Psalm 1 tells us that when we delight ourselves in God’s word, we become like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields it’s fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.” A great way to grow in your delight in the Word is to immerse yourself in it by reading it cover to cover in a year. But, it’s a big book, and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start or where to go next. That’s where Bible reading plans can be helpful.
There’s always the option to just start on page one, read as much as you can each day, and keep going until you finish. Too many valiant attempts like that have fizzled out in February somewhere around Leviticus 15, often because this strategy makes it hard to pace yourself, and it doesn’t allow you to vary your diet of genres within the Bible.
Below are some plans I have found helpful as well as some other tools that have helped me and others succeed in this challenge.
PICK A PLAN
The first time I ever completed a Bible in a Year plan, it was using this one. Before that, I had tried many times but always quit after feeling too far behind. This plan gave me the wiggle room to miss a few days and not get behind. Plus, it gives you Old Testament and New Testament passages every day with a few Psalms each week to keep you from getting bogged down in any one place.
If reading the whole Bible this year feels intimidating, then try out this plan that just helps you read the whole New Testament in a year. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament. That’s exactly five chapters a week.
The M’Cheyne reading plan is the gold standard – it’s a tried and true plan created in 1842. It has you read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once. It’s an everyday reading plan which sets you up to create a discipline of daily Bible reading.
PICK THE RIGHT TOOLS
Track what you’re reading. I always print out my reading plan and stick it in my Bible for the year. It’s old school but there’s something about the tactile piece of paper that helps. Of course, there are great digital tools as well. The YouVersion Bible App can do a great job tracking what you’ve read, days you’ve read, and what comes next.
Along with my reading plan printout, I always use this colorful chart that has a box for every chapter in the Bible. It is super satisfying to see all the boxes fill up with little X’s as the year goes on. It’s especially helpful to see what ground you’ve covered when using a plan that skips around.
Modern Bibles are super helpful for studying the Bible. Headings, cross-references, and commentaries help us understand our Bible better and see how it all fits together, but they can also be distracting when the goal is to read more broadly. They trick your brain into thinking you’ve read a lot and can stop when really you should keep going if you want to stay on pace. A Reader’s Bible can help clear those distractions and help you build the stamina to read four or five chapters in a single sitting. I’ve used both this ESV and CSB version.
PICK A PARTNER
The best plans often die because we try to do this alone. Ask some friends to take on this challenge with you. It could be your village, your huddle, some folks from church, or even friends and family back home. In 2019, my dad, who has been a Christian for 45 years, read through the whole Bible in a year for the first time. He told me that the things that helped the most were picking the right plan (5-Day plan) and having a group text between himself, my mom, and another couple. They encouraged one another to keep going or catch up and discussed questions that came up along the way. Who can you ask?
No matter when you decide to start your plan, whether January 1st or October 17th, this is a worthwhile endeavor. You won’t be perfect, but pushing through will reap huge spiritual growth.