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Verse-Mapping 101: Steps to Study the Bible Like Never Before

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Verse Mapping – Updated post, OCT. 2016

I’ve heard from so many of you who are interested in the Bible study method I’ve fallen in love with  — Verse Mapping.* 

You want to know more. (Me too!) So here it is… the definitive post to answer those questions on the one thing that has forever changed how I study Scripture.


WHY VERSE MAPPING? 

Moment of honesty:  I don’t always understand what I read in Scripture. And because I could be confused about it, the Bible wasn’t sinking into my heart. I could go about my day without time in the Word as long as I was cherry-picking verses out when I needed something from God. (Facebook is a good place to find inspirational verses, right?) So that was my daily nod to God. I’d read a page or two in a Bible study. Write some things down. Pray. And that was it. I didn’t go deeper.

I had no idea it was even a problem until I took Beth Moore’s #ChildrenoftheDay Bible Study in the fall of 2014. In one of the lessons, Beth told a story about how she studies scripture. Picture this incredible teacher sitting at her dining room table, up to her elbows in books on history, Greek, Hebrew, Biblical concordance and theology topics. And she’d stay there for hours — sometimes until her family came home in the evening — digging deep into the Word just because she was passionate to learn more! I saw her hunger for God’s Word and that was it for me.

I wanted to finally understand what I read in the Bible on that level. No more doing devotions because I think I should. I wanted to need to. And when I opened up to my best friend about it, she said, “Kristy, why don’t you try verse mapping?” And so it began. 😉


WHAT IS VERSE MAPPING?

Verse mapping isn’t new. In fact, it’s a topic Proverbs 31 Ministries covered in a popular blog post almost a few years ago, and then again in a video in 2015. You’ll find endless examples with a simple Google search. And you guessed it — verse-mapping Pinterest boards are popping up all over. But what is it? Who’s doing it? And can it really help us understand the Word more clearly?

DEFINITION: Verse-Mapping is a method of studying the historical context, transliteration, translation, connotation, and theological framework of a verse in the Bible. 

Plain and simple? Verse mapping is: getting real about studying the Bible. All of it. It’s not just reading. It’s researching everything you can in a verse to learn more about who God is and how He wants to speak to you through His Word.  In short? It’s serious study.


HOW TO VERSE MAP: I’m reminding you now that I’m not a Biblical theologian by education. (I’m an art/history researcher and writer, who has been 15-years corporate-trained in research, writing, and instructional design.) What matters here is that I’m a believer in Christ who wants to become a disciple of Christ. So this is all about taking that curiosity to own our faith in Christ and dig in to the Word, learning together. There’s no structural right or wrong way to verse mapping — working from right to left, and top to bottom is just what works for me. 🙂 

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To make it easy, I have only ONE RULE for verse mapping: If I can’t back something up with Scripture, then I can’t write it down. That’s it. Everything is fair game in studying, as long as God said it first. Here goes…


tools

STEP 1: GATHER YOUR TOOLS

  • Notebook or journal
  • Markers/pens
  • Bible App (to look up various translations)
  • You might also want to invest in a concordance and Hebrew/Greek dictionaries. (I recommend one like this from Zondervan, but you can also find the information for FREE online!)
  • Time on your calendar (We have to be intentional with our time to do this. I have three kids, a job, and lots of excuses for why I can’t fit this into my schedule on any given day. If that’s a struggle for you too, then add that into the next step and pray about it.)

STEP 2:  PRAY

I am a firm believer that you cannot study scripture without the Holy Spirit by your side. He must be the active guide in any time of study. So pray. Talk to Him. Listen to worship music and praise for as long as you need to. Invite Him in to your study time and ask Him to take the reins through your verse mapping. This should be time that you spend together — with Him revealing more of who He is to your heart. We can’t do it without Him. Ask and it will be given. Seek and you’ll find Him.


STEP 3:  READ

Instead of abstaining from something during Lent this year, I felt the Holy Spirit impress it upon my heart to add something to my life — verse mapping. I received clear instruction to start in the Book of Acts and to keep going until I’m told to stop. SO that’s where my examples come from, but you should read what He’s impressed upon your heart. And keep reading until a verse stands out. What grabs you? What themes do you see? What question(s) do you have? If something sticks out, then you can be sure that’s your verse for the day.


