At the end of December and the beginning of January, many Christians go out to select a Bible reading plan for the following year. Around February or March, a surprisingly small percentage of people are persisting with their selection. There are many reasons why, but asking these five simple questions will help you select the right Bible reading plan for your needs, and help keep you from becoming a statistic.
We are all very different, and it makes sense that we can’t all pick the same Bible reading plan and be successful. Some reading plans sound great, but when you get into them, you get long and sometimes dry readings for long periods of time (there are ways around this of course!). Other reading plans require high time and even reading capacities.
Our spiritual needs are also different. Sometimes we need to get a big picture of God’s plan, other times we need to take our time and think carefully about what we read. Whatever your constraints, select the plan that is right for you, not what other people are picking. Here are five questions to ask before you select a reading plan.
Have you ever completed a bible reading plan?
If you have never read through the Bible, I would strongly encourage you to do so. This doesn’t mean you have to pick a Bible-in-a-year reading plan. You can read it over two years, or break it into sections. But if you’ve never read the Bible here are a few reasons to consider setting a goal to do so:
- You will learn the overarching flow of redemptive history
- The Bible will have a greater impact as you discover how God and people have related throughout history
- You’ll at least be familiar with parts less often read (all the scripture is the word of God)
- You’ll discover how later books and passages build on previous sections by different authors and how the Bible presents a unified whole
- Your ability to apply and interpret scripture will improve
- You’ll discover the importance of context – both historical and textual
- As a Christian, it is responsible and wise to have read through the entirety of the counsel of the God we serve.
There are lots of options, both fast and slow, to help you read through the entire Bible. It sounds daunting, but you can break down the reading, spread it through time and keep it manageable.
How well do you read?
Whether you read quickly or struggle with reading, either can be an advantage or disadvantage. If you read quickly, the obvious advantage is that you can read more in a short time. Having the ability to read quickly makes a Bible-in-a-year plan, or something more aggressive plausible.
However, if you are a slow reader, your slow reading can help you take in the richness of scripture. I’ve seen wine tasters take their time sampling wines; they talk about texture, the flavor and some other things I don’t understand very well. They can detect these different elements because they take their time. When it comes to Bible reading, taking our time and reading slowly can help us grow in Christlikeness in ways that reading quickly can’t. Even if you’re a fast reader, sometimes slowing down is a good idea.
Before committing to a Bible reading plan stop to think about how fast you read. If you can read quickly and you’ve never read the whole Bible, you might want to consider it. But if you’re slower select a reading plan that will work with the amount of time that you set aside for your Bible reading. Don’t overcommit, and don’t under commit. Select a plan that works for you.
How well do you know Bible history?
If you’re not familiar with the historical books of the Old Testament, these provide a rich background for the New Testament. Genesis is of course foundational since we find the origins of sin, death and the curse there. But we also find the first covenants, God’s first promises and the beginning of redemption. Elements of Israel’s wilderness wanderings appear throughout the New Testament in several different forms. The various forms of government throughout the history of Israel have significant implications for Christ’s first and second coming. Israel’s failures and God’s faithfulness is the backdrop to the completeness of the salvation we enjoy in Christ.
More than all these, I find it amazing to see the character of God revealed so broadly through the Old Testament. If you’re not familiar with the Old Testament history, there are riches there to discover! Selecting a Bible reading plan to lead you through Bible history can be a rewarding option.
How much time do you have each day for Bible reading?
This question is perhaps one of the most important to consider.
Here’s why this is important. When we select a Bible reading plan, the temptation is to rush through it to do it as quickly as possible. But this is the wrong way to go about reading the Bible. If you’ve set aside (for example) 15 minutes, and you plan and make that time available, you are a) more likely to actually have a quiet time and b) less likely to rush your reading because it isn’t about getting through quickly – it is about using the time well.
I suggest you put aside an amount of time each day, starting with a small amount of time (say 5 minutes) and then increasing the amount of time each week until it is up to an amount that is both sustainable and useful.
Whatever amount of time you set aside, select a reading plan that you can complete in that time.
How long do you want to maintain the same plan?
If you’re new to Bible reading plans, don’t start with a year-long plan up front. Instead, select a shorter plan that you will complete, and then build on that success by following up with a reading plan that is a little more challenging.
Shorter reading plans tend to be more engaging since effort is required for less time. Once you’ve completed a short Bible reading plan (60 or 90 days is ideal), you’ve established a habit that you can build on.
Take the quiz
A few weeks ago, I put together a short quiz that asks you these questions and then suggests a Bible reading plan (or in some cases two plans) suited for you. Once you’ve completed the quiz, I’ll email you a PDF of that reading plan so that you can print it off and put it in your Bible and mark off your reading each day. Select the right reading plan for you by completing the short quiz below.
Here’s the quiz: