Guidelines for Teaching the Bible

Theological Content
Style of Content
Presenting the Lesson
Your Mindset When Teaching
Workshop Presentation

Theological Content

Our aim at Jesus Club is to teach the good news about Jesus Christ so our Members can have an everlasting relationship with God. While each lesson focuses on a particular event, person or idea in the Bible, we want our Members to see how these are all connected to this central message - the good news or "Gospel". It is through knowing and responding to this central message that we can have a relationship with God.

In most of our Bible teaching, we take a biblical theology approach - that is, we connect our lessons to the overall story of the Bible. The overall story being: that from the beginning God had a plan to create a world and a people for Himself. Sadly, the people God made ignored Him and ruined their friendship with Him. Because God still loved them, He sent His Son Jesus to die and be raised to life. It is through this one amazing act that people can be forgiven and friends with God again. After Jesus was raised to life, he was taken to heaven, where he is now. Any day now Jesus will return to earth to make everything perfect and to live with forgiven people forever. Before that day comes, people must hear about Jesus so they can receive this gift of being God's friends. Read this simple explanation of Biblical Theology from the website.

Below is the Gospel presented in language used at Jesus Club. 

Here are some ideas for connecting the lesson to the bigger story using the example of the creation of the world:

• 1) Emphasise God’s thinking / purpose behind creating the world. For example:

In the beginning God wanted to make a world full of friends for Himself.

In the beginning God wanted to make a world for His Son, Jesus.

• 2) At the end of the lesson, have a take-home message for a Member to read out. The take-home message could say:

God made the world. He made day and night. This was all part of God’s big plan to make a world for his Son Jesus.

You could then connect this to what Members already know about Jesus, that he died for our sins and was raised as King of the world.

• 3) In the Buddy Groups, you could say:

The Bible is all about how much God and Jesus love us. What amazing thing did God do to show His love for us?

Answer: Sent his son Jesus to die for our sins and be raised to life.

You could include a picture of Jesus on the cross as a hint.

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Style of Content

Cater to the various levels of ability.
Teach a combination of new material and repeated material each lesson. For example, across 5 Lessons, use repeated material such as the same memory verse and the same key phrases. Use some new material to challenge the higher functioning Members. For Buddy Groups, whereby the upfront teaching segment is discussed in small groups,  there are two levels of Buddy Sheets: "Meaty" for higher functioning Members and "Light" for Members with more basic comprehension. 


In the Jesus Club Buddy Group Sheets, "Meaty" and "Light" lessons are indicated by the above symbols.

Repeat repeat and repeat.
People with disabilities usually have good memories. Use memorable catchphrases, e.g. “Jesus is the king, ruler over everything”. An idea is to write (or draw) these messages on signs.

Slow pace.
When telling a Bible story, you may like to stretch out one story over several lessons. Tell parts of the story each lesson. For example, the Prodigal Son story has several scenes and can be told over 4-5 lessons.

Focus on the what, rather than the how or why.
You can teach “Jesus died for our sins” without having to explain the intricate mechanisms of how this works, e.g. substitutionary atonement, how God’s justice is achieved on the cross.

Abstract vs concrete terms.
Consider how you use abstract vs concrete terms. Abstract terms refer to what can't be detected with our 5 senses but exist in the realm of ideas and concepts. Examples of abstract terms include: love, peace, sin, Christianity. Concrete terms  can be detected by our 5 senses in the here and now. Examples of concrete terms include: ball, sun, bread. Members will be able to understand concrete terms but may struggle with abstract ones. To engage Members, use a lot of concrete terms that they will readily understand. Use abstract terms sparingly and, when you do, help Members to understand by using clear, precise illustrations (see the next point).

Use closely-related illustrations.
Illustrations are a great way to explain ideas. However, jumping from one idea (e.g. mum loves me) to another idea (e.g. God loves me) can be difficult for Members. Use illustrations where the ‘jump is small’. You can do this by using more closely-related examples, rather than vague ones. To illustrate the idea of sin, a vague example would be talking about how sin is like mud. Mud makes our clothes dirty and unacceptable to enter the house, just like our sin makes us unacceptable to enter God’s kingdom. The idea of mud is too far-removed from the actual meaning of sin and Members are likely to find the comparison confusing. A better example to illustrate sin would be talking about how mum is hurt when she cooks dinner for us and cleans our clothes but then we ignore her and don’t thank her. Similarly, God does everything for us and he is hurt when we ignore him.

Tap into their understanding of emotions and relationships.
Most Members have good emotional intelligence - they may not grasp complicated intellectual concepts but they do understand relationships. For example, when teaching the concept of sin, explain that it makes God sad and angry. Members will understand the badness of sin if you demonstrate the emotional effect it has on God.

Recall vs recognition.
Consider the concept of recall vs recognition. More advanced learners are able to recall correct answers from their memory. Most basic learners are able to recognise a correct answer if it’s presented to them. For example, a recall question:

What is sin?

This will be harder for Members to answer compared to a recall question where the answer is in front of them:

Is sin:
1) ignoring God
2) obeying God?

Below is another example of recall vs recognition questions. Notice in the recognition question, Members are actually told the answer and just asked to recognise the correct picture. A slightly more difficult recognition question would be to ask what the statue was made of and give two alternatives.

Simple, succinct language.
When presenting the lesson, keep your language simple and succinct. Too many words will distract Members from your main message.

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Presenting the Lesson

Play to their strengths and abilities.
Ideas include:
• If they can read, ask them to read the Bible passage.
• If they love acting, get them to play one of the characters in the story.
• Most have good memories, so get them to learn memory verses.

Get Members to interact with the material.
Ideas include:
• Get Members to hold up signs with keywords or key pictures. Members who are quieter and less verbal love participating in this way.
• Get Members to sing key memory verses, e.g. for our John 3:16 lesson series, find a good “John 3:16” song.
• Use acting and performance, e.g. get them to act out the Bible story with some simple costumes. 

Members Phil, Lisa and Helena hold up signs saying "Forgiven".

Use lots of visual and auditory stimuli.
Hold Members attention by using all kinds of stimuli.
• Examples of visual stimuli: Photos, signs, props, turning the lights on and off.
• Examples of auditory: Instruments, sound effects (you can download sound effects from iTunes).

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Your Mindset When Teaching

Aim to build their confidence in learning.
People with disabilities are used to living in a world where they don’t know things and are therefore are likely to lack confidence in their ability to learn.
• Ask them questions they can answer, as well as more challenging questions. We've asked the same question, “What is the Bible about?” every lesson for the past 11 years!
• Give applause and praise, e.g. we clap after a person answers a question correctly. 

Help them to take little steps.
Build on their existing abilities and knowledge little bit by bit. If they can read one word, get them to read that one word. If they can remember one fact from the Bible, let them express that.

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Workshop Presentation

Here are some tools for presenting a workshop on the topic of Teaching the Bible to People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Teaching the Bible to People with Intellectual Disabilities (Powerpoint)
Gospel Presentation (PowerPoint)
Buddy Group Role Play (Leader)
Buddy Group Role Play (Member 1)
Buddy Group Role Play (Member 2)

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