STEP 4:  WRITE your VERSE  

step 1

I use my Dad’s Bible, which is the NKJV. Once I have my verse for the day, I record it and document it in at least 2-4 other translations. (NIV, NASB, KJV, ESV, ASV, MSG) This helps me to notice similar word choice, phrases that stand out, and/or aspects of grammar usage that are of note. Anything here could trigger a question or path of further investigation.

This is also where I note word choice, part(s) of speech and dig deep into definitions, Hebrew/Greek translations, Biblical concordance and some seriously cool context around the verse. (When I began mapping Romans, I bought a THICK history book on Rome in the 1st century. It’s been exciting to dig in to the historical context behind Paul’s letters.)


STEP 5:  ACTIONS 

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I’m a storyteller by my heart’s design, so I’m always drawn to the players in a scene. That’s what the Actions record. What is happening in the verse? To whom? Who are the characters in what you’re reading? How does their story relate to other stories/verses/persons in other areas of Scripture? 

The other part of this section relies on organization. I was an instructional designer and facilitator in corporate America for 15 years, so I love the opportunity to organize content. This is all about curating TRUTH, friends. What are the topics, themes, dates of significant events and/or theological elements of the verse(s) you’re researching?  

Anything is fair game here as long as you can back it up with Scripture.

(NOTE: I color-code my verse mapping, so light blue is the quick-look color I use to document all of my related verses. It really helps to look for that when I come back to review an older map.) This section can get long. It may even branch out into a second page (like this one did below). It’s okay — just go with where God is leading you.

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Let the Spirit loose in your heart in this section — I promise He will give you some #WOW #facepalm #mindblown #jawdrop #IlovetheBible #intheWord moments if you let Him!


STEP 6:  OUTCOME

There’s an answer to every question. You may not have known where the verse map would go that day, but He’s going to bring you full circle to answer any question you started with. You should find verses that minister to your heart and give you life application for the journey you’re on with God. He’ll remind you of examples in your own life where you may have seen a concept lived out. And most importantly? What did He tell you? What did you learn? How has your heart been softened? How has your passion grown? 

Learn 1 Learn 2


I encourage all of us to start small. Some of my maps are one or two pages with lots of white space. That’s okay. And others (depending on what I need to hear from God that day) turn into four pages of study that digs deep in my heart.

Look up a word here. Choose a verse there. Just do it honestly and the Holy Spirit will grow our passion around His Word. We don’t have to have it all figured out with the first or the twentieth map. We just have to come hungry to the table every day — He’ll handle the preparation for the feast ahead of time.

So now it’s your turn! Want to give it a try with me? Add a comment below with your thoughts. Do you think verse mapping might be for you?

Be sure to use the hashtag #VerseMapClub to connect and share your verse map experience on social media. I’ll be adding more posts soon, and you can bet I’ll want to see how it’s going for you. Connect with me in Pinterest and I’ll be happy to add you to this community board: VERSE_MAPPING

With new LIFE in the Word,

Kristy_sig

(*)Verse Mapping 101 – All content: © 2016  Kristy Cambron

39 thoughts on “Verse-Mapping 101: Steps to Study the Bible Like Never Before

  1. Reblogged this on Blindlessgirl and commented:
    All thanks to projectinspired.com for the link to this great post.

    Hmm. I’m really looking forward to use this method in my daily study of God’s word. It looks promising.

    For the author: Thank you so much for posting this. God bless you! 😀

    Anyway, it’s my birthday today lovelies and I’m so thankful that even though only a few people remembered, my birthday is still great. God is really good because He gave me a great bunch of people to celebrate this day with. All praises and glory to Him!

    😀 Happiness is really a choice and I chose to be happy today. 😊 It makes all the difference!

    Xoxo Until next time lovelies! God bless ya’ll!

  2. Kristi, I don’t remember how I came across this post (God maybe?), but I’ve been a long time away from studying the Bible as I should. My husband and I do a devotional and prayers over breakfast and I’ve been telling myself that’s not enough. Following a season of depression, I decided I was hungry but not for food from the table, but for food of the Spirit. And I landed here!

