designing a Bible study

When I browse the shelves at Family Christian, Lifeway, or even Barnes & Noble, I see various and sundry Bible studies by all kinds of authors: for the ladies, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, & Priscilla Shirer; for the gents (or coed), there’s John MacArthur, David Platt, Dr David Jeremiah, and many many more.

What I’ve often wondered, though, is justĀ how these studies end up being “designed”.

For the small men’s Bible study group I have been a part of for the last couple years, we take a “Spirit will lead” approach: we choose a book of the Bible (started with Matthew; are now on Daniel), and then meet regularly to read the Word, discuss- and tease-out truth, application, and connections, and advance at a pace dictated not by some external, artificial structure, but at the rate at which we advance (we’ve taken to calling ourselves the “Elmer Fudd study group” for all our rabbit trails).

But the way my men’s group studies is not really “reproducible” in the sense of being able to build a guide, or passage-by-passage questionnaire through a book of the Bible.

My question remains: how can I “design” a Bible study for myself and others which not only covers ground intended, but allows for / encourages the Spirit to work in the participants’ (and leaders’) hearts to apply what is being learned to their lives?

I appreciate any and all feedback!