Why The SOAP Bible Study Isn’t Enough (And What To Do Instead)

UPDATE: The FREE ebook mentioned in this post is no longer available because I’m using the materials in a future project. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience! The details in this blog are still rich enough that you’ll be able to do your own in-depth Bible study. Enjoy!

For those of you who don’t know, the SOAP Bible Study Method is one where you journal “SOAP” — a verse or passage of Scripture, your Observations about it, the Application the verse(s) have to your life, and a Prayer.

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It’s Popular, But It’s Not Perfect

I see that the SOAP method is a very popular topic on Pinterest among Christian bloggers as an easy way to do Bible study. However, without adding some extra steps, there is great potential to have a very shallow Bible study where we take things completely out of context. Have you ever played the game where you flip randomly through the Bible, open it to a random page and put your finger on a verse and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and pretended that verse applied exactly to your life? It’s a fun thing to do with youth groups and it’s an illustration of what happens when we study the Bible without knowing the context of the Scriptures — or “exegesis.” Exegesis is the fancy Bible college term that refers to “what the Scriptures mean for the original people who wrote it and for whom it was written centuries ago.”

Here’s The Problem

The problem with the SOAP method is it leaves out exegesis and focuses only on “hermeneutics” — the fancy Bible college term for “what the Bible means for us here and now.” Even though I use the SOAP method personally, I never do the SOAP study by itself. Because I went to ministry college, I learned to look at the surrounding Scriptures and what the original authors intended to say in their original language when I do the “Observation” part. The problem is, this isn’t necessarily something a person just knows to do when they’re doing this study.

I just realized this recently when reflecting on a Bible study I did with my sister a few years ago. At the time she wasn’t a Christian so I wanted to walk through the book of Romans with her. I gave her the SOAP method as a framework and we agreed to take a chapter each week, pick our own verse from the chapter to study, and discuss our study when we got together.

I thought it was simple enough for a non-Christian, but she usually had only a few things to say, sometimes even misunderstanding what she read. Because I always went more in-depth than just “SOAP” I always went on and on about other supporting research for what we read. It made a boring time for her, but “God’s word doesn’t return void” and “faith comes from hearing the word” so it still impacted her and she’s a Christian today! (Not necessarily because of our study together. Jesus did His thing!)

A New & Improved SOAP Study

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t already know A LOT about the Bible unless they made some major tweaks to the method. So today I have an update to the SOAP method that I’ll call “SOAPx.” It’s the SOAP method with exegesis… Get it? SOAPx. It’s crucial to understand the context of what you’re reading so that you can properly apply it to your life, so here are some other things that I add to my SOAP study:


  • I write the verse(s) with the exact punctuation as written and the reference (book, chapter, verse numbers).


Sometimes I do all or a few of the following, depending on how well I already know the context of what I’ve read.

  • Break down a verse word for word. I write my observations about any words that stood out to me, including words I don’t understand.
  • Compare translations. If I read the verse in NIV (New International Version), for example, I will also read the verse in the King James Version (KJV), The Message (MSG), English Standard Version (ESV), New English Translation (NET), etc. to see the similarities and differences between the translations.
  • Use a concordance, such as *Strongs’ Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, to look up the original Greek or Hebrew of the verse and give me more details about the words I’m reading. I do this because translating Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English doesn’t always give us the most specific meaning and it adds a richness to the study to understand the etymology and culture behind a particular word. My go-to concordance is actually online via Blue Letter Bible. I go to blueletterbible.com or the Blue Letter Bible App, click or press the verse I’m interested in learning more about, and press “Interlinear/Concordance.” Then I click on the Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) word that is most interesting to me and I’m able to learn more than I ever would about the original meaning of the scripture if I just read its English translation. I do this 100% of the times that I study the Bible. Every. Single. Time.

  • Look up the theme, author, and audience of the book and why the book was written. This adds further context to what I read. For example, when you realize that Romans was written to a Gentile audience and Hebrews was written to a Jewish audience, it explains why Romans breaks down theological truths in a philosophical way and Hebrews assumes the reader knows the Old Testament.
  • Find related verses. Every so often you need to jump around the Bible to understand what one verse is saying. The Hebrews example again: refer to the Old Testament to understand Hebrews.
  • Read additional commentary. Reading another Bible scholar’s comments on the Scripture may add some historical knowledge that I don’t know. Oftentimes commentators will explain the Scripture verse by verse — sometimes giving additional details that I never would have known by just reading the Bible.


  • When I think about application I always ask myself how does this passage/verse point to Jesus/the gospel. That is the overall point of the Bible — Jesus is the focus.
  • Then I ask myself how it applies to my life.


  • I journal my response to everything I’ve studied, writing my prayer to God.
  • Sometimes I “pray the Scripture” – inserting my name into it if possible.

Here’s the thing; this process is lengthy. Bible study is not meant to be a quick thing you do when you have a few minutes — it is STUDYING — not cramming. To study the Bible you need to set a side a good amount of time for it.

That said, if you don’t have time for Bible study… that’s okay! We do need to spend time with God daily, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “Bible study.” Read a devotional that includes a short passage or verse of Scripture. *My Utmost For His Highest is my daily read and even though it’s short, it hits me hard every day because it is so gospel-centered!

Pray. Listen to worship music. Give yourself 10 intentional minutes with God daily and when you can expand on that, see if you can turn your time into Bible study. Maybe your ten minutes each day is one Bible study stretched out over a few days and you let one passage unfold as you dig deeper each time.

