Bible study in Unitarian Universalist congregations

Unitarian Universalist blogger Plaid Shoes (Everyday Unitarian) is frustrated by the lack of Unitarian Universalist-produced bible study material and got helpful suggestions from commentors. Dairy State Dad followed up, but otherwise there haven’t been any follow-on blog posts so far as I’ve seen. And I have an idea or two.

I understand the concern, but I’m not aggravated in the same way. For one, there are some denominational materials produced — if you go back a few years — particularly considering the thin demand for the resources and the high cost of producing good ones. Also, to a large degree, denominational materials have given way ecumenically to joint projects. And perhaps even more to the point, adult bible studies are often conducted without step-by-step lesson plan. That’s where I would start, or more accurately with a copy of Walter Wink’s Transforming Bible Study (which was popular when I was in seminary) or another guide on leading bible study itself.

I’d ask potential class members why they want to study, and commission one or two willing persons to learn enough about some basic concept to teach a class that’ll bootstrap further discussions and more self-directed study. Consider four different orientations a class could take:

  • better understanding how the Bible came to be as a literary artifact, and its influence in culture.
  • making peace with emotionally difficult passages of scripture, or how certain passages have been used in class members lives.
  • examining the claims made by biblical figures and themes on personal and political behavior.
  • touring the Bible for poetic and inspirational selections.

I’d try to organize five or six sessions around that and then disband or re-commit to another phase or theme. Or even a book study. But if the group is very unexperienced with the Bible, I’d start with the sessions about the Bible as an English document.

  • a review of leading English translations
  • films (television, music) that depict passages from the Bible
  • a how-to session about the general sections of the Bible, the genres they’re written in and the tools and apparatuses (maps, concordances) that of often bound with the text.

And of course, plenty of time to ask open-ended, judgement-free questions about what people want to know and learn.

3 Replies to “Bible study in Unitarian Universalist congregations”

  1. Thanks for these ideas, Scott. I still haven’t formulated how I would like the class to proceed and I really like these ideas. I realize that these materials are expensive and don’t have a great demand, but I feel to further UU, we need our own produced and supported canon. I see it as an investment in our core. Many people, when exploring a new religion, look to for these resources. I hate to say it, but it provides a certain amount of legitimacy.

  2. We’ve basically followed your suggestions. This study can be done very inexpensively. In my Church in seemed very popular with enough people signing up to justify two groups. This in a Church with a distinctly Humanist bent and heritage.

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