning. In college, I knew that I liked to re-write my notes to help solidify them in my mind, but until I took the VARK assessment, I never knew why.
Learning how you learn best may help you better study the Bible and invest in the tools that are more likely to make you successful.
- Visual learners will want to seek out Bible companion videos (like the Bible Project described in the next section), and/or maps of the different regions
- Aural/auditory learners may want to check out the apps Dwell or YouVersion that read the Bible aloud with your chosen speaker and accent.
- Read/write learners will want to find the best books or websites on scripture to supplement the reading. Bible Gateway and DesiringGod are two credible sites with sound Biblical information.
- Kinesthetic learners like me may want to consider investing in a journaling Bible. For me, it was a game changer. I could write questions in the margins, re-write important verses, and draw symbols that correspond with the text.
6. MEASURE PROGRESS
A friend I met through the Joyful Life Magazine, Amber Thiessen (who has an amazing blog by the way!) touts the importance of habit trackers.
Gaining popularity of late, habit trackers do the hard work for you: they create individual check-boxes for daily goals met.
So, if you have committed to reading two chapters of a Bible book per day, you get to check the box for that day. Watching your sheet fill up with check marks is incredibly satisfying and encouraging for staying the course of your goal.
Habit trackers come in a variety of forms, and most are free to print for personal use:
7. ANTICIPATE THE MUD PUDDLES AND INVEST IN SOME BOOTS
In working through a Bible reading goal, prepare for the inevitability of confusion.
There may be context you don’t have, words that are unfamiliar, or parables that you don’t understand.
Accept that this happens to all of us in studying the Bible, and arm yourself with good resources to help.
I mentioned this resource in the last section, and many times on my Instagram account, that one of my absolute favorite resources for reading the Bible is The Bible Project. Created by Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins, the Bible Project combines sound Biblical information with palatable animated videos.
Each book overview video begins with context and offers a birds-eye view of the book of the Bible that helps orient the readers before beginning.
I cannot overstate the importance of grasping the context the verses are situated in.
8. CELEBRATE THE SMALL VICTORIES IN A SMALL WAY AND THE BIG GOAL IN A BIG WAY
Celebrating the small portions read will fuel motivation for the meeting the big goal you have set.
For each book of the Bible I completed, I would take my pen and write in the margin above the book’s title “Completed on Month/Day/Year.” It sounds simple, but it was incredibly satisfying!
And upon penning that phrase, it signified that I was ready to move to the next little square in my reading plan.
Each time I moved to a new book, I would create a notification on social media as an invitation for people to read along with me, as well as that accountability I mentioned:
I can say that it worked, friends. I made it all the way through Revelation before the end of November.
CELEBRATE MEETING THE BIG GOAL IN A BIG WAY!
Completing a Biblical reading goal is an exciting milestones in your walk with Christ— celebrate it!
When I met my goal of reading the entire New Testament, I allowed myself to purchase something really special from the shop of Dandelions in December: a custom red oak leaf with a little “stone” (mustard seed).
All this to say, not every Bible reading plan is for every person. I finally found what works for me, and I encourage you to find something that will fit your lifestyle and your current Bible reading needs and desires.
Whatever you choose, let it glorify Him.
with His love,