I made a FREE eBook for you called How to Study the Bible – The Complete Guide for Busy Moms. It dives deep into how to do Bible study and even includes worksheets for the SOAPx study that I outlined above. Click here to subscribe and get the eBook straight to your inbox.

Your turn: What do you usually do for Bible study? ⭐️

23 Replies to “Why The SOAP Bible Study Isn’t Enough (And What To Do Instead)”

  1. Hi Imani, I appreciate your article about improvements to the SOAP Bible Study Method. Your article came up when I was searching on this method. A friend was promoting this method, so I have been investigating it. I have been doing more unstructured Bible study methods that sometimes included some of the modifications you mention, such as reading sentence in context, comparing translations, reading commentaries, and investigating original Hebrew or Greek in Strongs Concordance or Interlinear Bible. For me, I have found it beneficial to ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation to scripture prior to going into commentaries. This helps me more open minded to what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal now in a personal way to me. Greater and greater revelations are forthcoming to advance the Kingdom of God.
    I like the way the SOAP method presses into applications, so we can be doers of the word and not just hearers or readers of the word. The modified method you propose goes even further with a more thorough investigation. However, there are scriptures and times where the Holy Spirit gives me an unction to go deeper and other times when I am encouraged to move on to other scriptures. There is an opportunity cost associated with spending too much time on one thing, which prevents you from doing another. Your improved method offers good suggestions on ways to observe the scripture when the Holy Spirit wants me to go deeper.
    Thank you for your posting and ability to comment on your post.

    1. Bob, I love this comment, thank you for sharing! I think you made great points about allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us through Scripture. Although the method I proposed is more for studying the Bible almost at a textbook level that allows us to understand the background of the text, I am a fan of other methods of Bible-reading such as Lectio Divina that allows me to simply meditate on God’s word and hear what He wants to say directly to me. I am also greatly encouraged whenever I read the Bible in a community of believers and hearing what God is sharing with each of us. Sometimes, even without the extra resources, God speaks to me in a more personal way. Thank you again for bringing this up, this was very important.

  2. This is great and explains what I have been doing so well. I am passing along this information to the other two ladies I’m studying the Bible with.

  3. Of course the SOAP method has shortcomings. All methods do, in some way or another. But, one needs to consider the goal of the person studying the Bible. If we are not preparing a sermon, a class or writing a detailed blog, SOAP gives people an opportunity to look carefully at the scripture, slowing them down to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts. For some, that may be the goal: spending time with God and His Word.

    Devotionals have their place, too. But if the goal is to spend time with God, then interacting with His Word directly and time in prayer cannot be beat. And one should never feel like spending a more condensed time in the Word would be futile. If SOAP gets them in the Word, the Spirit can and still will work.

    1. Linda, I agree with everything you said. In fact, I don’t think Bible study every day is a realistic goal for most people, myself included. Devotionals are great because God’s word will do His work in our lives even if we just take a couple of minutes to reconnect with Him. With this blog post, I wanted to show that if one is going to do the SOAP study, they have to make sure they’re understanding the context of what they’re reading. God bless you, thank you for your comment!

      1. My friend and I use a slightly different SOAP Devotional Method which can be found at: https://imlisteningtogod.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/s-o-a-p-devotional-bible-study-method/. I love that it adds context questions to the Scripture section. We spend a week or two on a chapter and then get together to share what treasures we found and pray together.
        I spent several years doing Precept Studies (by Kay Arthur), so I automatically add the context elements you outlined. You did a fabulous job of explaining their importance and how to use them for those who are unfamiliar with them. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for teaching me something new today. You are so right about the soap method, it’s way too quick to do it’s not really in depth like I want it to be. Hopefully this new method will help me out a lot. Thanks again 😊!

  5. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! SOAP always felt too shallow for me. This is super helpful. I’m excited to use your take on the method to deepen my walk with God through His word! Thanks sis!! God is truly working through you!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Artesha! Praise God, I really appreciate your encouragement, that means a lot. I’m praying God gives you the desires of your heart as you go deeper with Him. Enjoy, sis!

    1. Hi Essie! Unfortunately, it’s no longer available because I’m in the process of updating it. You can follow the steps as they are written or subscribe for my updates. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! 🙏🏽

      1. Hi Felicia! Thank you for asking! I have a free virtual workshop coming up this month (March 2021) that will include the updated e-book. You’re welcome to to sign up here at this link. Would love to have you with us.

    1. Melissa, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! It means a lot coming from you because I see how in depth you go with your Bible-based blogs. I’m so glad you got something out of it! Let me know what you think of the e-book when you have worked through it 😊

  6. I really enjoyed this and think you bring up a great point. I agree that exegesis (I learned a new term lol) is important and can help you grow deeper in the word and in in our relationship with Christ. I have to be honest, I have not been studying for awhile but this post is getting me motivated to get back into the word, thanks so much! I will check out your e-book as well! =)

    1. Heather, thank you so much for taking the time read and comment — it means the world to me! So happy that you enjoyed it! I’m honored that I could share something new with you and motivate you — that’s what we’re here for as sisters in Christ, to motivate each other more and more towards Jesus 🙂 I hope the e-book is helpful to you as you get back into studying. If you do use it, let me know what you think. God bless!

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