Scripture Engagement/ Manuscript Bible Study Practice Tips
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Manuscript Bible Study Practice Tips

Create a Manuscript

  • Choose an appropriate Bible translation for your small group. The translation you choose depends on your group members and your specific goals.
  • Get a copy of the text you want to study where the chapter and verse numbers have been removed. The resources page will help you with this process. Some people also prefer to remove paragraph breaks, but this is a matter of preference.
  • Put line numbers in the margins so there is some way of distinguishing parts of the passage for the benefit of group discussion. If you are using a Word document you can get instructions on how to add numbers to each line of your manuscript here.  If you aren’t using Word, you can look the process up using a web search engine.
  • Double-space the text and leave wide margins so there’s plenty of room to mark it up.
  • Print the manuscript single-sided so it can be laid out and seen all at once.

Doing the Study
There are other sources listed on the resources page, but here are a few brief guidelines:


  • Every person will need a printed copy (a “manuscript”) of the passage you are going to study.
  • Have alternate translations or perhaps Bible dictionaries available.
  • Provide colored pencils or pens for marking.

Begin with Group Members Working Individually

  • Start with prayer.
  • Have everyone read through the passage on their manuscript pages individually for a set amount of time.
  • Ask them to hone in on the text and make as many observations as they can, marking them as they see them.
  • Encourage them to use different colored pencils and pens, using their own marking system, to highlight some of the different observation categories (see below).
  • Give examples of observations to look for:
  • Conditional clauses (if this…then that)
  • Verb tenses (past, present, future)
  • People
  • Key words
  • Promises
  • Comparisons or contrasts
  • Figurative language
  • Repetition and progression of ideas
  • Important connecting words (therefore, but, so)
  • As people are studying, ask them to jot down any questions they have about the passage.

Small Group Setting (25 people)

  • When the time is up, bring the group back together to have everyone share their observations and ask the questions they have about the text.
  • As a group, work out what the passage is saying. Make sure all conclusions come from the passage.
  • Have people talk about how the passage applies to them personally and share what they plan to change in their lives.
  • End in prayer.

Larger Small Group Setting (6 people or larger)

  • Separate the group into smaller groups (3–5 people).
  • Have individuals study the passage for a set amount of time.
  • When this time is up, have the small groups compare findings for a set amount of time.
  • Have the small groups report back to the whole group to discuss ideas and themes.

Tips for Leader

  • Constantly direct learners back to the text; when they state an observation, ask where they see it.
  • Know the passage well enough to be able to answer questions and guide participants.
  • Remember, you are not the authority—the text is. Let the Bible do the teaching.

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© Phil Collins, Ph.D., 2014. This material was created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement.