When we think of “studying the Bible,” we often think of sitting at a table poring over a stack of books that looks something like this:
This image might be intimidating, especially if you’re someone who is new to the Bible or if you have trouble with reading and focusing. Thankfully, there is more than one way to learn how to read the Bible and today there are many forms of media through which we can “experience” the scriptures in a visual and/or auditory way.
Interestingly enough, listening to God’s Word has been one of the most common ways people have absorbed it throughout history. In the days of the first century church, the scriptures were typically delivered orally, as a much smaller segment of the population was able to read or even had access to the scriptures in written form.
In the Old Testament in Nehemiah 8, we see that as Ezra the priest read the book of the Law to all those assembled, the people listened attentively to learn:
So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law…
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
Nehemiah 8:2-3,7-8 NIV
Many years later, in the days of the first century church, we encounter instances of Paul instructing that his letters (now New Testament books of the Bible) be read to the early disciples in the churches:
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Colossians 4:16 NIV
And beyond just listening or reading the Bible, If you have kids like mine who loved watching Veggie Tales Bible stories on VHS and DVD when they were young, you completely understand the value of even watching creative portrayals of the Bible.
My kids loved watching Bible characters brought to life as different types of vegetables with personality and humor. Not only were these stories entertaining and fun, they also passed on the main convictions of the story in a way my kids remember to this day.
Where to start in the Bible
God’s ultimate goal is to get his message into our hearts so we genuinely desire to please him rather than continue in our sins. The psalmist in Psalm 119 reminds us of this…
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:10-11 NIV
Studying or “interacting with” the Bible through several different forms of media can truly bring the Bible to life and help us keep God’s Word in our hearts. We don’t have to be constrained to any one way of reading the Bible, so let’s dive into the many ways we can experience a rich study of the Scriptures in this current day and age.
The following are four different modes of experiencing the scriptures topped off with some creative and helpful reading plans. By utilizing these fun approaches, you should be on the path to learning how to read the Bible in no time.
The other day, I glanced at my phone and noticed I had missed a text from my husband telling me he was at Starbucks and asking if I wanted anything. Just as I was processing my disappointment that I had missed his text and my opportunity for a delicious mid-morning caffeine boost, my husband walked in the door with my favorite drink in hand.
I felt so loved that he had remembered the details of my drink and thought of me in the middle of his day, and I snapped a picture of that decaf Americano. I wanted this visual to help me remember and be grateful for my husband whenever my future self started to get irritable and resentful over something he didn’t do.
Just as I felt loved by my husband remembering the details of my Starbucks drink and thinking of me throughout his day, we can make God feel loved by remembering him and the things he says in Scriptures throughout the day:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  Always remember these commands I give you today.  Teach them to your children, and talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them down and tie them to your hands as a sign. Tie them on your forehead to remind you,  and write them on your doors and gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 NCV
I’ve had to learn that studying the Bible to get to know God is not like reading a textbook for school. God wants me to remember scriptures and write them down so I can remember what he is really like and we can have a close relationship.
I’ve always been someone who learns by seeing; if you tell me something, I have to write it down and see it or I will forget. And so when it comes to the Bible, reading Scriptures on paper or on my phone has always been the best way for me to remember them.
One of the ways God tells us to remember what he says is to write it down. If you’re a visual learner, reading the Scriptures in print or on a tablet and writing a little bit about them can be a really helpful way to learn how to read the Bible.
Here are some tips to guide you in reading print or digital Bibles:
Translation, Translation, Translation
I started reading the Bible as a teenager, and the only Bible I had was a New King James Version “Teen Study Bible” that someone had given me as a gift. I tried to read it, but it was hard for me to understand.
Eventually, a friend of mine suggested trying a different translation. At first, I was kind of offended and thought she was telling me I wasn’t smart enough to read the New King James version.
But I didn’t realize that this translation is known for its classical literary style. As a teenager who was new to reading the Bible, I really needed something much more clear and modern to make the Scriptures come to life for me.
Changing translations had nothing to do with my intelligence but rather making the Bible emotionally connect with me. Once I started reading a different translation, I was amazed at how much the Scriptures expressed exactly what I felt and gave me direct advice about topics that mattered a lot to me as a teenage girl – like friendships, cliques, dating, fear, and my plans for my future.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve talked to people who are frustrated and uninspired about their Bible reading, and they haven’t questioned which translation they’re using.
My personal favorite is the New Living Translation (NLT) because it’s pretty clear and uses words that I would use in my daily life. In my years of working with teenagers in high school ministry, I’ve found that many teenagers connect best with the New Century Version (NCV) or New International Reader’s Version (NIrV).
Pick a Bible you’re excited to carry around
That may sound shallow, and of course I don’t mean you should get a Bible you can’t understand just because you like the cover. Pick a good translation. But, if you’re a visual learner, having a Bible you are excited to carry with you will make you more excited to read it.
Check out Christianbook.com to find all kinds of covers, sizes, translations, and more. You can find study Bibles that explain the stories in the Bible, and Bibles with scripture coloring pages. You can find Bibles that have tons of space to write and draw.