    At 69, this idea of verse mapping really clicked with me. I’m the woman my husband calls the perpetual student. Off I went to get my supplies and today was my first day. Remember what I said about being away from study for a long time? Today the verse I landed on is Psalm 90:12 (NIV): Teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. I’ve looked up three other versions and was relieved of some confusion over the word “gain.” The others use the words, “apply,” “present,” and “we may be wise.” See what I’m doing already? LEARNING!

    Thanks so much for laying this all out for the rest of us. I’m excited!

  3. Hey Kristy! So glad we got to connect at the conference (though briefly). I didn’t have the chance to take your class, but read this blog post and plan to try mapping myself. Good, deep, stuff! Hugs!
    Beth

    1. I am SO glad! We’re mapping Romans together come October 1st, so hope you join us. I’ll be posting about it soon. And I just LOVED connecting in person at ACFW! 😉 Makes the heart sing!

  4. This is fantastic! I am so joining in!! I knew those extra pens and notebooks were purchased for a reason.

    Thank you for posting the instructions – I was so sad that I missed the class at ACFW.

  5. I’m going to try this out on my memory verses. I feel like they’re not sinking in as deeply as I want them to, so maybe this will help. I’m sure that will have me hooked. Thanks for sharing this with me, Kristy!

  6. Never heard of verse mapping before now, but I find it intriguing. Not sure I understand it yet, but I’ll give this page a few more reads to let it soak in. And I may just flood your inbox with questions until I get the hang of it. 🙂

  7. I can’t wait to join you in October verse mapping of Romans. I’m going to send my sister here to follow along with you too. You’re so inspiring, Kristy. Thank you. 🙂

  8. I absolutely LOVE your ONE RULE you begin with!!! This fall I will be leading a ladies Bible study going through Anne Graham Lotz’ Expecting to See Jesus. She teaches the 3 Question Method of Bible study which we will be doing…but verse mapping could easily be a part of that. A valuable Bible Study tool for sure! Colored pencils are my new “best friends!”

    1. Hi Linda – LOVE meeting sisters who are diving in to Verse Mapping. Please stop back by and share how your group is doing with it. Would love tips/ideas on how to maximize what you’re learning. P.S. We’re starting our Women’s Bible study very soon — so excited that fall studies have kicked off again!

  9. Hi Kristy!

    I love verse mapping!! Thank you so much for introducing me to it!

    I started on July 9 (when I first commented) and have enjoyed it so much! It’s a work-in-progress though. I just don’t want to be lost in all the research and complicate it – but let the Spirit guide me.

    I’m going through Philippians and praying for God to open up the scripture to me and its message so I can apply it to my life. Some words that have stood out to me so far in verse mapping are Humility, Love, Mature, Rejoice.

    I’d love to hear what others are doing as well! Bye for now! Keep up the praying and mapping!

    1. Hi Caroline ~ This verse mapping awesomeness has grabbed hold of me! I just love it. If you try, please feel free to come back and share what you’re learning. I want to learn along with you! 😉

  10. Thank you for doing this! It helps to see a “step by step” illustration. (I guess it’s a visual thing!) I’ve tried digging deeper (and love doing it) but I kept getting distracted and spazzing. Hopefully this will help. Now I can’t wait to get started! (Sitting in the Vet’s office, practicing patience.)

  11. Love this! I’ve done a little verse mapping on larger index cards but I love the idea of having it all in a book/journal. Why start from right to left though? Does that mean when you start a journal you start at the back and work your way forward?

    1. I started from right to left on the pages because I thought the right could be where I start with the verse, and the corresponding page could hold notes. I’m not sure beyond that… I may be unorthodox in how I do it? Ha ha! I still work my way from front to back in the journal. It just works for me. 😉

  12. Hey Kristy! Very fascinating and inspiring! I’ve seen you mention on Twitter about verse mapping several times now and I’m very interested. I just didn’t know how to do it until this post. Thank you!! I’ve got my tool gathered and prayed and waiting for God’s revealing in Scripture. I have a hard time digging into Scripture like you mentioned and I think this is a great idea!

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