Studying the Bible with S.O.A.P.

Question from a reader:

I am a correspondent for older children sponsored by a Christian organization. I want to send them Bible study techniques, but most likely the vast majority of my kids have NO access to anything but their Bible—no concordances, dictionaries, etc. Do you have some tips to give the kids on studying the Bible during their own quiet time?

Answer from Chelsea Dudley:

What an amazing ministry you have to these children. I know God is using you in their lives in profound ways that you may never know about until Heaven. I've worked with middle school and high school students for the last seven years and can testify to the impact one loving person can make in a student’s life. Thank you for faithfully serving our Lord and these precious children.

There are several good ways a person can approach studying the Bible. One method I've taught many high school students is SOAP. It’s an easy to remember acronym and helps you organize your time with the Lord:

S - Scripture

Take time to read the text. Pray and allow God to speak to you. And reread the text. Highlight, underline or place a mark in the margin of your Bible next to the Scriptures that stand out. When you are done, reread the verses you marked, look for one that particularly spoke to you that day, and write it in your journal.

O - Observation

What is God showing you in this passage? Jot down in your journal any words or events that stand out. Are there any truths God wants you to learn? Warnings? Commands? Guiding principles? Record those in your journal. Now what is the overall message God has for you in this passage?

A - Application

Now it’s time to get personal. How does this affect your life? Does God have instruction for you today? Encouragement? Correction? Write how this Scripture can apply to you today.

P - Prayer

This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this Scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He may be revealing to you. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say! Then, write it down.

Here are a few other things I think are helpful in studying Scripture:

  • Develop a good sense of biblical theology. The Bible is telling a story, God’s story, from creation to redemption to His return. Where does the passage you're studying fit into the story of God? How does knowing this story help you understand this passage better?
  • Context is important. What does it say before and after the passage you're studying? Often the context can help with a more accurate interpretation of the passage.
  • Are there other passages that talk about the same subject as the passage you're studying?
  • How does the passage you're studying relate to Jesus and His gospel?
  • Ask lots of good questions: who, what, when, where why, etc. Never stop asking questions of the text. The more questions you ask, the more you'll understand.

Randy shares this about studying Scripture: "To meditate on God’s Word is to read it and to mull it over, asking God for insight and direction and letting it point out your sins so you may repent and experience God’s forgiveness. Bible meditation is reflecting on God’s attributes—including his love and holiness, grace and justice, happiness and wrath.

"Copying Scripture and carrying it with us throughout the day, reading it and memorizing it, makes God’s Word a part of us. As Paul writes, 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly' (Colossians 3:16)." 

Photo by Ben White on

Chelsea Dudley served as Randy's personal assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries for several years.