Since I’m a visual person, the look of my Bible inspires me.
The size of the print also matters; I hate small print, and if it’s uncomfortable for me to read I’m not going to read it very much.
But again, don’t go for a nice cover with a translation that doesn’t make sense to you.
Should I use a paper Bible or an app?
Here’s something you might not know: using pen and paper will boost your memory and help you understand what you’re reading. So if you read a paper Bible, you can write, circle words, or doodle in the margins. I also tend to be able to find scriptures again later because I remember where they were on the page.
Paper Bibles are also really nice because you don’t have to worry about phone notifications interrupting your flow.
But digital Bibles (the kind your read on your phone or tablet) have some solid benefits too. In a digital Bible, you can:
Easily search for certain words (like “anxiety”) and quickly find all the scriptures that talk about that topic.
Change translations if something you read doesn’t make sense to you.
Tap on certain words to easily learn what they mean
Use an audio option to the Scriptures too.
And, you’re more likely to have your phone with you throughout your day so it’s easier to remember or look back at scriptures later in the day.
So I think it’s helpful to use some combination of digital tools and pen and paper. You could try reading the Scriptures on your phone and jotting down notes on paper.
If you want to try a digital Bible, two great ones are:
Tecarta – this app is great for highlighting and jotting down notes.
YouVersion – this app lets you create cool scripture pictures on your phone and has a lot of them already made too.
Get some cool pens
One of the huge benefits of a print Bible is that you can interact with the scriptures by jotting down notes, words, or even little pictures that come to mind in the margins as you read.
Don’t worry if you don’t think you have artistic skill; my artistic vision far surpasses my actual artistic ability (in other words, what I envision in my head is rarely what comes out on paper).
These little notes, words, pictures, are like brief conversations or emojis you are sharing with God about what you read. It’s a way to share your heart with him, like making facial expressions in a conversation.
Drawing and doodling as you read is also a well-known strategy for remembering what you’re reading.
And don’t forget the inspiration factor: if you get yourself some cool pens (current favorite: Pilot Hi-tec-c Coleto … you can pick your own ink colors), you might be more likely to use them.
Make DIY scripture pictures
Another fun visual way to read the Bible is to make your own scripture pictures.
I’m not a graphic designer, and there are much better scripture images out there on Pinterest and other apps. But making your own is special. You can put in personal pictures of milestone moments or even funny or happy memories that make the scriptures come alive for you. I made a picture with my aforementioned decaf Americano and scriptures on marriage.
One way to make scripture pictures is to copy verses from your Bible app and paste them into a card template on apps like PicCollage. Then, you can add other fun words or personal pictures that help you visualize the scripture.
After I make these scripture images, I save them in a photo album on my Google Photos app for easy access as I go about my day.
This is one I made with a couple pictures of my favorite places to pray. The scripture reminds me to talk to God throughout the day when I feel anxious and afraid at my job.
The pictures help me envision what the scripture means when it says to “open up my heart to God” and that God is my shelter.
I tend to be someone who is a very intellectual and analytical thinker. I was one of those kids who enjoyed reading books in their free time, and I loved visualizing and immersing myself into the stories I was reading.
This thinking has spilled over into my spiritual life as I read my Bible. I enjoy imagining how Jesus said certain things, what other people’s reactions were to David defeating Goliath, and what Paul must’ve been thinking as he met and talked to different people.
But though I like to think of myself as intellectual and able to comprehend complex topics pretty well, there have been times when I’ve had a hard time with that. Whether it was times I was sick or worn out and didn’t have the energy to read, or just times that I couldn’t understand what I was reading or connect to it emotionally, I’ve had to get creative.
Many of my friends have learning and reading challenges, and so have developed strengths in how to connect with the Bible in creative ways. They have taught me how to make the Bible come alive.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Hebrews 4:12 NLT
The Bible describes itself as alive and powerful. Regardless of whether we have learning challenges, we all need to utilize tools that help us make the Bible come alive for us.
Watching videos can help us do that. There are many resources available that can help us both understand and connect with what we are reading. Here are just a few.
Visual Bibles act out different books of the Bible word for word. Watching these can help you think about the context of what you are reading, or get a visual for something you might not understand.
It can also help you connect emotionally in ways you may not have on your own. There are many out there, but here are a few to get you started:
Fortunately for us, today we have many ways we can take in the Bible, and all of them have merit in their own ways. But listening is still a great way to take in the Bible.
I have many friends who have different learning and reading challenges, and I’ve admired the creative ways they have learned to get faith from their Bibles. Many have told me how much using an audio Bible helps.
Using apps like YouVersion that have the audio Bible function can help. YouVersion allows you to listen to someone read the Scriptures in multiple translations, including NLT, NIV, MSG, and more.
There is an account on Spotify called Streetlights that reads multiple books of the Bible in an engaging way, with music playing in the background. Many of the books are available in both Spanish and English, as well.
What to do when listening
Each person is different, so you need to find what best fits you, but here are a few ideas I’ve learned from my friends:
Read your Bible along with the audio Bible to help you focus.
Take notes or draw based on what you are listening to. You can pause the Bible to reflect or write down scriptures that stand out to you.
