I'm so glad you asked! 😉
Most of us have never been taught how to "study" the Bible. We read it and get what we can out of it. We listen to sermons or podcasts and take furious notes. We join Bible Studies and watch videos that include teachings, but we have never been taught how to study the Bible for ourselves.
The trick to independent Bible study is to take it slow.
Gather a few tools that will help.
A pen and highlighter
A journal or notebook
Your phone or tablet.
Step One: PRAY! Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study God's word.
Start by turning to a verse or chapter that you would like to study. "How do I figure out what to study?" A great place to start is by taking notes from a sermon. Most likely your pastor will reference multiple verses during the sermon. Write them down and use them to dig in a bit deeper during the week. Or choose a book of the Bible to work through. (Start with a short one like James.)
Read the verse, then go back and read the whole chapter. Maybe read it more than once.
Does anything stand out to you? - Underline or circle key words or phrases.
It is important to gain context when reading the Bible. It's too easy to make the Bible say whatever we want it to if we take things out of context. Instead, think about who wrote it, who it was written to, when was it written and what was the state of things during that time. You will find these clues in the introduction to the book you are reading and it will aid in your understanding. If you have a Study Bible, read the notes down below the passage. You will gain a LOT of extra information from this section.
Next, choose one verse that stands out to you and write it down.
After you have written the verse, make some observations about it. Ask yourself "What is God saying through this verse or passage?" Take a few notes. You're looking for the "right there" stuff. Sometimes I write the facts - Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Sometimes I write key words or phrases I see repeated. This is where you can geek out a little bit if you enjoy that kind of stuff. (I do!) Channel your inner "word nerd" and do a Greek or Hebrew word study. (More on that later.) Hint: Use an app like Blue Letter Bible or BibleHub to do a bit more study. (I LOVE commentaries too! - You can access those in the apps.) You can also write things that you learned from the note section in your Bible.
The next part is the fun part! "How does this verse apply to me?"
Don't think too deeply. Just listen to your heart - That is God speaking to you - And write down what you are thinking! Most often, it will be a word for you, but sometimes God might reveal to you something you should share with someone else! I encourage you to write it down and be obedient.
Finally - PRAY again! Ask the Lord to help you integrate your faith with your life! I love to pray God's words back to him. Mostly, I just want what I have spent time reading and studying to be applied to my life and I ask God to help me with that.
Bible study doesn't have to be long or scary! Any time you spend getting to know the heart of God through His Word is beneficial and life changing! Give it a try!