What's the Big Deal about "Inductive"?

Inductive_Bible_StudyAt the heart of Q Place—with a 53-year history of helping people come to know Jesus through the Bible—is the inductive learning approach.

What does inductive mean?

When applied to Bible study or a discussion of spiritual issues, the inductive approach means that you start with a whole book, paragraph, or complete unit of thought and ask questions that help you explore, make discoveries, and process the information in context of the whole. The questions could be prepared by someone else, but they will help you notice, evaluate, and apply rather than prompt a “right” answer.

In contrast, a deductive approach to learning starts with an assertion, and then seeks to prove it. A lawyer uses the deductive approach when defending his client in court, building a case with evidence to support his conclusion.

We use the inductive approach when we look up and see the sky clouding over, hear thunder in the distance, and feel drops of rain. We pull these facts together, conclude a storm is coming, and on that basis make a response. We put up an umbrella, run for shelter, or decide to get wet.

Why the inductive method is so important.

An inductive approach engages people as active participants in learning rather than passive receivers of information. We are committed to this approach because we have found that people really learn best when they discover truth for themselves.

When church leaders latch on to this, they will see people taking responsibility for their own spiritual growth—learning more and making more enduring life changes. The key is to empower their people to become facilitators or guides, rather than instructors or knowledge dispensers. 

This inductive approach to learning is a way for ordinary Christians to make new disciples without being experts on theology and the Bible. And people outside the church will be more receptive to Christians who meet them where they are spiritually.

Here's what you can expect.

Vibrant discussions. Participants are engaged as they explore a topic together. A deductive approach tends to have the opposite effect; a few “experts” talk a lot and everyone else listens.

Deeper learning. Studies have shown that people learn more and retain a deeper understanding of what they learn as they interact with it in a variety of ways.

Appeal for skeptics and seekers. When someone has doubts or major questions about the subject matter, a deductive approach seems to offer only two options: accept the teaching or reject it. An inductive approach provides built-in opportunities to identify, clarify, explore, and evaluate beliefs. As a result, it’s a more effective approach to help people engage and wrestle with crucial issues.

Integrity in approaching Scripture. An inductive approach treats Scripture with integrity. It requires careful reading, examination, exploration of the context, and discovery of the original author’s purpose. A model of approaching Scripture inductively safeguards against careless or destructive teaching.

The surprising benefit of inductive study.

One more surprising benefit of exploring a topic inductively, is that a person can also become willing to engage with related content that is presented deductively—and to be a better deductive learner. The inductive experience prepares a person to be a more active listener, evaluating and interacting with the information, rather than passively hearing and absorbing parts of it.

And in itself, there is still a valuable place for the deductive approach. Proclamation of the gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit through preaching God's Word, is a powerful tool in the hands of a gifted church leader. But in fulfilling the Great Commission, could it be simpler, more doable, and more fruitful to equip your church body to be great facilitators rather than to expect them all to be gifted preachers and teachers?

This is what Q Place does. We empower Christians to engage in meaningful conversations about God with people who believe differently. How? Even our empowering involves modeling the inductive method. The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, How to Start a Q Place, and all of our Bible Discussion Guide resources are written help people learn to see for themselves as they explore together. 

“There isn’t another book in the world that’s been more misquoted, regardless of context or purpose or reference, than the Bible. That’s one reason inductive principles are so important.”
– Catherine Schell, co-founder of Neighborhood Bible Studies, now Q Place