Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Every day (or for our NCYM middle school brothers..every once in a while..) we use soap. It keeps our bodies clean, it helps us smell good (fellas take note), it even kills viruses. How much more then, might we need "soap" for our souls? For Catholics, the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are usually the ongoing "cleansers." But what about now when our participation in the Sacraments is limited? I believe intimate time with the Word of God can be a source of spiritual growth in this season. So I'd like to introduce you all to a form of scripture study that some of our NCYM students are already using. If you've ever done Lectio Divina, you'll find many commonalities here. I offer SOAP as a simple version of Lectio. And obviously.. everything in Youth Ministry requires a relatable acronym.
S.O.A.P. Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. Simple, repeatable, and an opportunity to dive deep into the 73 love letters we call books of the Bible. Most simply put, SOAP begins with a broad perspective and then narrows our focus to the personal and intimate communication our Lord desires to have with us. Through my own experience, SOAP has added deep, fulfilling, and sweet moments with the Lord to my journey of faith.
So how does it work??
You'll need a Bible (hopefully one you can write in), a journal, and a pen. Begin by choosing a book of the Bible to work through. If you've never tried Lectio or anything like SOAP, I suggest starting with the Gospels or New Testament Letters. If choosing the Old Testament, then the Psalms or a major prophet like Isaiah/Jeremiah. Another option is to follow along with the Daily Readings of the Mass. Pick the whole chapter from the Gospel or the Second Reading of the next Sunday and start there.
Pray! Ask the Holy Spirit to speak personally to you. Our Blessed Mother, spouse of the Holy Ghost, isn't a bad person to call upon either ;)
Read over the chapter once at a normal reading pace. If you get to a verse, phrase, or word that stands out to you, pause and "sit with it" for a few moments. Dwell on that specific part of the chapter and allow God to speak to your heart. Jot down any notes in your journal that you feel God is speaking to you through that verse. Make sure to underline or mark the verse/phrase/word. If you have a nice family Bible that you don't want to mark up, you can write everything in your journal.
Reread the chapter if you need to at a slower pace and pay attention to everything surrounding the original verse/phrase/word you chose. If nothing stood out the first time through, keep rereading until something grabs your attention.
After you've finished reading - In your journal, write the letters S-O-A-P down the left side leaving 5 or 6 lines in between each letter.
S - Scripture: Is there a verse, a phrase, even a word, that stands out most to you? Copy what stood out to you word for word into your journal and write down the reference (this might naturally increase memorization).
O - Observation: Take a 30,000 foot view of what stood out to you. Ask questions, comment on what the verse might have meant for readers in that time from that place. What is going on in the preceding and following verses? Write down your general ideas on the verse.
A - Application: Narrow your focus to your own life. How does this verse change the way you will live today? Are you convicted of something you weren't before? Inspired to do something new? Motivated in a new way? This section will often blend with your prayer.
P - Prayer: What is God personally saying to you through this verse and what do you want to say back to Him? Feel free to write in a personal way, like you are speaking to your closest friend. Thank God for communicating with you in such an intimate way.
That's it! 20 minutes or so and you've sought out the God of the universe who promises He will show up when sought. See Jeremiah 29:13 and Matthew 7:7.
Now, for NCYM students who have said yes to a virtual bible study group, we use an hour long SOAP process.
10 min - Welcome any newcomers, weekly check-in, prayer, announce the chapter(s) to be read for the day
20 min - Silently read the section of scripture at hand, underlining, highlighting, making notes in the margin.. yes! it is okay to write in your bible - as long as it is yours of course. Complete the S.O.A.P. method on your own (see above).
25 min - Group discussion. If a youth leader is present, they can lead the discussion by asking each youth to share either their SOAP responses or any part that was especially meaningful to them. The leader can then ask follow up questions to each youth's response or ask general questions regarding the reading. If no leader is present, each youth should share their SOAP and discuss especially how the Holy Spirit spoke to them through the scripture.
5 min - Wrap up and pray for the Word of God to remain the focus of your hearts the rest of the day.
Below you will see an example of SOAP!
Current NCYM students who participate in a virtual bible study group have said the following:
"You get different perspectives from around around the table, hearing from your peers, each person often chooses a different verse"
"Because everyone shares their insights, you get a more holistic view of scripture."
"With a group, you have the ability to ask questions about scripture."
If you are an NCYM student not yet in a virtual bible study group, please reach out to me and we will get you connected! Email me at email@example.com
I pray this scripture study method will help you to know God in a more intimate way.