Monday, October 14, 2013

Helpful Study Method: SOAP

Some (or many) of you may already be familiar with the SOAP study method, but I had not heard of it until a few months ago. It had been mentioned in several blogs that I followed and kept showing up in my Pinterest feed, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it. Based on the little checking into it that I did do, it didn’t seem to be something I would be much interested in. However, I have been participating in online Bible study for the past six weeks which is completely based on the SOAP method. Let me tell you… I love it!

I probably should give a little explanation of SOAP for those who are just as clueless about it as I was. SOAP stands for: Scripture, Observations, Application, and Prayer. Its purpose is to really engage the studier in the scripture under consideration through several different steps:

  1. Write out the Scripture. So often when we’re reading through a passage we may breeze right through and miss some, or even many, of the more subtle lessons to be gained. The simple process of writing out the scripture provides the opportunity to slow down and really consider the words that the Holy Spirit has provided for our edification.
  2. Write out your Observations. Once you write out the verse(s), make a list of the things that stick out to you. These observations may be things that you have always known and appreciated about the passage or insights that are hitting you for the first time. (Just make sure that they are strictly observations and not personal applications; you’ll get there soon enough!) Many of the SOAP descriptions that I read through suggested writing out 2-3 observations each time, but there have been some passages in my study that are just so rich in meaning for me that I went far beyond that number. :)
  3. Write out personal Applications. This is where you get to take those observations and describe how you are making or plan to make personal application of those truths in your life. This could be written out in list format, perhaps with a personal application for each of the observations you recorded. I prefer to choose one of the observations (or more than one, if they are closely related) to focus on and jot down my applications in a paragraph format, which usually includes a lot of questions directed at myself about how well I am living out these principles.
  4. Write out a Prayer. Up to this point, God’s word has been speaking to you. Now, you get to speak back to God – glorifying Him, thanking Him, and asking for His guidance and help as you strive to better live as the Christian He would have you to be. To be honest, this was the part that I was the most unsure about going into it. I have tried writing out prayers before but never really stuck with it. I either felt that I began rambling or that I sometimes bordered on substituting “prettiness” of speech for sincerity. What has made the difference here, though, is that the prayer is targeted to the context of the scripture with which you are working. This gives me focus, which I desperately need to stay on task. (By the way, I have been able to use this concept in a separate prayer journal where I fill a page with each prayer – no more and no less. As such, I am much more focused on what I’m saying then how I’m saying it, and, most importantly, I am able to stay focused on who I am talking to.)

This is a fabulous study method that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who has, like me, struggled to find a way to better connect and grow from his or her Bible reading. It’s so easy to get started with: grab a notebook (or print off any number of the SOAP worksheets available on the internet!), pick a verse or set of verses to start with, and SOAP away! It’s also easy to adapt for studying with others, whether that be your spouse, children, study group, or whatever else might come to mind…

Like, for example, studies of various Bible passages that may be posted on this page sometime in the (hopefully) near future…

As this is something I am planning on doing, I wanted to share beforehand the structure I will be using to present these studies, for those of you out there who were not familiar with it before this. And while the posts will be written from the viewpoint of my own personal interaction with the scriptures, I would definitely encourage anyone who may be interested to SOAP each of the passages for themselves as I go through them. These posts will probably be handled as week-long considerations of either one long passage or of a group of verses covering the same subject. I’m going to start with some of my favorite passages but would welcome any suggestions that any of you might like to see covered as well.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I have work tomorrow, so it is time to sign off. :)

Thanks for stopping by!