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7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults: Using Our Multiple Intelligences to Build Faith

7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults: Using Our Multiple Intelligences to Build Faith

by Barbara Bruce

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This book shows teachers of adults how to use styles of learning to enhance the student's experience and enrich their own teaching. A chapter is devoted to each of the seven styles: verbal, independent, social, visual, physical, musical and logical. Each chapter includes: suggestions for blending the style into lessons, questions to help teachers determine their


This book shows teachers of adults how to use styles of learning to enhance the student's experience and enrich their own teaching. A chapter is devoted to each of the seven styles: verbal, independent, social, visual, physical, musical and logical. Each chapter includes: suggestions for blending the style into lessons, questions to help teachers determine their own preferences, a lesson focusing on the learning style, and a prayer demonstrating the style. A bibliography, appendices and a self-discovery sheet are included. Appropriate for group or individual study and teacher training.

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7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults

Using Our Multiple Intelligences to Build Faith

By Barbara A. Bruce

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2000 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-3405-2


Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence


God spoke the world into being with the words, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3). The Christian world knows God's Word through Jesus the Christ. Words, both spoken and written, have shaped and formed Christians for centuries.

The Bible as we know it began in the telling of stories around campfires. The oral tradition insured that stories of God's greatness and of the faith of God's people were passed on from generation to generation. All this took place long before there was a written word. These stories, told around campfires, sung in the psalms, and later recited in the homes of people who could not read, kept God's message alive. The words were so powerful they filled generations of illiterate but faithful people with hope.

As language developed in the written form, stories of faith were recorded to insure their preservation. Monks painstakingly copied the Bible by hand until Gutenberg's invention of the printing press made the Bible available to more people. Today the Bible and other books relating to faith help people all over the world read and know God's word.

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence incorporates our ability to use the spoken and written word to communicate. By the use of speaking and listening, reading and writing, we explore, expand, and express our deepest thoughts and emotions. We can do this in literally hundreds of ways. For many this is the most used intelligence.


Connie is editor of her church's newsletter. She expresses herself well and thinks in words. She has a love of language and enjoys reading, writing, and playing with words. Connie is a good listener and often can find a story within a story to interest the congregation. She is an avid attender of the adult class and often does research beyond class time.

Careers that favor the Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence include authors, editors, poets, journalists, and talk show hosts.


Personal storytelling makes connections between past and current information. This connection helps imprint learning.

Beginning your class by discussing the last lesson helps imprint the meaning and make connections from week to week.

Ending your class by revisiting the focus of the lesson in a variety of ways helps imprint learning.

Practicing positive affirmations enhances the learning environment.

Using discussion, debate, and questions stimulates the brain to think deeper and richer.

Asking how and why questions draws out patterns that expose the limitations of thinking.

Using semantic memory by incorporating word association, similarities, and differences imprints learning.

Using acrostics helps form patterns for recall.


An environment conducive to the Verbal/Linguistic learner incorporates posted information, such as an agenda for the day's activities, ground rules for classroom behavior, a glossary of terms to be used or that have been used in previous lessons. This environment should be rich with written materials such as Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and other resource books. Magazines and newspapers dealing with timely issues that support your lessons are invaluable resources for this kind of learner.


Use the following words to engage your Verbal/Linguistic learners:

answer debate elaborate give examples paraphrase recall
argue define embellish interpret present restate
convince discuss explain interview read summarize

STIMULATE the Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence by using these techniques in your lesson:

* Invite your students to share a personal anecdote with a partner relating to content;

* Read or recite a poem or story that leads into the content;

* Invite students to "tell me all you know about ..." (the content);

* Use a cartoon or comic strip related to your lesson;

* Record or ask questions that will be covered in the content.

INCORPORATE the Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence by teaching with several of these techniques:

* Read a specific Scripture verse in several different versions or translations. Compare and contrast what the writers are attempting to communicate by their choice of words;

* Use Bible dictionaries or commentaries as you study a specific Scripture passage to get a deeper understanding of the meaning of words, the cultural influences, and the traditions that undergird that passage;

* Agree to an open discussion of thoughts, reactions, feelings, insights about Scripture passages;

* Debate an issue in a formal or informal way;

* Share how a particular Scripture passage has meaning in your life;

* Study the Scripture for the sermon. Make your own discoveries and explore what the Scripture means to you to bring a broader understanding to the message each Sunday;

* Read books that offer insights and challenge understandings of Scripture;

