Are One Year Bible Plans a Good Choice? My Opinion is Changing…

My Opinion on One Year Bible Plans is Changing…

If you follow the Gamerfaith YouTube channel closely you may have noticed that I often mention my YouVersion Bible plan. I love the YouVersion app, and I love the ability to sign up for organized Bible/devotional plans. I tend to sign up for several short “themed” plans that I work through alongside an ongoing “One Year Bible” plan. My one year Bible plan gives me some New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs to read each day. I’m not very strict about the “One Year” portion of the plan (I’m not trying to speed-run the Bible, I’m trying to grow), I mostly just use the plan to organize my sections of reading.

For the majority of my time using this plan I have assumed that any organized reading plan that goes through the entire Bible must be a great idea. As the new year has now begun; however, I have taken some time to meditate on how my reading has been going.

I’m not here to suggest that one year Bible plans are all bad, but are they always the best choice?

The Good About One Year Bible Plans

There are a lot of good things about one year Bible plans. For starters:

  • They are organized
  • They are easy to keep track of
  • If they’re on your phone, they’re always with you
  • They often include audio formats
  • It helps you to explore different parts of the Bible
  • Going through the whole Bible can help you to see the “Big Picture”
  • Push notifications can remind you to read at certain times

For these reasons I think that one year Bible plans can be a good choice for a lot of people. I expect to finish my plan, and I truly believe that I have grown in my understanding of the Bible from using it.

The (Potentially) Bad About One Year Bible Plans

In this next section I am going to outline a few of the ‘hiccups’ that I have encountered with my own one year Bible plan. It is very likely that you won’t have these same struggles. I’m not suggesting that nobody should ever use a one year Bible plan, but that it is worthwhile to think about your options first.

Note: I do recommend reading the whole Bible at some point, but restricting yourself to a specific pre-made plan/time-frame may not be the best option for everyone. I also recommend studying the New Testament first. The points below outline some of the reasons why I feel this way.

Here are some potential downsides to using one year Bible plans:

1. It can make reading the Bible feel rigid

There are many different types of texts within the Bible. You can find timeless life lessons, loving encouragement, wise proverbs, historical background information, etc. All of these texts have a purpose. With that being said, different people need different things at different times. This is part of what makes the Bible’s text diversity so beautiful.

When you commit to reading a specific plan, there is a good chance that you will find yourself reading a type of text that may not match your current needs. For example, I frequently needed the lessons taught by Jesus in the Gospel books, but my reading was often centered around historical Old Testament books.

For the record, I’m not saying that those Old Testament books are not of value. They are there for a reason, and they are necessary for showing the full picture of who Jesus was (and why we need Him). With that being said, following a strict plan might set you up for reading a text that is not currently what your heart needs the most.

2. It can turn Bible reading into a “to-do” list

Reading the Bible should go hand-in-hand with building your relationship with God. When using my one year Bible plan there were days when I felt like I was just checking things off a list. For example, I would spend most of my reading time in Leviticus. Since it was on my list, I had to get through it.

To put it another way, it sometimes reminded me of the achievement system that XBox uses. I felt that I was doing something out of obligation so that I could check something off of a list. I wasn’t reading for the intrinsic value, I was reading so that I could finish my list. It was fueled by legalistic obligation, and not by a desire for growth.

God looks at our hearts. If our hearts aren’t growing from our Bible reading, does our Bible reading really matter? We all have different needs, and we need to be reading our Bibles in a balanced way that helps meet our specific growth needs.

3. It is very Old Testament heavy

This came up a few times in the sections above, so I won’t linger here. The Old Testament is longer that the New Testament. The Old Testament covers a TON of history, so it makes sense that it needs to be long. One year Bible plans tend to split up the Bible into 365 pieces (one piece for each day of the year). Since the Old Testament is longer, each of those 365 pieces is made of mostly Old Testament readings.

To be extra clear, the Old Testament is extremely important and valuable. With that being said, I personally believe that one of the Old Testament’s most important elements is the fact that it points to Jesus. The Old Testament adds weight and context to what Jesus does in the New Testament.

I personally benefit more from a Bible plan that is centered around the teachings found in the New Testament. The Gospel books and the Epistles (the books that are letters) help to sharpen me for my daily objectives as a Christian. I think that this is probably the case for many believers, which is why I suggest anchoring the majority of your reading time in the New Testament.

4. You finish the Gospels early

There are four books in the Bible that record the story of Jesus’ birth, mission, journey on earth, crucifixion, etc. Those are the Gospel books. Those four books are the first four books of the New Testament. For this reason, the one year Bible plan that I used put all four of these Gospels in a row. This means that, if I followed the plan exactly, for the first 153 days of my Bible plan the only New Testament reading that I would be doing was reading the Gospel books. After I completed those 153 days I would go another 212 days without reading the Gospel books at all.

For me personally, this is not a healthy balance. It is more beneficial for me to move back and forth between reading Gospels and Epistles on a more frequent basis.

5. It may encourage you to stop reading the Bible

This last one may not be true for all people. For me, there were days when I did not feel like reading the sections which were assigned in my one year Bible plan. For example, Leviticus is long and challenging to read. Parts of it feel very repetitive. Many days I felt like the majority of my reading was spent in Leviticus, while barely any of my reading was spent in the New Testament. I knew in the back of my head that I had to read 20 minutes of Leviticus in order to read a few minutes in the New Testament. Sometimes this made it hard to find motivation to read the Bible at all.

In addition to this, one year Bible plans involve reading a lot of material. So much material, in fact, that you are likely to fall way behind. Many people will start a plan, fall several weeks behind, feel like a failure, and then stop reading the Bible entirely. If you want to hear more about this, watch this video from “That Christian Vlogger”.

Should I Use a One Year Bible Plan?

The answer to this question depends on your specific situation. Here are a few questions that I would personally suggest considering:

  • Have you already read through the New Testament multiple times?
  • Do you find it easy to motivate yourself to read the Bible each day?
  • Do you feel at least somewhat comfortable with your understanding of what your mission as a Christian is?
  • Have the teachings and the sacrifice of Jesus impacted who you are and how you live your life?
  • Are you willing to be flexible with your reading as needed (even if it deviates from completing the plan on time or in order)?
  • After years of exploring the New Testament, do you feel you are ready to learn more about the history, culture, and context that frames the New Testament?

Did you answer no to most of the questions above? If so, I would definitely suggest spending some time studying the New Testament in depth before moving on to a one year Bible plan.

Did you answer yes to most (or maybe even all) of the questions above? If so, then I would say that it is reasonable for you to consider using a one year Bible plan. With that being said, I strongly urge you to be flexible with that plan. Remember, you should always be growing in your relationship with God. This might mean that at times you need to take a break from the one year plan in order to focus on reading a different part of the Bible.

Closing Thoughts

As always, these are my own thoughts and opinions. Some of the challenges that I faced might be completely different from your own. Some of my perspectives, thoughts, and opinions are not perfect. In the same way, my current needs are different from yours.

Remember, growth is the goal here. If you aren’t learning and transforming from the scripture, I would suggest adjusting the reading plan you are following. Some people may grow greatly from certain one year plans. In fact, John Piper from Desiring God loves his one year plan. Click here to find out what plan he uses, and why he loves it. Consistent, God glorifying, growth centered Bible reading is the aim. If your plan meets those criteria, you should probably stick to it.

Hopefully this article helped you to think about some things you may not have previously considered. Be sure to pray about your own Bible reading, and be sure to read your Bible often.

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Photo Source:

Calendar – Adreanna Moya Photography

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