066 – The S.O.A.P.Y. method of group Bible study [Podcast]

Cleanup on the Bible study aisle!

The S.O.A.P.Y. Method


Welcome to Season 2 of the Your Church Matters podcast.  In this episode (66), I am unpacking a small group Bible study method of which I am a big fan.



The S.O.A.P.Y. Method of Bible Study

In 2010, my friend Harrell Teague, from San Antonio Baptist Association, introduced me to a simple Bible study method they were using within their staff.  He called it the S.O.A.P. method.  Here’s how I have chosen to unpack this concept:

S – Scripture.  This is the Biblical text to be considered.  Each person in the group reads and meditates on the passage, in advance of the group session.  In response to their reading and meditation, group members record their …

O – Observations. What is this passage saying?  What words or phrases stand out?  What questions arise?  What concepts and lessons are clarified?  As observations are recorded, the next step is for each person to consider …

A – Application.  How can the lessons here be put into practice?  Each person asks, “What is a personal application that helps me live out the Christ-life this week?”

These three steps are done by group members individually ahead of time.  Then, when the group meets, they share their observations and applications with one another through open group discussion.  This discussion then leads to …

P – Prayer.  The group prays for one another and asks for guidance, grace, and strength to make the personal applications.  The group also prays for one another’s needs and concerns, but this method makes prayer for our growth as disciples a central and intentional component (that’s part of the accountability and support).

I have added one more letter to this method.

Y – You.  One of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. J.W. MacGorman, defined faith as “belief plus yourself.”  Adding yourself to the S.O.A.P. method raises the accountability and support quotient.

Here’s what I mean—it is great to identify an application that I CAN make to grow in living out the Christ-life this week.  It is a whole different matter to identify an action I WILL take in the next week, share it with the group, ask them to pray for me, and report back how it went when we gather the next time.  Few motivations are more powerful than going public with an action plan. I recently made a public commitment on Facebook to finish by May 4–today–the first draft manuscript of a book I am writing.  That public accountability highly motivated me and I actually finished it two nights ago.

I hope you can see that this method is simple without being simplistic, profound without being complicated, and is scalable enough to be adapted to a variety of curricula.  It could be used to study through a book of the Bible.  It could just as easily be used in a topical study.

Give it a try in your Bible study group and let me know what happens.


See also Episode 25: 10 Commandments of Powerfully Effective Group Bible Study

This content is actually included in my new book, Why “Bible Study” Doesn’t Work: The epic failure of evangelicalism’s favorite discipleship method.  I’d love to have you join me as part of my launch team.

More info coming soon, but if you just can’t wait, send me an email at contactgerrylewis@gmail.com and put “book launch team” in the subject line.


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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

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