* Write reactions to your Scripture study in the form of

poems (see page 105 for sample formats)

journal entries of a particular character in your study

editorials or letters to the editor about your study

letters to or from a major character in your study

reports on various aspects of your lesson

* Tell "round robin" scriptural stories—one person begins with a few sentences, each succeeding

* person continues the story from where the last person left off;

* Record your definitions of faith (remind your learners there are no right or wrong answers);

* Keep a journal of miracles—share them periodically;

* Use the "jigsaw" technique—each person/small group studies part of the lesson and shares the part with the total group;

* Use "T Charts" (see page 33 for example);

* Brainstorm ideas (see "Rules for Brainstorming," page 32);

* Use a concordance—find as many scriptural references as you can for a key word in your lesson;

* Open your Bible at random. Close your eyes and point to a place on the page. Read the scriptural passage. Discover what it is saying to you today;

* Select a Scripture passage and read it each day for a week. Reflect on the message you receive each day;

* List Top Ten Reasons for ...;

* Read a scriptural passage. Go back and read it again, asking what participants see, hear, and feel as the words are read;

* Create a journal to record evidence of: happiness, sadness, excitement, new life, and so on;

* Read the phrase, "Christ the Lord is risen today" six times, each time emphasizing a different word to find the nuance in the phrase (CHRIST the Lord is risen today; Christ THE Lord is risen today; Christ the LORD is risen today; and so on);

* Create a letter that Paul may have written to your church if he had visited last week;

* Create a Jerusalem Times complete with: editorials, headlines, sports events, advertisements, weather reports, political cartoons for a unit you are studying (for example, Sarah's giving birth to Isaac, a part of the Joseph story, Christ's entry into Jerusalem, or Paul's encounter on the road to Damascus).

TRANSFER the Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence beyond your classroom by incorporating some of these suggestions:

As you discover students who prefer the Verbal/Linguistic approach to learning, you might

* involve them in doing research in other source materials;

* ask them to provide the origins of words, or ask them to lead a discussion on why one word was chosen over another in translating a biblical text;

* invite them to write a synopsis or commentary on the lesson to share with others in your class.

As you move beyond your classroom setting, you might encourage these students' participation in any of the following activities that will bring richness to their Verbal/Linguistic approach to knowing God.

Bible Study

DISCIPLE Bible Study was introduced in 1987. It is a thirty-four-week intensive overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Lives have been changed because of this commitment to study Scripture together. Participants covenant to read assigned Scripture during the week, then come together to explore their learnings. Scholars provide a video segment on the topic. Participants pray and study together as the Scripture comes alive in their faith community.

Bible study is a powerful way to learn more about our relationship with God. The Bible is our book. If we want to be faithful to it, we must find ways to study the Bible and to make discoveries about what it says to us in our lives. The Bible is a living document. Only through studying the message can we discern its meaning for us.

Check out the many and varied curriculum guides for studying the Bible. Some are short-term studies; others are longer in duration—everything from basic introductory Bible study through intensive and probing study. The important thing is to read, write, speak, and listen as you study Scripture.

Scribes who painstakingly created the first written scrolls recorded words in their dialect and understanding of the language. Bible scholars have worked and continue to work at determining the most accurate accounts of the words that were used to record our story. The focus on one word may take months of research to try to present its meaning as true to its original intent as possible. People who favor Verbal/Linguistic intelligence love to find out the meanings and derivations of words. They enjoy knowing how translations came to be. They will look up the many and varied aspects of words and how their usage can change the meaning or understanding of a scriptural passage.

Preaching the Word

Regular attendance at corporate worship to hear God's Word proclaimed for us is another powerful Verbal/Linguistic way to come to know God. Preachers and speakers spend countless hours researching and preparing to perform the awesome task of interpreting God's Word to us each week.

As the Word is presented, we need to be active participants, rather than passive listeners. We need to make the connections of Scripture to our life and our world. We need to take the words with us and to think about them as we go about our tasks of life. We can meet with others who share our love for learning through words and do a feedback session on the sermon material or talk about the Scripture for the following Sunday's sermon.


When we share our faith with others, we get to speak of God in our lives. We get to use the Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence by making the connections and by describing our relationship with our Creator. Each time we share our faith, it becomes stronger for us. In the telling, we relive the experience and make it more foundational in our faith development.


This intelligence is how we pray most often. We either read a responsive prayer, read or speak the Lord's Prayer, listen to a pastoral prayer, or pray in our hearts.

In addition to these familiar ways of praying through the Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence, you might suggest these activities:

* Keep a prayer journal—where prayers and their answers are recorded daily;

* Practice a Breath Prayer—(see page 109);

* Encourage group prayer in the form of a litany with participants providing the prayer requests and the total class responding;

* Invite a "graffiti prayer" by having newsprint and markers available for participants to write their prayer requests or thanks.


