My younger brother has a history of forgetting his shoes. More than once, his baseball cleats were nowhere to be found once he arrived at the field for a game when he was a little boy. Even on the day of his own wedding, he realized shortly before the ceremony started that he had forgotten his wedding shoes. He did have his brightly colored sneakers that he had worn to the venue, but considering they did not go well with the navy groom’s suit his future wife had picked for him to wear, he and his best man jumped in his car and took off down the road to the closest department store they could find, which thankfully wasn’t too far a drive from the small town the wedding was in.
As this was all happening, my cousin said the photographer saw my brother pulling out of the venue and, a little concerned, asked, “Was that the groom driving away?”
“Yeah. He got cold feet,” one of the groomsmen responded with a chuckle.
When I think of having to plan something well, planning a wedding is one of the first things that comes to mind. My brother and now sister-in-law spent several months preparing for their wedding, but like most weddings, there were inevitable hiccups—like the groom forgetting his shoes and their wedding photographer realizing two days before the wedding that she double-booked herself (but that’s a story for another day). However, these hiccups didn’t stop them from having a lovely, beautiful wedding, which came together largely because, ahead of time, the couple took the time to plan how they wanted their wedding to look, where they wanted to have it, who would attend, and so forth. Had they gotten to their wedding day and shown up at the venue without having booked it ahead of time, chosen their wedding attire, or invited their guests, the day would have looked very different from the wedding they dreamed of having.
As Christians, I’m sure we hope to have a relationship with God in which we can clearly hear His voice, are excited to read His Word every day, and feel confident to share the gospel with others. Just as it takes time to plan a special event or intentionally cultivate a relationship with a person, you need to purposefully plan time for your relationship with God to grow by thinking ahead about when to set aside time to spend with Him and dive into His Word. This is not to say that spontaneity is a bad thing—of course you hope that there will be moments where you see God in ways you never expected or planned for because these moments will spur growth and deepen your relationship, but it’s important to set a strong foundation with Him through intentional habits and rhythms of studying His Word.
Here are five tips to practice as you strategically search for a reading plan to start and then begin to implement it.
1. Pray. The first step is to pray and ask God to lead you as you choose how to study Scripture. Ask Him to give you direction and discernment as you start a new plan. Psalm 119:33-40 is a good passage to pray as you consider the different reading plans .
2. Research and ask questions to determine what kind of reading plan you want to do. Do you want to read through the Bible in a year? Are you interested in reading through the Bible chronologically? Maybe you want to take your time and read through one chapter per day through a study Bible. Perhaps you would rather focus on a certain portion of Scripture, like the Law or the Gospels. You could also choose a topical reading plan. Knowing your goal will help you choose a plan that is the right fit for you. This article lists several plans that we, at Lifeway Women, have used and loved.
3. Make it manageable. Stretching yourself to achieve a goal is great, so I encourage you to push yourself! But when you are creating or choosing a Bible reading plan, it’s also important to keep in mind what you think you can realistically do on a consistent basis so you don’t fall off. That way, if there’s a day you have more time to read, you can go for it, but you’re not setting yourself up for unachievable goals day after day that will only discourage you. Ask yourself how much time you think you have each day for Bible reading and choose a plan that will be both beneficial and sustainable for you in this season of life.
4. Consider your learning style. As you’re thinking about the kind of reading plan you want to start, think about your learning style to help you determine what you can pair with the reading plan to help you learn and best retain the information you read. In order to learn, it is crucial that you take the time to process what you read rather than simply reading the words to check it off that you completed today’s passage. For example, I am not an auditory learner, so I have discovered that trying to pair my reading plan with an audiobook or podcast is not the most effective plan for me. But I have several friends who are auditory learners, which means they take in information best when it is presented to them in auditory form. Thus, pairing a reading plan with an audiobook or podcast is a great fit for them! The different learning styles are typically categorized as auditory, visual, kinesthetic (or hands-on), and reading/writing (or linguistic).
My learning style is reading/writing, so I have discovered I retain information best when I take the time to also read commentaries with the passage of Scripture I just read, look up the definitions of words as I go, and write about what I learned.
If you are a kinesthetic learner, you can pair your reading plan with something that will engage all your senses. Perhaps before or after you read your passage for the day, you can pair your study with a physical activity like taking a prayer walk to reflect on what you just learned.
If you’re a visual learner, you might find it helpful to invest in some good highlighters so you can color-code things that stand out to you, draw symbols beside recurring themes in Scripture, or even try drawing a picture of a verse or story you studied that day.
Of course, no matter what your learning style is, all of these are great practices you can utilize. Even though I am not an auditory learner, I still listen to podcasts about theology and faith! It is just not my primary way of learning Scripture.
5. Be flexible. Inevitably, there will be hiccups—don’t let them stop you! Just because my brother forgot his shoes for his wedding didn’t mean they needed to postpone their marriage ceremony. Likewise, if you miss a day of Bible reading or don’t read as much as you had scheduled for that day, don’t get discouraged and throw away your whole reading plan. The next day, simply take a few moments to reflect on why you deviated from the plan and if you need to adjust your goals at all. The goal of using a reading plan is not to be legalistic but rather to develop purposeful habits that get you into God’s Word daily. His Word will guide, encourage, and strengthen you.
For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. – Romans 15:4
Erin Franklin is a production editor on the Lifeway Women Bible Studies team. A graduate of Lipscomb University and a lifelong Tennessean, she enjoys a good ping-pong match, photography, and learning new things. You can connect with her on Instagram @erin_franklin and on Twitter @erinefranklin.