READ IT MORE TIMES THAN YOU'VE WATCHED FIGHT CLUB
Do you know why you know the alphabet? Because in kindergarten, the teacher had your entire class stand up every day, singing it to the tune of "twinkle, twinkle, little star" (it's the same tune: if you don't believe me, try whistling both themes out loud). And you know what? After enough repetition, the lesson stuck--hopefully. The same thing goes for The Bible: the best way to learn a book is to read it again, and again, and again, and again, and again... (Get the point?) I think anywhere between 3-5 back-to-back readings is a good number.
OVERVIEW: BE A NERD, BECAUSE SOMEDAY GEEKS WILL RULE THE WORLD
If you're not yet a geek, find some other geeks who can help you; check out a program like E-Sword, and you'll find that you can get a ton of commentaries on The Bible for free. Read through a little bit of what these guys have to say; they have tons of knowledge that you can benefit from. For this stage, I also have a huge shelf of geeky books. If you happen to be a close friend of mine, you can borrow some of what I've got. Bible thumpers unite.
WRITER, DATE, AND AUDIENCE: IT'S JUST LIKE X-MEN ORIGINS
Growing up, Wolverine was always my favorite superhero (possibly because he's Canadian). So when the comics on the origins of Wolverine came out, I read them all right away. And you know what? I actually appreciate that short, furry, bad-tempered Canuck a lot more now than I did before. Knowing his backstory, things just make more sense now. The same thing applies to books of the Bible: getting to know the writer, date, and intended audience of a book -the backstory- is awesome, because it makes everything else a little clearer. Just like an X-Men origin story.
OUTLINE: GO BOLDLY WHERE YOUR YOUTH GROUP HASN'T GONE BEFORE...
Nothing sexy about this step. Just break the book down into its' smaller parts and map it out. I'll include an example at the end. This is really important, though. It helps you to know where you're going as you study through the book.
RECORDING: "DEAR DIARY..."
Actually, I'm joking. Either mark up your Bible as you study along, or write journal entries (or blogs) about what you're learning, or write a poem based on the passage you're reading and have your closest pal act out an interpretive dance (hey, whatever gets you going). Do what you want. I like to mark up my Bible, because I know a few things: One, I will lose my journal but I will always know where my Bible is. Two, my closest pal will not do an interpretive dance for me. Ever. Anyhow, at this stage, record what you find (in whichever method that you prefer), and read some commentaries or the notes in your study Bible, just to get you balanced out. I'd also recommend finding a couple of good Greek or Hebrew tools as well, if you're motivated enough. The best one that I've found is on E-Sword.
The steps are to read a book over and over again, do an overview of what some smart people are saying about that book, find out about the origins of that book, then outline it, and then study it while recording what you've studied. Sound pretty much clear?
A) Paul describes his calling (1:1)
B) God’s promise of eternal life (1:2)
C) The importance of preaching (1:3)
D) Encouragement to Titus (1:4)
2. Portrait of a Preacher (1:5-9)
A) Titus’ job is to ordain preachers (1:5)
B) Preacher blameless in family life (1:6)
C) Preacher blameless in conduct (1:7-8)
D) Knows and obeys sound doctrine (1:9)
3. Crete Really Sucks (1:10-16)
A) There are “many” false teachers (1:10-11)
B) The people need to be corrected (1:12-14)
C) There are false Christians there (1:15-16)
4. Portraits of Christians Who Are… (2:1-10)
A) Older men (2:2)
B) Women (2:3-5)
C) Young men (2:6)
D) Preachers (2:7-8)
E) Employees (2:8-10)
5. The Gospel Has An Effect (2:11-15)
A) It changes our lives (2:11-12)
B) It puts our hope in Jesus (2:13-14)
C) Preach this with authority (2:15)
6. The Gospel and What We Do (3:1-8)
A) Remind them to practice their faith (3:1-2)
B) The Gospel and the Spirit in us (3:3-7)
C) Stress these things (3:8)
7. How to Deal With Division (3:9-11)
A) Avoid useless arguments (3:9)
B) Give divisive people 3 strikes (3:10)
C) Divisive people go to Hell (3:11)
8. Final Remarks (3:12-15)
A) Replacements on the way (3:12)
B) Give help to Zenas & Apollos (3:13-14)
C) Greetings and well-wishes (3:15)