Inductive Bible Study Basics

What is Inductive Bible Study?

Inductive Bible Study (IBS) is an approach to reading scripture that involves (3) important steps: Observation; Interpretation and Application. If applied correctly, IBS can help you accurately interpret scripture (understand what it meant for the original audience and how that meaning affects you today) and as result, help you apply scripture to your life in a powerful way. 

This document provides a basic breakdown of the IBS method and includes practical tips for leading an IBS with a small group. 

Overview of Inductive Bible Study

1. Observation/Revelation

This step answers the question: what does the text say? This step is not about interpreting meaning or applying scripture to your life. Instead this step simply analyzes the text in order to gain some critical facts:


Simple step. Huge payoff.


For example, the most famous verse in the Bible (John 3:16) takes on a whole new light when you answer these questions about John 3:1—15. 

Who? Jesus speaks these words to Nicodemus, a Pharisee (Jewish religious leader).

What? This is a private conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus.

Where? This conversation took place where Jesus was.

When? This conversation took place in the middle of the night.

Why? This was a private conversation because Nicodemus was afraid of the Jews.

How? Nicodemus walked to where Jesus was under the veil of night.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

You can also take note of the following in the text:

Repeated words/phrases

Contrasting images/ideas/characters

Direct or indirect references to other scriptures

Transition words that indicate a change in time, location or topic

Anything you can put into a list

Words that indicate cause and affect

Answering these questions in each passage goes a long way in preparing you to accurately perform Step 2.

2. Interpretation

This step answers the question: what is the meaning of the text? In this step you take all the information gathered in Step 1 in order to identify the meaning of the text in its original context. In addition to answering the questions listed in Step 1, you can also answer these questions in order to identify meaning:

What has occurred just prior to this passage?

What is the main theme(s) of this book?

What is the clearest meaning of the text?

Here are a few other helpful pointers:

Focus on the plain and obvious meaning of the text. Avoid importing other ideas into the text that are not there. 

Let scripture interpret scripture. How does this passage relate to the gospel and the broader message of the Bible? 

Ask for help when you need it. At times you will get stuck on an obscure/unclear passage. When this happens, make it a point to ask someone for understanding. 

Once you’ve discerned the meaning of the text, you can move onto Step 3.

3. Application

This step answers the question(s): what does this text mean for me? What do I do in response to what I’ve read? Here are some helpful questions to answer in order to apply the text to your life:

What did I learn about God?

What did I learn about myself?

What was being stirred in my heart as I read this passage?

What can I do in order to live this passage?

Is the Holy Spirit asking me to take any specific steps today?

What can I pray in response to what I’ve read?

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Adam Narciso is the visionary and pioneer of Catalyst Ministries, a training and global outreach mission for the next generation. Since 2009 Adam has trained and mobilized over 40 international evangelism teams and has equipped thousands in the areas of identity, hearing God and evangelism via seminars around the world. Adam has preached the gospel in city campaigns, universities, high schools and bamboo huts in remote villages, all with supernatural effect. Communicating with humor and fresh biblical insight, Adam is a unique prophetic evangelist who equips everyday Jesus-followers to live authentic, New Testament Christianity, discovering their highest joy in the Great Commandment and their unique assignment in the Great Commission.

Adam is author of New Identity: 30 Days of Prayer for Spiritual Transformation and producer of multiple e-courses and the Jesus Movement Now Podcast. He and his wife, Jenny, have four children and reside in Franklin, TN. 

Adam is ordained through Messenger Fellowship, an international community of leaders, churches and ministries committed to the glory of God.