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Teaching PNG students to read the Bible with COMA

Bible COMA method PNG

Keith and Marion Birchley disciple university students in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG). In a context where many Christians have little deep understanding of the Scriptures, they are using the COMA method to help students grow in their faith and understanding of God through Bible reading.

When we first came to work with the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF) in 2015, we began Bible studies at the University of Papua New Guinea. The more we got to know the students, and the church culture and education system that they came from, the more we realised that we needed some tools for Bible reading. Most of our students had grown up in the church but did not read the Bible for themselves or understand how it came together as one book. The students were used to a diet of single verses from Old and New Testament books, strung together with no connection to their context or place in Scripture.

We decided to use the COMA method—context, observation, meaning and application. Our first Bible study tool used just one aspect of this method: observation. We created the ASK (ask, study, keywords) bookmark which was all about observing the passage by reading it two or three times and underlining or circling any keywords or ideas, using the acronym as a prompt. Then we move onto asking questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. Afterwards, we spend some time in study, observing connecting words, lists and sections. The observation time naturally leads into some aspects of context and meaning.

After using this method for a while, we then introduced the COMA bookmark during a teaching week giving an overview of the Bible (Biblical Theology 101). This gave us time to demonstrate and explain the method. The students were already becoming familiar with observation and now they were also thinking about context, meaning and application in relation to each other.

The COMA method has given students a tool for reading and understanding the Bible for themselves. Many have expressed appreciation for this. One student at the teaching week said, “I went to church regularly, attended prayer meetings and youth programs. But I really did not know what the Bible is all about until this week.”


Keith and Marion Birchley are only able to teach PNG students how to read the Bible because of the generous donations of faithful supporters. If you would like to see more students grow in their faith and love of God, please consider supporting the Birchleys or another CMS missionary through a one-off donation or regular giving.