If you are using the YouVersion audio Bible, you can play your own instrumental music in the background to help you connect better with what you are listening to.
Up to this point we’ve talked about several ways to read your Bible, giving you lots of options to ensure that you’re able to retain the scriptures in a way that’s fun, creative, and accessible.
But we’d be remiss not to give you some guidance on what exactly to read now that you’re properly equipped.
There’s no “right” approach when it comes to choosing what to read, but there are several directions you can go in to avoid falling into the “wake-up-and-open-to-a-random-page” trap that we’ve fallen into on more than one occasion. Having some direction on what to study in your Bible can be a great way to feel confident that you’ll be reading something that will help you understand God in a new way.
An additional benefit of using a study plan is the ability to combine all the methods we’ve discussed up to now, and create a program tailored to your ideal learning method. So as you review these different approaches, take note of how you might use a combination of written word, audio and visual Bible study material to help you along.
How to read the Bible spiritually
These four Bible study approaches are brought to you by “How to Have a Quiet Time: A Comprehensive Guide,” a thorough yet informal manual from Deep Spirituality that breaks down the art of spending personal time with God in the morning.
It’s worth diving deeper into this section to learn about the differences between spiritual literary, intellectual and theological reading. We recommend carving out some time to read through it in full, but for now here are four types of reading methods discussed in the guide:
Word studies – The easiest way to create a word study is to purchase a digital Bible, place your word of choice in the search box, press enter, and then read each scripture to get insight into the particular word.
Character studies – The value of a character study is that we find a person in Scripture we can relate to, learn from, and become inspired by in our walk with God. This study is accomplished by using a digital Bible to search for the name (i.e. Jacob or Mary). Following this, beginning with the first chapter where you find their name, read every ensuing chapter until you have read all of what the scriptures have to say about them.
Commentaries – Bible commentaries and dictionaries help make sure we are not merely forcing the Word to mean what we want it to mean. They take into consideration the views of several scholars to provide background on actual word meaning, cultural factors, history, etc. We don’t have to agree with these scholars; after all, they are human like us. But consulting them helps us understand whether we are being uniquely insightful or are simply out to lunch.
Top 16 books to master – If you’re new to the Bible this is a great place to start. We won’t get into the whole list here, so be sure to check out the quiet time guide to learn about the books that can help early readers know the key books for knowing God, becoming spiritual, and achieving spiritual growth.
These approaches are great for everyone from veteran Bible scholars for those simply looking for a Bible study for beginners.
Read the Bible in a year
Reading through all 66 books of the Bible can be a meaningful and transformational experience.
Most one-year Bible plans break down daily reading portions into 15-minute modules. There are a variety of ways to read and understand the different sections of the Bible other than plowing through from Genesis to Revelation.
Choose a plan that you feel will help you stay engaged throughout the yearlong journey.
Print: The One Year Bible by Tyndale – a great option for those who prefer a tactile approach with a physical Bible. Great for underlining and journaling as you make your way through the plan.
Bible App – The YouVersion Bible app allows you to track your progress as you read through the entire Bible in a year. Choose to either read or listen to each chapter using the built-in audio Bible feature. Follow either the canonical plan (in which you read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation) or read in chronological order.
Tecarta Bible – Use the Tecarta Bible app to follow the One Year Bible plan by Tyndale, which includes all the content from their original print version.
Biblica 365-Day Reading Plan – Another site, this one with a unique plan that gives you a daily selection of passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms/Proverbs).
Thematic Reading Plan – A unique approach from BibleStudyTools.com: “This Bible reading schedule is thematic or connective in nature. The goal is to make as many associations as possible between the different parts of Scripture while still reading individual books of the Bible from start to finish.”
The Bible Project Plan – Another plan using the YouVersion app. We separated it out to emphasize the videos that accompany each book of the Bible as part of the plan.
Deep Spirituality studies
As it happens, we are a site dedicated to providing you with top-notch Bible study material, so you can’t go wrong with checking out any of the studies in our Devotionals section.
We are especially excited about our Series section, which gives you a number of topical study plans that vary in length and density. We’ve curated a few for you here to help you take that plunge into the deepest of spiritual depths as we draw near to the end of our guide, and thus, your Biblical reading training.
Deep Spirituality – The first thing we ever published on our site. This five-part series walks you through a Bible study that will help you see God everywhere and in everything.
Deep Spirituality Lite – A short eight-day study series that examines a pivotal moment in the life of Elijah in the book of 1 Kings.
Deep Strength – A quiet time series about learning how to walk with God in such a way that we are strong from the inside out.
Faith That Works – technically titled “A Holiday of Faith” (as you can imagine, we created this during the holiday season), this series is filled with studies that talk about what it means to build, protect, and grow our faith.
DIY Studies – interactive Bible studies designed to help you build an engaging relationship with God. These studies will teach you to use various tools like podcasts and videos to engage with the Bible in a way that best fits your learning style. These studies were originally created for teens, but can be helpful for anyone.
The Book of John Study Series – This study series dives into the book of John in the Bible to provide practical study as well as thought-provoking questions for creating meaningful interaction between you and God.