* How comfortable are you with this intelligence?

* Record thoughts/feelings about the intelligence and its possibilities for your class.

* List five specific ways you might incorporate this intelligence into your teaching.






* How comfortable is your group with this intelligence?



Scripture: Psalm 23

Lesson Focus: God offers us safety and security.

Primary Intelligence: Verbal/Linguistic

Supporting Intelligences: Musical/Rhythmic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal

The Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence combines with the Musical/ Rhythmic Intelligence as students are stimulated by listening to pastoral music that creates a mood and atmosphere for serenity. Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence flourishes as students read, listen, write, and speak.

Materials Needed: Cassette/CD tape and player, newsprint/markers or chalkboard/chalk, several translations of the Bible including the King James Version, paper and pencils for each student, several hymnals

Stimulating: Have a tape of pastoral music playing softly. Write the words "Safe and Secure" on newsprint or a chalkboard. As students enter, invite them to create a graffiti wall by writing words that come to mind when they think of "Safe and Secure." When all students have written a word or words, ask one student to read aloud the words that have been recorded. Allow a minute of silence for centering on these thoughts. (10 minutes)

Incorporating: Have several different translations of the Bible on hand. Make sure to include the King James Version. Invite students to locate Psalm 23 and to read it silently. Explain that this is the most beloved and well known of all the psalms. Share briefly any personal experiences with this psalm and invite students to share their experiences with it. (10 minutes)

Invite students to read this psalm aloud from at least three translations, beginning with the King James Version. You might include New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Good News (TEV), or Contemporary English Version (CEV), pausing between readings.

Invite discussion with the group about which version they like most and least. Assure them there are no right or wrong answers.

Form four small groups; OR if some students prefer to work alone, provide that option.

Randomly assign one of these options to the groups or individuals:

1. Rewrite the psalm in a present situation (busy parent, church setting, office, shopping mall);

2. Rewrite the psalm in the negative;

3. Rewrite the psalm to a familiar hymn tune;

4. Rewrite the psalm in a form of poetry. (20 minutes)

Ask for a spokesperson from each group to share its creation with the total group. (75 minutes)

Transferring: Invite your adult students to meditate on this psalm for the week and to add their thoughts in poetry or prose to a journal.

Close by praying the psalm together


Scripture: Acts 2:14

Lesson Focus: God wants Christians to live in community.

Primary Intelligence: Verbal/Linguistic

Supporting Intelligences: Logical/Mathematical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal

Materials Needed: A Bible for each student, newsprint/markers or chalkboard/chalk, three copies of the "Open and Closed Questions" chart (page 33)

Stimulating: As students enter, invite them to find a partner and to recall the best speech they have ever heard. Briefly share why the speech was so memorable. (5 minutes)

Record on newsprint or chalkboard students' answers to "What made the speech memorable?" (5 minutes)

Incorporating: Invite two persons to read aloud Acts 2:14-36—one to be a narrator and read the introductory phrases, another to become "Peter" and read Peter's words. Invite students to revisit the list they compiled of "What made the speech memorable?" and to compare Peter's speech to their criteria. (10 minutes)

Using the concept of "Open and Closed Questions" (page 33), form three equal groups. Ask each group to record as many "Open and Closed" questions as they can think of about Peter's speech. (10 minutes)

Invite the narrator and "Peter" to complete the reading of the text, Acts 2:37-42. Return to the "Open and Closed" questions, and ask students which ones were answered and which still need answers. (10 minutes)

Ask class members to read Acts 2:43-47 individually. In their small groups invite discussion as to how their faith community is similar to or different from the community described. Ask how they might go about making it more like this original community of believers. (15 minutes)

Transferring: Invite each student to create a list of ways for your church community to become more like the first Christian community, to begin steps to act on the list, and to report to the class.

Close with a prayer asking for God's help in becoming more like this first Christian community.


Excerpted from 7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults by Barbara A. Bruce. Copyright © 2000 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Barbara Bruce has worked as a Christian educator for nearly twenty years. She is the owner of “Process: CREATIVITY,” a consulting firm offering workshops in creative and critical thinking. She is the author of Teaching Children Bible Basics, 7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Children, Standing Up Against the Odds, Start Here; Teaching and Learning With Adults, 7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults, and Our Spiritual Brain.  Her most recent publication is Mental Aerobics: 75 Ways to Keep Your Brain Fit.

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