If you type “Bullet Journal for Bible Study” (or any combination of those words) into a search engine, you will find a myriad of amazing layouts covering everything from tracking habits to journaling favorite Bible verses. They are beautiful. Some are elaborate, utilizing colors and lettering and washi tape. Most are beyond my artistic skill, but still inspiring. They are, in my mind, the icing on the Bullet Journal cake.
But a can of icing by itself is a little indulgent. The cake it sits on must be delicious too or it’s not much of a dessert. Probably too much of a stretch to say that the cake is where all the nutrients are, but the point remains, the cake is the substance. It’s the meat of the study. Now I’m mixing metaphors so let’s just move on.
The Bullet Journal is an analogue (aka not digital) system designed to slow you down and organize your thoughts. It is customizable for people of all walks of life, in all occupations, for any purpose they can conceive.
“I like to describe the Bullet Journal Method as an empty house. I gave the community this house to fill it with their own lives. That’s the key, to furnish your space with the things that serve you. If the chair is too fancy, you won’t sit in it. If the kitchen is too complicated, you won’t cook in it. If you decorate your home with things based on other people’s lives, you risk feeling like a stranger in your own space. If you’re not careful, your notebook can quickly fill with all sorts of Collections that ultimately don’t add value to your life. It’s no wonder then when it becomes a chore. You’re maintaining someone else's journal, not your own.” --Ryder Carroll, inventor of the Bullet Journal
It's a perfect fit for Bible study and here are a few ways to have your cake and eat it too.
1. Rapid Log as you read.
If you are already familiar with the BUJO method you know that Rapid Logging is how you get thoughts from your head to the page. (If you are not familiar, check out bulletjournal.com and then come back!)
Title a blank page with the name of the Book, Chapter, and verse reference of the passage you’re reading. As you read, verse by verse, jot down everything you think of. This is called Rapid Logging. Jot down questions, things you notice, images that strike you, words you don’t know -- anything. I say “jot”, not write, because the point is to be quick. That’s why we use bullets – short form sentences paired with signifiers to visually organize your notes.
Rapid logging as you read is an incredibly simple practice that instantly increases your focus.
2. Use Signifiers
A few simple signifiers are the first step in organizing the thoughts you have randomly dropped on the page. A signifier is a symbol with a pre-determined meaning that allows you to quickly identify the next steps in your notes.
I use an open triangle to indicate a question or topic I would like to research further. Things that strike me as important get a star. Artistic inspiration, especially if it applies to a project I'm working on, gets a hashtag. Everything else gets a bullet.
That's it. The key is to keep it simple and customized to you so the next step can be even simpler.
3. Migrate Your Notes to Collections
Rapid Logging is note taking in no particular order. COLLECTIONS are where you group like information together and MIGRATION is the bridge between the two.
You can have as many or as few Collections as you need. The key to a truly useful bullet journal is to start small and build as you go.
The first collection you set up is the Index. Number all the pages of your notebook (if they’re not already numbered). The Index is where you keep track of all your other collections.
Some Collections I like are:
Verses to remember
Attributes of God
Part of the Gospel story
Historical, cultural context
Remember, a Collection is simply a group of related information. There is no right or wrong way to organize or categorize.
After you've read through the passage and made all the notes you can think of, Migrate those notes to Collections. Migrate is just a fancy way to say move. Re-write your note on the appropriate Collection page (or pages - maybe it fits in more than one category!). On the original note, draw a little arrow with the page number of the collection you've migrated it to.
Threading is the tool we use to track a study over time, pages, and sources. The Bullet Journal applies to any basic notebook. You set it up one page at a time, as you go. Which means sometimes you run out of room.
For example, I'm rapid logging through Judges at the moment. At the end of each chapter, or sometimes the end of each story, I migrate my notes to various collections. So my reading of the whole book of Judges covers pages 4-8, 10-15, and 17-20 of my journal. At the bottom of page 8, I draw an arrow and the number 10 so I know my notes about Judges picks up on that page.
5. Track Your Progress
Bible study can easily become a tumble down a never-ending rabbit hole. There is always more story to tell, always another angle to consider, or question to research. It's exciting! And Frustrating!
The Bible is a mountain to be mined, a (sometimes painstakingly) slow process.
Setting goals, tracking what you've read, doodles, pretty lettering, all these things make journaling fun. A bullet journal should be enjoyable, something you want to spend your time in.
The Bible is not fast food. It is meditative literature, meant to be read slowly and enjoyed over an entire lifetime.
Stay tuned next week for How Using a Bullet Journal for Bible Study can help you slow down and savor!