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A Midwifery Model of Bible Study

February 27th, 2009 by Jason · 4 Comments

I just finished Bob Ekblad’s book, Reading the Bible with the Damned, and was inspired by his method of Bible study that he uses when leading groups with inmates, immigrants, and others on the margins of society.  What impresses me is the way he is able to weave together scholarly exegesis, facilitating a space for Scripture to speak into people’s lives rather than just be analyzed for facts, and consistently challenging dominant theologies like moralism and judgmentalism.  I’ve led many a Bible study and have often felt like we’ve merely regurgitated the safe, correct answers and have analyzed the text withour allowing it to analyze us.  I was going to try and cobble together what exactly Ekblad’s method is, but then found that he’s already written a paper on how his Bible study method.  So, instead, I’ll leave you with some quotes, but I would definitely recommend reading his full article.

On how Eckblad envisions himself as a midwife in Bible studies:


In my preaching and teaching I envision my role as that of a facilitator and midwife….  As midwife I assist during the birthing process recognizing that the work is done by the Spirit in intimate communion with people in the depths of their beings. I seek to be present as appropriately as possible—getting out of the way or intervening when necessary. I set up the birthing room as it were, making sure that the interpreting process gets off to the best start with a given group and text…


My objective is that people would find themselves inside the text as met or addressed by YHWH, Jesus, one of the apostles—or whoever mediates the message or saving action in the Biblical story. I see myself as one who pulls people together for a potential encounter: a life-giving meeting between individuals and God that may result in comfort, healing, a change of heart, call. I am an unknowing midwife at best—not knowing what the encounter will birth…



His critique of the pedagogical method of many churches and Bible studies:


Paulo Freire critiques what he calls the “banking method” of communication—which corresponds in many ways with the religious system embodied by the Pharisees in John’s Gospel. According to the banking method, knowledge or information is disseminated to passive recipients in ways that reinforce comfortable and oppressive patters of dependency.


Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits.


They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system.



For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, people cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry people pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other

On subverting the hierarchical method of teaching and leading:
In contrast to the banking method, a truly liberating pedagogy happens best using a dialogical approach. The pedagogue must deliberately subvert the system of dependency. This is done by creating an environment of trust whereby the voices of the “voiceless” are sought after and elevated—a first step in education for a critical consciousness and empowerment…

Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the later strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.


What do you think?  Helpful?  Ever been to a church where not just the Bible study, but the sermon was modeled after this problem-solving model?

Tags: church life · pop culture · prayers · theology

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 peggy // Feb 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Wow,this concept is so right on. I’ve been a Christian midwife for 20 years. If this model of Bible study was understood we would have very different churches and more mature believers. Thanks.

  • 2 Ask the leadership coach » A Midwifery Model of Bible Study // Mar 5, 2009 at 11:25 am

    [...] unknown posted a noteworthy aricle today onHere’s a small snippet [...]

  • 3 Jennifer // Mar 16, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Ekblad is teaching my preaching class at Mars Hill Grad School….yes, you can be jealous :-)

  • 4 plan b: a different type of midwifery « Sign on the Window // Apr 3, 2009 at 6:02 am

    [...] a different type of midwifery Posted on April 3, 2009 by signonthewindow I enjoyed reading Jason’s post about the midwifery model of leading Bible study. In my experience, midwifery is a great metaphor [...]